The most recognized heavyweight champion of all time, Muhammad Ali, was a force to be reckoned with in the boxing ring. While his dominance over the greatest fighters in the world is legendary, it’s his fight against religious and racial intolerance that helped bring change to the U.S. during the Civil Rights era.
Through the Metro Theater Company’s 2016 mainstage production, And in This Corner…Cassius Clay, beginning February 1 at the Missouri History Museum, renowned playwright Idris Goodwin takes audience members to the streets of 1950’s Louisville, Kentucky. From their seats, they can watch how the Jim Crow laws of the segregated South ignited the fire in a young boxer who would one day turn adversity into greatness.
While And in This Corner explores the early life of Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, much of the story mirrors the storylines of today. The Clays face racial and economic inequality in their hometown and in turn, young Cassius grows disenchanted with the world around him, struggling to find his place in it.
Yet, when the boundaries of race and class are erased, there exists a bond between individuals that cannot be broken, as observed in the relationship between Cassius and his boxing coach, Joe Martin, a white police officer. Working together, Cassius becomes an Olympic gold medalist in the 1960 Rome games, and upon returning home, he uses the strength he has discovered in himself to take on the issues of disparity in America.
It’s these lessons of empowerment and understanding in And in This Corner that made the play the ideal choice for Metro Theater Company. From the stage, Metro gives attendees a platform for asking the questions that need to be addressed and to be motivated to make a difference in their world.
Said artistic director Julia Flood, “It was important to find a play that did not dictate to our audience, youth or adult, what they should think or feel about these issues. I was looking for a piece in which young people would see themselves, but also one that would give some sense of perspective, to let them look at the issues involved from different points of view.’
“This play, set in 1950s-60s Louisville, Kentucky, has scenes that bear an uncanny likeness to what is happening in St. Louis today, but the distance of time and place allows us to take a different journey, to reflect. The play does not shy away from hard truths or tough situations, but at its end we leave inspired.”
Bringing the Production Beyond the Theater
For Metro, And in This Corner is the stepping stone to a bigger conversation. The play serves as a catalyst for The Cassius Project, a region-wide initiative to bring long-term change to the St. Louis community by engaging our youth.
Metro partnered with educators, civic leaders and community organizations to turn The Cassius Project into an all-encompassing program with tools and resources the audience can use to write their own story of change. Productions of And in This Corner include post-performance dialogues to address local issues and spotlight a St. Louis Superhero – someone who is using their own talents to strengthen our community.
In addition, www.cassiusproject.com offers an online toolkit featuring discussion questions, lesson plans for teachers, and links to volunteer and education opportunities in St. Louis. Classroom curriculum to support character education is also available as is an interactive “Superhero” comic book for students to discover how their own talents can bring change.
How to Get Tickets
And in this Corner…Cassius Clay will be performed in the Lee Auditorium of the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. Public performances begin February 12 and run Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. every weekend during the month. Schools can also reserve their spot for school matinees, February 1-4 at 10 a.m. or Tuesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m., from February 9-26.
Tickets are $18 for adults, $14 for students, seniors and military, and $12 for Missouri History Museum members or for groups of 10 or more. School group rates are also available.
For more information, visit www.cassisusproject.com.
Check out these great events happening at various performances:
At Every Performance: Take a Selfie with the Greatest! This is your chance to make yourself a superhero or stand in the right like Muhammad Ali. Put yourself in the action with GoodEye Photoshare's Green Screen Selfie Station and use your smart phone to take a selfit in front of the screen and email it to GoodEye. Within minutes, your picture will come back with your chosen screen!
Opening Weekend Festivities:
Make Your Own Boxing Poster. Using metal and wood type, each participant will print thier own personalized boxing poster to take home. The letterpress experts at Central Print will introduce guests to the printmaking process that would have been used to make promotional boxing posters from the era of Cassius Clay's boxing career. This free activity takes place in the lower level atrium staring one hour prior to each performance.
See more special events and presentations going on during the run of the play at cassiusproject.com/performances.
Photo of actor Trigney Morgan (center) with members of the St. Louis All City Boxing Club courtesy of Metro Theater Company.
Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL