by Patrick Dorn
Call Me Mrs. Evers by Mike Broemmel, the play that chronicles the life story of civil, women's and human rights leader Myrlie Evers, is back on the stage for a limited run in Denver as a prelude to the production’s national tour in 2022. Performances will be 7:00 pm December 3-4 at Denver Christian Bible Church, 4625 E Iowa Ave, Denver. Tickets are available at www.myrlieevers.org.
The play was slated to be on a tour in 2020 and had its first performances in February before the novel coronavirus pandemic shuttered the play until this fall. Included in that tour were performances in the United States and Europe.
There was a special preview performance of the production at the Trailblazers in September, an annual event that honored six Colorado women elected officials. The pair of upcoming Denver performances are sponsored in part by Emerge Colorado. Emerge Colorado is the state's premier organization that recruits, trains and provides a powerful network to women who want to run for office.
Call Me Mrs. Evers went into production in 2017 and has always included Colorado actor LaDios Muhammad in the title role. “I am ecstatic to play an iconic person such as Myrlie Evers, the wife of the late Medgar Evers. I am so thankful to those who support theatre with a purpose such as this production,” Muhammad noted.
LaDios Muhammad is a film and television actor in addition to her work on stage. She has won a number of awards for her work in theatre, including winning the Best Actress Award for her work in Goddess People in 2018.
Michael Peters, of Atlanta and Denver, directs Call Me Mrs. Evers. He has been seen often on Denver stages. He was most recently part of the Amplify project at the Arvada Center in the Colorado city of the same name. In addition to directing the cast, Peters also developed all of the audio and visual aspects of the production.
Call Me Mrs. Evers is written by Mike Broemmel and is one of six plays in the Iconic Women Theatre Series he created in 2015. Plays in the series have been performed in the United States, Europe, and Australia. In 2021, Broemmel spent part of his time in Las Vegas as the playwriter on the production team creating a theatrical residency in Vegas. Slated to premiere in 2022, the residency will be comprised of four plays on the lives of mob figures that were part of the birth of Vegas as a gambling and entertainment mecca.
Call Me Mrs. Evers begins on the night of June 12, 1963, when Medgar Evers was assassinated on the driveway of the family home in Jackson, Mississippi. The event changed but did not permanently define the life of Mr. Evers’ wife, Myrlie. The play follows the life of Mrs. Evers, including the nearly three decades spent working to win justice for her husband, her stint as the first woman to head the NAACP, and her own campaigns for elective office.
Denver performances of Call Me Mrs. Evers are on December 3 and 4, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. On December 3, there will be a special presentation by Dr. Lisa Calderón. Dr. Calderón will address issues that include supporting women elected officials and candidates. There will be question and answer “talkbacks” after both productions that will include the actor who plays Mrs. Evers, the director, and the playwright.
Tickets to Call Me Mrs. Evers are available at: www.myrlieevers.org
In order to optimize safety of the performance, masks must be worn in accordance with the City of Denver mask directive.
Salida Hosts World Premiere of Call Me Mrs. Evers
by Elliot Jackson
Call Me Mrs. Evers, a new play by Denver-based playwright Mike Broemmel, had its world premiere with performances for Salida middle- and high school students earlier this week and will have two repeat performances at Box of Bubbles in Salida: at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15 and 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16.
Call Me Mrs. Evers is based on the life and achievements of Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, who was assassinated outside their home in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963. At the time, Evers was the Mississippi field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), organizing voter registration drives and civil rights demonstrations. The play tells the story of how she battled for three decades to bring her husband’s assassin (white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith) to justice. Her own activism in the political and civil rights arenas included serving on the board of the NAACP, and three years as its chairperson from 1995 to 1998.
Mike Broemmel wrote the one-woman play as part of his “Iconic Women’s Theater Series,” including another one-woman show, Stand Still and Look Stupid: The Life Story of Hedy Lamarr, which has also been brought to the Salida area by local performer and producer Jennifer Dempsey. Broemmel refers to both Lamarr, Hollywood actress and brilliant inventor, and Myrlie Evers-Williams as two of his heroes: “They both faced significant hardships – which for some would have been insurmountable – and they went on and accomplished meaningful important things.”
Broemmel had Denver actress LaDios Muhammad in mind for the role, and wrote it especially for her: “This is the fourth play of mine she’s been in,” he said, “and I thought she was perfect for Myrlie.”
Muhammad collaborated with director Michael Peters for over two months to bring the role of Myrlie Evers to life. Peters has a personal connection to the story of Myrlie Evers: his father, the Rev. James David Peters, Jr., was also active in the civil rights movement and marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. “He knew Myrlie Evers in passing,” Peters said, “and he told me stories about things.” Still, much of the history of Evers’s activism came as a surprise both to him and Muhammad as well.
“I knew nothing about Myrlie Evers,” said Muhammad. She said to prepare for the role, “I went through a lot of videos and read her autobiography. I gained an incredible amount of respect for both Everses.”
Both Muhammad and Peters see the play as an important tool for spurring dialogue about civil rights, race relations, and their respective roles in the telling of American history. Muhammad referred to the play’s reception at Salida High School as “an absolute joy”: “(We saw) people touched and crying and asking what we can do to make a change.”
Peters said that students of all ages asked the same question: “Why did they kill Medgar Evers?”
“They didn’t understand it,” he went on, “and we couldn’t explain it – the level of racial hatred.”
Peters sees the play as a way for audiences to gain some insight into, and appreciation for important but overlooked actors in African-American history, saying that people often have a reductive view of the heroes of the civil rights movement: “You have Martin the Peaceful and Malcolm the Violent, (referring to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, respectively). We’re not talking much about (people like) Medgar.”
Muhammad concurred, saying that she didn’t learn about major historical figures in the abolition movement such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth until attending a historically black college (HBC). “There’s other people who contributed to our history besides Malcolm and Martin,” she said.
The play’s performances include a “talkback” with the actor and director after the show, about the issues it raises. Peters notes the importance of this part of the performance for initiating dialogue: “Racism did as much damage to white America as black America. (But) it’s hard to heal a person who denies he’s sick. America has to admit that this sickness needs to be addressed.”