New York City-based actor Kimberlee Monroe will protray activist Septima P. Clark in Septima, a new play that honors Clark's legacy and influence. | Photo provided

Septima is a new play by Patricia Williams Dockery offering an inside look at Charleston native and civil rights icon Septima P. Clark’s legendary life. Septima premieres at PURE Theatre on March 9.

Meanwhile, the College of Charleston unveiled a mural last Thursday to honor Clark. It’s entitled, “Saint Septima with Carolina Jasmine,” and is painted by the multi-hyphenate artist Natalie Daise, who is known mostly for her 1990s work on the Nickelodeon show Gullah Gullah Island.

Dockery, an author and playwright now based in Baltimore, previously held the role of executive director at the Avery Institute for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston from 2010 to 2019 where she was approached by the Charleston League of Women Voters to write a play about Clark, who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to establish citizenship schools across the South to register Black voters during the civil rights movement. The League of Women Voters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan political organization founded in 1920 which works to expand and protect voting rights.

“Having worked at the Avery, I really learned all about Septima Clark. So when they asked me to do it, I was doubled over in honor,” Dockery said. 

The play covers Clark’s entire life, Dockery said, and illustrates her unassailable spirit as she rose through adversity and overcame personal tragedy to make a lasting impact on the civil rights movement, especially voting rights and education. 

The play is written as if Clark is telling the audience her story on her 125th birthday — this year in May — through a series of vignettes. 

“She talks about her childhood, her education, her upbringing, professional issues and her love life with her husband. So, it kind of spans everything,” Dockery said.

Dockery noted she was an anthropologist by training, but also has a humanities background.

“I’m always sort of melding creativity and liberal arts and the humanities into what I do,” Dockery said. “So I jumped at the opportunity to do Septima, especially since I’ve been this closet artist my whole professional life.” Dockery added that this production gave her a chance to blend her expertise and passion.

A ‘gorgeous, engaging tribute’

Sharon Graci, co-founder and artistic director at PURE Theatre, said Dockery’s play is a “gorgeous, engaging tribute” to Clark’s life and work.

“It captures her successes and failures, her triumphs, and her crushing blows. It breathes life into her victories and her regrets, her sense of accomplishment and her shame,” Graci said. “Show me a person who claims to have experienced only life’s highs and none of its lows, and I tell you they’re either lucky beyond measure or not very truthful. 

Septima is a story about a human being and life’s peaks and valleys — and that just makes her all the more extraordinary and inspirational.”

Monroe | Provided

The cast of Septima includes Charleston-based actors Keith Alston, Michelle Powe, Shivam Patel, Josh Wilhoit and Sonja Reed in the chorus, with the role of Clark played by Kimberlee Monroe, who is a New York City-based actor.

Graci said that she is excited to see Monroe portray the legendary Clark, who King called “The Mother of the Movement.” 

“I was looking for a strong actor who married their respect for Septima and her life and work with a strong, disciplined acting technique,” Graci said. “Kimberlee is an exceptional actor. Her work is so thorough and so nuanced. She has joined an incredible cast, and they are so much fun to be around and are complete pleasures to work with.”

Septima is at PURE Theatre March 9 to April 1 with several special events hosted by PURE and the League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area, including a ladies’ night reception, a network happy hour and a talkback with Dockery.

To purchase tickets for Septima, visit

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