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Mockingbird on Main Theater Ready to Open

The interior of Mockingbird on Main (in the former Blush dress shoppe) at 320 N. Main St., Davenport.
Mockingbird on Main
The interior of Mockingbird on Main (in the former Blush dress shoppe) at 320 N. Main St., Davenport.

There’s a new theater in the Quad-Cities and it’s ready to fly. The Mockingbird On Main, 320 N. Main St., Davenport, will present its inaugural production - Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop” - July 29 through August 7.

What happened inside room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis the night before the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. is a mystery. In “The Mountaintop,” Hall imagines what may have transpired between the legendary leader and a seemingly inconsequential motel maid.

The production in the 40-seat cabaret theater is directed by Kira Rangel and stars
Anthony Hendricks as MLK and Erica Faye as Camae, the enigmatic maid. “The Mountaintop” is being stage managed by Synthia Gonzalez and produced by Tristan Tapscott and Savannah Bay Strandin.

The Mockingbird on Main was created by Q-C performers Savannah Bay Strandin and Tristan Tapscott.
Mockingbird on Main
The Mockingbird on Main was created by Q-C performers Savannah Bay Strandin and Tristan Tapscott.

Tapscott – a local actor, director, and former artistic director of the District Theatre – wanted to start a different type of venue, where actors and audiences are much closer together.

“The way I perceive theater to happen – and this happens at Mississippi Bend and the Black Box – is the audience is as much part of the experience as the actors. And I absolutely love having those experiences because if I wanted to have an experience where I wasn’t part of it, I could just sit at home and watch television. So, I crave these kind of experiences and I thought, what better way to fulfill that need than to create it myself?”

COVID last year brought out the creativity in many artists, making their own independent projects. Tapscott wanted to create a place where people could bring their own projects and perform them.

“I had a year of work booked in March of 2020 that quickly went to nothing, and I think that forced everyone to look inward and figure out exactly what they wanted to do. And we had a lot of time to think about it. So, it was one of those things – man, I miss this so much, I never want to be without it again. And you’re always relying on other people to be able to do what you do. Now I’m able to provide that for myself, yes, but also for others.”

During the pandemic, Tapscott got into cooking, enjoying it because he could see the beginning, middle and end of each meal, which he also gets to do with the Mockingbird theater.

“I love seeing things from the spark of an idea to its closing night. I think that is such a fascinating thing to be part of. And as an actor, you’re part of it from the beginning to a point, but you’ve missed all the pre-production. As a producer, you’re involved from somebody mentions the show, then to closing night, and that’s really exciting.”

It’s less about Tapscott and Strandin putting a season of shows together they want to do, than finding things other people want to do, as an arts incubator. “The Mountaintop” is a play they admired and wanted to do, but the next one is a new local adaptation of “Enemy of the People” that playwright Alex Richardson proposed.

The theater also will show independent and classic films, and host other events.

“The Mountaintop” is a re-imagining of what might have happened the night before Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.

“I’m always fascinated with history pieces like that, where it’s like a twist on history, or it could have gone this way. I think that stuff is really cool and it always struck me as a really cool piece that way. And there’s a lot of people of color looking for an opportunity within the area and what better way to provide that than to do this piece?”

“I think it makes a statement about who we are and what we’re about. It’s such a well-written play; Katori Hall’s writing is just incredible. And it’s very funny, it’s very impassioned and I think it’ll be a little surprising for audiences, because it’s not been done here in the area, but also, it’s just surprising – the material is so good. I cannot wait for people to see it.”

Hours after King’s famed final speech, punctuated by the immortal line “I’ve been to the mountaintop,” the celebrated reverend reveals his hopes, regrets, and fears, creating a masterful bridge between mortality and immortality.

“The Mountaintop” will play at The Mockingbird on July 29, 30, 31 and Aug. 5, 6, 7 at 8 p.m. Doors open to the public nightly at 7:30. Reservations are highly encouraged as the venue is intimate and seating is limited. Tickets and details can be found by visiting TheMockingbirdOnMain.com.

Formerly the arts and entertainment reporter for The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus and Quad-City Times, Jonathan Turner now writes freelance for WVIK and QuadCities.com. He has experience writing for daily newspapers for 32 years and has expertise across a wide range of subject areas, including government, politics, education, the arts, economic development, historic preservation, business, and tourism. He loves writing about music and the arts, as well as a multitude of other topics including features on interesting people, places, and organizations. He has a passion for accompanying musicals, singers, choirs, and instrumentalists. He even wrote his own musical based on The Book of Job, which premiered at Playcrafters in 2010. He wrote a 175-page history book about downtown Davenport, which was published by The History Press in 2016. Turner was honored in 2009 to be among 24 arts journalists nationwide to take part in a 10-day fellowship offered by the National Endowment for the Arts in New York City on classical music and opera, based at Columbia University’s journalism school.