|Rabia Louis Haynes plays the role of Bobby, who relies on|
the iconic civil rights leader's guidance to overcome some
unfavorable situations. (Courtesy photo)
Friday, January 23, 2015
One man, one play: Bringing Dr. King back to life
Rabia Louis Haynes was 13 years old when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968. Forty-six years later, the spirit of Dr. King is embodied in a one-man stage play entitled “If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Were Alive Today.”
“I wanted to keep Dr. King’s legacy alive,” said Haynes, an actor, writer and director, who will perform the play at the Harrell Performing Arts Theatre in Collierville at 440 West Powell Rd. The show dates are Jan. 29 – 31 at 8 p.m.; Feb. 1 at 3 p.m.; Feb. 5 – 7 at 8 p.m.; and Feb. 8 at 3 p.m.
The play is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes without intermission. General admission is $20; students and seniors: $15; and groups of 12 or more: $10. Tickets can be purchased online at www.mlkplay.eventbrite.com or at the door on the day of the play at no additional cost.
Haynes has loaned his thespian talents to the stage play numerous times since 2011, the year he fleshed out the script. In fact, he’s rolled out the play in Memphis five times in four years before a bevy of theatregoers.
“Our greatest enemy is forgetfulness. Non-violence is still the way to go even in 2015,” said Haynes, adding that young people in particular need stimuli in the form of entertainment. “They don’t have the attention span to listen to Dr. King’s words of non-violence.”
Haynes wanted to do something that’s entertaining, yet maintain the seriousness of the message that Dr. King tried to convey. “Society as a whole did not hear Dr. King,” the actor said. “Society often responds out of fear.”
Haynes brings “Dr. King back to life as the audience follows the experiences of a man named Bobby who finds himself in unfavorable situations and relies on the guidance of his hero, Dr. King, to overcome whatever obstacle it is that he is facing in that moment.”
The hypothesis of Haynes’ stage play is as close to reality in 2015 as it were during the turbulent civil rights movement when throngs followed the iconic civil rights leader and looked to him as their moral compass.
Whether there is one person or 100 people in the audience, Haynes said the play has earned the respect of the audience and kudos for him. In fact, “I’ve never done a show where I didn’t get a standing ovation.”
Haynes ventured into acting at Laurence Merrick Drama College in Los Angeles in 1975 when he was 20 years old. He’d migrated from Chicago’s South-Side and took up residence on the west coast, where he’s lived since.
Raised by a single mother in the crime-ridden, 4,400-unit Robert Taylor Homes public housing project, Haynes and his seven siblings endured the conditions in what was declared the nation’s largest housing project.
Haynes admits he was the class clown in school. The attention he sought no doubt took his mind away from the travails of life and provided the impetus he needed to pursue a career in acting. Laurence Merrick was his launching pad.
“That’s when I began to take acting seriously,” he said. “At that time, I was chosen as the No. 1 actor at the school.”
The acting bug was seriously chomping away at Haynes, who’d completed Dov S-S Simens Hollywood Film School in New York City as well. For 40-plus years, the 59-year-old thespian wrote, directed and produced more than eight plays.
During those years, Haynes honed his skills in other areas such as sound, casting, editing, composing, cinematography and production. Using Leon Isaac Kennedy, Jermaine Jackson, Akon, Eve, and Swizz Beats as references, he’s added to his repertoire improvisation, dancing, comedy, Martial Arts and voiceover.
A member of the Screen Actors Guild, Haynes has shadowed noted director Stephen Spielberg on the set of “The Terminal” starring Tom Hanks. He also has performed for Saudi Emirs and worked as a director for PBS.
Memphis is ground zero for “If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Were Alive Today,” Haynes said. “The dream began April 4, 1968, and Memphis is the most important place where this play should be.”
Haynes is contemplating taking the play on the road to Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C., and hopes to start scheduling the play at certain theatres in those cities very soon.
Although Haynes is comfortable with his performance as Bobby, he’s assembled a tight-knit crew of light and sound operators to help him transform the legacy of Dr. King into a meaningful stage play that awakens one’s consciousness.
“I believe God has put this in my heart to do this,” said Haynes. “I won’t stop. If I do, I would be disobedient.”