A show for a King

Matt Wan

In the cozy tent known as the Skylight Gallery, adults and children alike fell silent as the music died down. All eyes rested excitedly upon the purple and red puppet stage, waiting for the show’s beginning. At stage left, a tall, broad man took the silence as his cue to enter and confidently strode to face the audience.

“How y’all doing today?” he yelled with a booming voice that erupted from the tent. Every audience member jumped at the sheer force of the actor’s greeting, but calmed down in time to hear everything he had to say.

“Today,” the actor continued, “we’re going to learn about one of Martin’s most important tenets: love. In order to be able to love, you need to love yourself first because–and I hope you agree with me–only then can you find the power to love everyone else around you.” And so began the showing of “Coretta Remembers”, one of many performances that made up the DuSable Museum Martin Luther King Jr. Day festivities. To honor King, the show built upon the DuSable Museum’s main theme for the day-long celebration: community. Through African songs, rhythms, and audience participation, I’m Your Puppet Productions channeled the raw emotion King and his followers experienced during the civil rights movement with their adept puppetry. As much as the actors delivered a loud and lively performance, the goal of the show was not simply to entertain, but to educate. The 45-minute long program incorporated chants, a Martin Luther King Jr. quiz, and a puppet rendering of Coretta Scott King to remind the audience that they need to always remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership and their ancestors’ sacrifices.

With all its emotional force and musicality, “Coretta Remembers” demonstrated not only the hardships of the civil rights movement, but also the resonance of the movement to African Americans today. “Coretta Remembers” delved deep into the heart of one of the most revolutionary movements in America. But in the end, this was a day for contemplating the future as well as reflecting on the past: in order to cherish Dr. King’s memory, the work of peace and justice for all must march on. With no strings attached.