Photograph was strictly prohibited during the performance, so this photo of the stage was taken during the intermission. (Photo by: Alexander Muldrow/Towson University)
Towson University students, and people of the local community learned a lot about the life and death of Malcolm X, by way of the arts.
Fully titled, “X: Or Betty Shabazz v. The Nation” was a play written by Marcus Gardley, and directed by Ian Belknap. The two came together to create a play that was intended to be fiction, while still being very factual, and truthful. The play was performed by The Acting Company, and was based on the death of civil rights activist Malcolm X, and the group that was responsible.
The play was performed March 3rd at Towson University in the Stephens Hall theater. There were about 300 people in attendance to watch a 10 person cast put on this performance, and the audience consisted of people from all different ages, races, and nationalities.
The setting of the play took place in a 1960s’ courtroom, and revolved around Betty Shabazz, the wife of Malcolm X. Along with her efforts to convict the Nation of Islam for the assassination of Malcolm X. The Nation of Islam on the other hand, attempts to argue their innocence, and place it on the U.S. Government.
It is believed that the Nation of Islam is responsible for the death of Malcolm X due to a falling out between Malcolm X, and the Nation of Islam’s leader, Elijah Muhammad. But to this day, the Nation of Islam still refuses to claim responsibility. Causing many to believe that the FBI was responsible for the death of Malcolm X ever since he became a civil rights icon.
The playwright, Marcus Gardley, never attempts to persuade the audience that either side is responsible for X’s death. Gardley simply presents information from all sides of the story, and in the end leaves it up the audience to decide for themselves the unsolved mystery of who assassinated Malcolm X.
Melanie Robey, a woman who attended the play with her husband, did not have much knowledge of Malcolm X’s death prior to the play.
“I was aware if the different possibilities and conspiracies involving his death,” Robey said. “Every story has so many layers, so one will never get the full truth. People make history, it is multi-faceted.”
The play was also very interactive with the audience. The Acting Corporation went as far as letting members of the audience sit on the stage for the duration of the play as if they were actually members of a jury. The actors also picked so people from the audience at random, asked them questions, and discussed their physical characteristics.
“The play was so engaging and interactive,” Deja Bean, a Towson University student in her junior year said. “The audience got to connect with Malcolm X and his wife on a personal level.”
Deja Bean, also went into the play being generally uninformed on the death of Malcolm X, but enjoyed the play overall.
“A must see,” Bean said. “The play attempted to bring truth to what actually happened in the death of Malcolm X. I loved how they portrayed him (Malcolm X) in many different ways, and the actor looked just like him. I believe the Nation of Islam was responsible for his death.”
At the conclusion of the play the audience gave the cast a standing ovation that lasted over 2 minutes. Audience members appeared to genuinely enjoy the play as whole, The Acting Corporations’ vision for this historical play came together quite well.
Nicole Libbey, another Towson University student, was able to learn a lot about the life of Malcolm X and what he stood for.
“The play was really educational without being boring, it had multiple sides to the story,” Libbey said. “(The play) Was not meant to force you to be a believer. This is one thing, this is another. It included all non-biased information.”