Arts & Entertainment

The Mountain Top At Villagers Theatre In Franklin Township Pays Tribute to MLK's Legacy

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Andrew Binger and Mildred Victoria
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Diane L. Parker
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Mountaintop Supporting Cast
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Andrew Binger
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Mildred Victoria
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Andrew Binger and Mildred Victoria Credits: Malik A. Lyons
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Moutaintop Cast Credits: Malik A. Lyons
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Andrew Binger
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FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ - The Mountaintop opened at Villagers Theatre on Friday night and will run through through Jan. 22.

The Mountaintop is directed by Diane L. Parker and stars Andrew Binger and Mildred Victoria. 

Playwright Katori Hall was inspired to write The Mountaintop based on a story her mother told her as a child.  Carrie Mae Golden (who the character Camae is based on) was living in Memphis during the time of the Civil Rights Movement and she had the opportunity to hear the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s last speech on April 3, 1968.  Hall grew up in Memphis close to the Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated.  The legacy surrounding this famous leader was a constant presence in her life.  She conjures up fictional scenes that stir the well of emotions -- from joy to empathy.

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Mildred Victoria (Camae) is a recent graduate of Brooklyn College's BFA Theatre Acting program. Originally from Michigan, Mildred moved to the Big Apple to pursue storytelling and acting. Her most recent notable work are "Black and Blue" at the International New York Fringe Festival, "Drive By" at the Gallery Players and the film "Silent Cries" debuting in 2017.

Recently she wrote, self-produced and starred in the short film "Fictive Kinship." Victoria first started theatre when she was 14 years old in a play called "Can You Reach My Friend, where she played a super over the top teenager who was a very far fetched at her high school in Dearborn Heights MI.  

"You know there is a freedom in it [acting], you get to play these characters where you get to step out of your norm for a few hours, you're able to play make believe," Victoria said. "Your given an opportunity to entertain someone, I feel like people come to the theater to kind of get away from reality for a little while." For two hours out of my day, I can take someone on a ride, and that is my responsibility and that makes me feel fulfilled, I am able to do something I am so passionate about and give someone a rewarding experience." 

Victoria's biggest inspiration is her family "they have made a lot of sacrifices for me," Victoria said. "I have these people behind me who are rooting  for me and come to see shows, even now as an adult even though they live in Michigan." Victoria is thankful to the to the Villagers Theatre for this opportunity. 

Andrew Binger (Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr.), an actor, educator and community activist from Bloomfield NJ,making his Villagers Theatre debut. Recent theater credits include Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird at the Forestburgh Playhouse, Brian in Love Ya Like a Sis at the Hudson Guild, and Sam in Down Neck; a world premiere play by Pia Wilson at NJPAC. In 2016 Andrew played Rev. James Bevel in The Movement, a touring musical, with performances at the Puffin Cultural Forum, the Green Space NYC and The North Carolina Black Repertory Company.

Upcoming film credits include Jed in Why We Worry, Chris in Conversations Centered Around Black Bodies and Delmar in Z’Lectrik. Andrew is a founding member of The Company, Newark’s premiere theater company, dedicated to works of social justice and a faculty member at the world renowned Newark Boys Chorus School. 

"I think of theater as the ultimate form of storytelling, and I think that is so essentially human," Binger said."It is also important to tell stories that haven't been told traditionally, and I also think of it as a great way to initiate conversations about change, and potentially make a change."

Diane L. Parker, a native of St. Louis, Mo., is thrilled to have the opportunity to direct The Mountaintop at Villagers Theatre.  

"The play brings a human element to King as a regular man that millions of people never had the chance to witness," Parker said.  His fears, doubts, and challenges are discovered and we are passionately reminded about his vision for the future.

Parker’s desire is for each audience member to reflect on the powerful messages in the play - hope, determination, and destiny.  Whether young, old or somewhere in between, it’s never too late to take your own personal journey to The Mountaintop.

Last year, Parker appeared as Rose in August Wilson’s play, Fences at Villagers and was nominated for the New Jersey Association of Community Theaters Perry Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play. In 2015, Diane was a recipient of the Perry Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for her role as Mrs. Muller in Doubt at Playhouse 22 in East Brunswick.

Parker has performed with numerous theater companies throughout New Jersey and several Somerset County theater groups such as Circle Players in Piscataway and Somerset Valley Players in Hillsborough. A few of her memorable roles are Steele in A Piece of My Heart for which she received a Perry nominationEvillene in The Wiz, the Dragon in Shrek, Sarah’s Friend in Ragtime and Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray.

She has toured her original one-woman show based on the life of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and crosses the Hudson to perform with several NY groups.  Parker works as a human resources executive with an international media company based in New York.

As much as she loves the stage, Parker looks forward to more directing opportunities.  She dedicates The Mountaintop to her number one fan, her mom, who grew up in Mississippi and survived through turbulent times teaching her children the importance of faith and family.  

“Faith is taking the first step when you don’t see the whole staircase,” Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr.

 

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