2023 Drama Desk nominee Ray Fisher (The Piano Lesson) is reprising his performance as Muhammad Ali in Will Power's Fetch Clay, Make Man at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, California, via Center Theatre Group and The SpringHill Company, the latter's first stage project. The production began June 18 and will run through July 16, with opening night set for June 25. Golden Globe winner Debbie Allen is directing. The project marks basketball star LeBron James' first foray into theatrical producing.
Get a first look at the production below, including shots exclusive to Playbill.
"Theatre is that glorious empty space that challenges imagination, artistry, and discovery like no other place I know," says Allen. "Done well, it entertains, provokes thought and can be an instrument of change. For weeks I have been the leader in the exploration of Will Power’s Fetch Clay, Make Man, a work, true to the reputation of the author, that tells the unknown story of the relationship between Muhammad Ali and Stepin Fetchit. A story that thrusts race, power, and identity in the foreground of its characters and its audience. The language of the play sings in rhythms like songs. The shifts in perspective happen instantaneously and the revelation of truths unravels learned perception."
Fisher, who performed as Ali in the play's Off-Broadway premiere at New York Theatre Workshop in 2013, co-stars alongside The Bear star and Obie Award winner Edwin Lee Gibson as Hollywood icon Stepin Fetchit (a stage name for Lincoln Perry). Gibson originally helped develop the role with Power, but did not perform in the work's Off-Broadway run.
Inspired by true events, the work tracks the unlikely friendship between the heavyweight champion and Fetchit. The latter, a somewhat controversial figure, is considered the first successful Black film actor, but he primarily found that success playing roles deeply steeped in racist stereotypes—his on-screen persona was famously billed as "The Laziest Man in the World."
Fisher and Gibson are joined by Wilkie Ferguson II as Brother Rashid, Alexis Floyd as Sonji Clay, and Bruce Nozick as William Fox.
The California production features set design by Sibyl Wickersheimer, costume design by Sara Ryung Clement, lighting design by Tom Ontiveros, sound design by Lindsay Jones, and projection design by Pablo Molina. Casting is by Kim Coleman, and Ed De Shae is stage manager.
The production is the first stage project for The SpringHill Company, founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter to develop and produce works about sports and entertainment. Their screen work has included The Shop, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Hustle, and What's My Name: Muhammad Ali, among other titles.
Tickets are currently on sale at CenterTheatreGroup.org.