Photos: 'One Night in Miami' is getting ready to rumble

Images from the making of ‘One Night in Miami’ in Denver, to date. Photos by John Moore.

One Night in Miami has had two stagings to date – one at the Rogue Machine in Los Angeles, and the other at Baltimore CenterStage. Both enjoyed extended hit runs. The L.A. production earned four NAACP Awards, while the separate Baltimore production broke CenterStage’s 52-year box-office record.

After that first production in L.A., “I called every artistic director, producing artistic director and literary manager that I had in my Rolodex,” said Carl Cofield, the play’s L.A. director.

Two people responded: The Artistic Directors at Baltimore CenterStage and the DCPA Theatre Company.

“One of the greatest things that Kent Thompson said to me was, ‘I will see the play with one stipulation — that I pay for my own ticket,’ “ Cofield said. “He put his money where his mouth is.”

Thompson did more than that – he put One Night in Miami on the Theatre Company’s 2014-15 season. “As soon as I saw it, I immediately wanted to do it,” Thompson said. And he wanted Cofield to direct it.

Playwright Kemp Powers’ script imagines what occurred the night boxer Cassius Clay spent with activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football player Jim Brown after Clay’s historic win over heavyweight champ Sonny Liston in 1964.

“I’m not a competitive person,” Cofield said with a grin while relaying this story to cast, crew, and supporters gathered at the public first rehearsal in Denver last week. “But with this group of extraordinary actors, and with a design team that is out of this world … I want to see if we can push some records here in Denver.”

What fascinated Thompson when he read the script were its subject, events and themes. “It brought back a lot of memories for me, having grown up in the South,” Thompson said. “I can remember that night, and I think what Kemp has done with the play is really fascinating. I was also taken Carl’s direction of the play in Los Angeles, and I know the kind of persuasive, articulate, passionate artist he’s always been, so I’m delighted he’s at the helm.” 

Thompson hired Cofield as an actor at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival more than a decade ago.

“I stand here in a tremendous debt of gratitude to Kent Thompson,” Cofield said. “The big word I kept thinking about on the plane ride here to Denver was serendipity. … Serendipity in that nothing happens by accident.

“I am a seventh-generation Floridian. I was reared in Miami. My son’s name is Cassius. So if I couldn’t direct this play … I couldn’t direct traffic.

Cofield added that “as a kid and as a younger artist, the DCPA was one of the places I put up on my wish board. If I could ever work at any theater, this would be it. Why? Because people in Denver have a sense of agency about their theatre. Everybody I have met feels like this is their theater as a Coloradan. That sense of agency is palpable.”

Cast list (in order of appearance):
Sam Cooke: Nik Walker
Jamal: York Walker
Kareem: William Oliver Watkins
Malcolm X: Jason Delane
Cassius Clay: Colby Lewis
Jim Brown: Morocco Omari
‘One Night in Miami‘: Ticket information
Performances run March 20 through April 19.
Space Theatre
Performances daily except Mondays
Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site here

Our previous coverage of One Night in Miami:
Video: DCPA’s ‘One Night in Miami’ cast gives Shout-Out to Baltimore Center Stage
Full casting announced
Video: Interview with ‘One Night in Miami’ Director Carl Cofield
New Denver Center season includes ‘One Night in Miami’
Go to the official show page

'One Night in Miami' Director Carl Cofield at the first rehearsal at the DCPA. Photo by John Moore.
‘One Night in Miami’ Director Carl Cofield at the first rehearsal at the DCPA. Photo by John Moore.