The professional actors of PURE Theatre are taking their work outside the black box — they’ve just begun a collaboration with North Charleston High School, beginning with an in-school production of The Mountaintop. The play, which ran during PURE’s 2012-13 season, is an imagining of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last night on earth and offers a glimpse at King as a private citizen, rather than as the public, symbolic figure we all know.

Stacy McKinley, an English teacher at North Charleston High School (NCHS), is facilitating the collaboration. “When Sharon [Graci of PURE] approached me about bringing The Mountaintop here, I immediately said yes,” McKinley says. “For most of the students at NCHS, this is the first play they’ve seen since second grade — it’s a huge moment and cultural experience for these kiddos.”

McKinley worked with Joy Vandervort-Cobb, a College of Charleston theater professor and one of The Mountaintop’s leads, and another teacher, Anthony Ludwig, to create pre- and post-play lessons for teachers to share with their students. The show produced some excellent classroom discussions. “These cultural collaborations are huge for our kids, especially in just pushing them to think more abstractly about the legacy of history,” McKinley says.

Both PURE and the high school plan on continuing the theater company’s work with students. McKinley has started a Donors Choose fundraising campaign to fund two weeks of playwriting workshops by PURE co-founder Rodney Lee Rogers, a playwright and actor who’s written and produced many plays and short films, as well as a feature film. The project goal is $1826, with $300 or so already raised. 

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