Houston’s Ensemble Theatre has thrived off of keeping the African American arts alive.
I was honored with the opportunity to witness this with director Mirron Willis’ production of Fetch Clay, Make Man written by Will Power.
Though this play has been performed countless times by directors and actors nationwide, The Ensemble Theatre has made it its own.
Fetch Clay, Make Man takes place in Maine and is the story of boxer Muhammad Ali, played by Derek Brent II, and comedian Stepin Fetchit’s friendship in 1965. This was a time of civil rights tension and also the just a few days before Ali’s big match with Sonny Liston.
The screen is then lifted to reveal a scene of Jason Carmichael as Stepin Fetchit, often called Uncle Tom and the “white man’s boy” because of his stereotypical portrayals of African Americans as unintelligent and lazy. Later on in the play, Fetchit reveals his truth as just a comedian trying to make a way for African Americans in the entertainment industry and using his talent to slowly integrate man through laughter.
Fetchit then meets up with Ali at the gym he’s practicing at in Maine. There he helps Ali prep for the widely anticipated Sonny fight, which is also an event suspected to be dangerous to Ali and his family because of the predicted presence of late Malcolm X’s men.
Throughout the play we get a look at Ali’s personal life with his wife Sonji Clay, played by Renee’ Rivion. It is learned that the couple experienced issues concerning religion and staying true to self and each other.
The Nation of Islam is referred to several times in the play. Ali expresses his loyalty to his brothers and sisters and uses his faith and his love for his people as motivation to win one of the biggest fights in his life and in history.
I thoroughly enjoyed the rich history presented in this story of the man who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. Throughout the show I experienced laughter as well as tears. But, most of all, I was reminded of the strength and triumph of our people, and I was encouraged to sculpt a success story of my own.
This production will be ongoing at The Ensemble Theatre until February 25th, 2018.
Check out showtimes at www.ensemblehouston.com.