Jan. 9—Documentary theater playwright and actor Mike Wiley has brought to life historic events that have shaped this country and its racial landscape, giving performances on the Montgomery bus boycott, Jackie Robinson's integration into Major League Baseball and the events that led to the killing of black teenager Emmett Till, just to name a few. Now, he's returning to Sampson County to bring his one-man performance on the civil rights movement to the stage in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The performance will take place at noon this Monday, Jan. 16, as part of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Business Reception at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition with tables available on a first-come, first-served basis. The Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce's Multicultural Business Committee has put on the annual event for many years now, this year's being the 23rd edition.
This year, the committee, in conjunction with the Sampson Arts Council, is presenting Wiley, a North Carolina-based actor, playwright and director of multiple works in documentary theater. Chamber officials attested that the one-man performance is "outstanding."
However, the event will be a table-only event, with Chamber officials citing COVID-19 as a reason to hold the event in a similar fashion as they did last year. The Chamber has been seeking community support through table sales and sponsorships, with the sponsor and those purchasing tables allowed to attend. There are 40 tables available.
Lunch will be provided at the end of the program as attendees leave.
Wiley has spent the last decade fulfilling his mission to bring educational theater to young audiences and communities across the country. Starting out, Wiley found that the light was not being shined on key events and figures in African-American history, so he started his own production company.
In some of his one-man performances, Wiley will play up to 20 characters.
Wiley has a Masters of Fine Arts from the UNC-Chapel Hill. In addition to his numerous school and community performances, he has also appeared on Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and National Geographic Channel and has been featured in Our State Magazine and on PBS' North Carolina Now and WUNC's The State of Things.
Wiley has said some are not willing to look at the darker side of history, so certain stories are not told or they are watered-down.
"First, many people are unwilling to look at the role they or their family played, unable to accept the darker side that sometimes goes hand-in-hand with otherwise proud histories," said Wiley. "Parents and school teachers duck the subject, thinking that if you don't teach it, it never happened. But if we don't teach it, we stand a much greater chance of repeating it with more tragic consequences. That's why we've got to talk about it."
He said documentary theater can offer the avenue to deliver that talk.
"Documentary theater can be as literal as court transcripts," he stated. "What I do through interviews, diaries and newspaper articles is incorporate direct sources into a play that represents all of the people involved — in one place, on stage — depicting historical facts and events."
For more information, call 910-592-6177. Registration for the event can be made online, on a first-come, first-served basis, at www.clintonsampsonchamber.org under "Events." Forms can be accessed there, Please make checks payable to Clint0n-Sampson Chamber of Commerce, Attn: MLK. Mail to:
Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.