Martin Luther King, Jr. Day activities planned next week

Courtesy Photo Thunder Bay Theatre performers Shelley McMoy and Michael Cleary rehearse for a dramatic presentation on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A group of dedicated volunteers year after year continues to put the spotlight on the accomplishments and impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Jan. 15, the national holiday on which the country pauses to remember King, Alpena will be marking the occasion with a variety of activities, including several already established ones as well as a new presentation to local students and the community at large.

“One of the things we feel especially excited about this year is that we have a dramatic presentation for third through fifth grade students,” said long-time Alpena MLK, Jr. Day Committee member Dottie Haase. “We know that it’s good to be putting on programs for the community, but our best effort can be in educating children.”

The committee, comprised of Rev. Tom Orth, Rev. Bill McClure, Vernon Jones, Sonya Titus and Haase, reached out to Thunder Bay Theatre seeking their participation this year. TBT Producing Artistic Director Jeffrey Mindock developed a dramatic presentation that highlights King’s life and brought in two professional actors to perform it in all six Alpena County public elementary schools, Immanuel Lutheran School and All Saints Catholic School.

“The program is going to be much more about Martin Luther King, Jr. than just his “I Have a Dream Speech.’ That’s the thing everyone automatically goes to, but in doing my own research I realized not only was he trying to inspire a movement for Civil Rights, but also trying to change the way we as a people communicate with one another and handle conflict through non-violent direct action,” Mindock said. “That’s where the program has found its footing.”

He said the dramatic presentation is going to cover the six steps that characterize non-violent direct actions and use all the fascinating events in King’s life to demonstrate how he stayed so steadfast and true toward his goal.

Performing the program in the various schools throughout the next two weeks are actors Michael Cleary and Shelley McMoy. Cleary is a familiar face to many local residents, having appeared on stage at TBT through multiple seasons. He recently appeared in Dollywood’s holiday show, “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas,” and spent the previous summer at Red Mountain Theatre Company doing “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Newsies.”

After receiving a BFA from the University of Montevallo, McMoy has worked in many theaters in the Southeast, including in Birmingham, Ala., the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement.

“I am excited to join Thunder Bay Theater in celebrating the amazing work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this January,” McMoy said.

Mindock said among events the two actors will cover are King’s March on Washington, the Greensboro sit-in, King’s letter written from the Birmingham jail, Rosa Parks and her history-making bus incident.

“We’re going to give these kids an understanding of where our country was and how far it has come in a way that is very exciting and pretty innovative,” Mindock said. “I’m very excited to have the resources to bring professionally trained actors to the community for something as important as preserving Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy.”

In addition to taking the dramatic presentation to the schools, TBT also will be doing an evening presentation and discussion on Jan. 15 regarding “How do we use what Dr. King taught us?” This presentation is part of a schedule of activities that day, all designed to focus on King and his legacy.

Those activities begin with a Chili Supper from 5-6:15 p.m. in Alpena Community College’s Lumberjack Shack, with proceeds benefiting a local Wash Your Coat project. The dinner will be followed by junior high and high school students presenting their winning essays inspired by King at 6:30 p.m. in Granum Theatre.

The evening ends with the presentation by TBT at 7 p.m. in ACC’s Newport Center 106. It is free and open to the public.

All activities this year are supported by Alpena Community College, First Congregational United Church of Christ Comstock Fund, Grace Lutheran Church, Outreach Committee at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Thrivent, Trinity Episcopal Church and United Way of Northeast Michigan, which acts as a fiduciary agent for the disbursement of funds to the Wash Your Coat project.