Stanford University The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute
Passages of Martin Luther King, Jr.
March 14, 2011

The Palestinian version of Carson’s play is being directed by Kamal El Basha and features eight Palestinian actors portraying King, his parents, his wife, Coretta, and other historical, such as Malcolm X and President John F. Kennedy. Six African-American singers, including four with Stanford ties, will arrive on March 13, 2011, to participate in the production, performing church and freedom songs associated with King’s life.

Stanford alum and Drama Department lecturer Aleta Hayes (’91) will serve as the play’s choreographer, working closely with the singers, who depict the choir of King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church as well as Freedom Fighters. The choir of King’s Atlanta church includes P. Michael Williams, Steven Wilson, former Stanford undergraduates Ré Phillips (’10) and Chelsi Butler (’09), as well as musical director September Penn, who was joined by her husband, Ivan Penn, a former Knight journalism fellow at Stanford.  

Phillips, Butler, and Penn also participated in the National Theatre of China’s 2007 international premiere of “Passages” staged in Beijing in 2007. The play, which is based on Carson’s extensive research as editor of King’s papers, was first performed in 1993 by Stanford’s Drama Department.

Noted filmmaker Connie Field will accompany the American performers and record the unique cultural exchange using a Palestinian crew. Field’s previous films include “Freedom on My Mind,” a documentary on the Mississippi civil rights struggle that was nominated for an Academy Award, and a recent series tracing the rise of the international anti-apartheid movement, “Have You Heard from Johannesburg?”  

Before leaving for Jerusalem, Dr. Carson expressed hope that “Passages” will “bring King’s universal message of nonviolence to Palestinian activists who are currently engaged in their own nonviolent struggle.” This is Carson’s third trip to the region. As during his visit last year, Carson has scheduled discussions with Palestinian proponents of nonviolence. “Given recent events in North Africa and throughout the Middle East, I can hardly imagine a more appropriate time for this collaboration between the King Institute and the Palestinian National Theater,” he noted.

The American Consulate General in Jerusalem is helping to arrange Carson’s talks and co-sponsoring the Palestinian production of his play as part of its effort to promote dialogue and mutual understanding between Palestinians and Americans. Speaking about the program, U.S. Consulate General Public Affairs Officer Frank Finver said, “The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem is proud to have sponsored this unique and ambitious cultural exchange program with Al Hakawati Theater, and we are honored to host Dr. Carson again.  His visit is timely, given the rapid pace of change in the region, and we hope that through performances of his play and discussions with Palestinian audiences, we will all deepen our understanding of the benefits of nonviolence and the possibilities of achieving change through peaceful means."

Following the initial performances at the Al Hakawai Theater, “Passages” is scheduled to be staged in Jenin on March 27, Nablus on March 28-29, Bethlehem on March 30-31, Ramallah on April 3, and Hebron on April 5.

Contact information

Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University:

Regina Covington (650) 723-2092


U.S. Consulate’s Press Office in Jerusalem:

02-622-6908 or 02-622-6909 (or Hassna Dajani at 054-678-8455)


Al Hakawati Theater, for program information, 02-6280957

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