People’s Light celebrates Thurgood Marshall with latest show

Actor Brian Marable stars in ‘Thurgood,’ now on stage at People’s Light.

In a moment when the Supreme Court of the United States has become known for its affronts to women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, a theatrical piece dedicated to Justice Thurgood Marshall — the first African-American elected to the SCOTUS post — is right on time.

Actor Brian Marable, director Steve H. Broadnax III and playwright George Stevens, Jr. have teamed up for the one-man-production of ‘Thurgood, which runs at People’s Light in Malvern through March 19. The play studies the life and work of the man central to the Civil Rights Movement as a lawyer for the NAACP and groundbreaking cases such as Brown v. Board of Education, and also shares the sense of humor that kept him sane during his time atop the highest Court in the United States.

Broadnax III—a man central to all things People’s Light as its Associate Artistic Director—has a love and regard for history and reality-based theater, which is evident with the showplace’s recent excursions into the life of Black, gay activist Bayard Rustin (‘Inside Ashland’), R&B vocalist Lloyd Price (‘Personality’) and imprisoned Japanese activist Gordon Hirabayashi (‘Hold These Truths’).

“These characters find me,” said Broadnax III of delving into reality-based and explosive theater. “I like stories that are historic and reflective, and in the end, focus on people we often don’t know. My aim, then, is to explain and expand the humanity of each of these characters, to respect and look into people from history that we could potentially learn from, and inspire us with their greatness.”

Marable’s take on Broadnax III’s vision of hyper-reality and truth comes with trust and a level of partnership meant to spotlight the Supreme Court character’s life with an eye toward magnifying the most dynamic aspects of truth and justice.

“Between what is going on in the present within the court system, and what happened in the past, the things that we show of Thurgood Marshall in this play are necessary,” said Marable. “What lies behind ‘Thurgood’ is a very relevant story.”

Rather than stiffly recount SCOTUS records or riff on Marshall’s accomplishments in equal protection, social justice and civil rights, the aim of ‘Thurgood was to also portray the Supreme Court Justice’s warmth and humor, something that fellow Justice Sandra Day O’Connor made note of with, “It was rare during our conference deliberations that he would not share an anecdote, a joke or a story” and “that behind most of the anecdotes was a relevant legal point.”

Broadnax III claimed that it was playwright George Stevens, Jr. script that attracted him to ‘Thurgood’.

“Marshall was so human and funny, a true everyman,” said the director. “His humor came from this humble background, and Brian (Marable) just picks up on that and runs with that humanity. Brian is my muse, man. If I could work with him on every show, I would be happy. Not only does Brian look like a young Thurgood Marshall, but he has the depth and charm necessary to portraying Marshall the man, as well as the Supreme Court Justice.”

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