‘Thurgood’ illuminates hidden story of American hero


Chautauqua Theater Company Guest Artist Brian Marable rehearses for the one-man show Thurgood Thursday in the Performance Pavilion on Pratt. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

“We make movies about Malcolm X, we get a holiday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, but every day, we live with the legacy of Justice Thurgood Marshall.”

The Washington Afro-American published these words in an editorial at the news of Marshall’s death in 1993.

The legacy of Justice Thurgood Marshall will be on display at 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Performance Pavilion on Pratt as Chautauqua Theater Company’s production of Thurgood continues its run this weekend.

Director Steve Broadnax III learned more about Marshall through this work than he ever did while he was in school.

“I did not know as much as I should have known,” Broadnax said. “I knew he was a part of the Supreme Court. That was probably the extent that I understood about Thurgood and understanding what he has contributed to my everyday life.” 

CTC Managing Director Sarah Clare Corporandy said she immediately knew to bring Brian Marable to Chautauqua to play Marshall after she saw him perform at the Detroit Public Theater.

“Brian is particularly a very special human being and an artist,” Corporandy said. “The thought of him playing this role was an absolute no-brainer. I have seen him in four or five shows in Detroit Public Theater. … (He) brings the utmost vulnerability and humanity to the roles that he plays. I love to sit in the theater and watch him on stage over and over again.”

Props Director Cooper Nickels bought a little under 50% of the props for the show from Black-owned businesses.

“That was my own prerogative,” Nickels said. “I wanted to do it for Blood at the Root, but it was more complicated. With that show I didn’t have a lot (of) props to begin with, so sourcing all of that would have been way more time-consuming. I had more time with this show, because there were fewer props.”

With a show like Thurgood, there is an actual archive of his life and the possessions Nickels had.

“It’s such a specific period and such a specific person that you can do a lot of really detailed research that I wasn’t able to do in the first couple of shows,” he said. “It’s cool to actually get to see research about Thurgood and see what kind of briefcase he carried, or what kind of cane he carried specifically, so I could try to match those as closely as possible.”

Nickels got the chance to rent four leather chairs from the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown. The center is about preserving the legacy of Jackson and the Supreme Court and teaching people about important court cases throughout history.

“I started trying to find (chairs) around here, and I’d posted on (social media) asking if anybody had anything, and somebody just mentioned that they had some like that at the Jackson Center,” Nickels said. “I called them up and they were super friendly and super helpful. They did have some that were really lovely (and) way nicer than anything I was ever going to be able to afford. They were super excited about letting us borrow them and everything.”

Nickels believes there is something that every Chautauquan will have never learned before in this show that they will have wished they had known sooner.

“I think people are going to really connect with this and enjoy learning about the history and the legacy,” Nickels said. “There are so many things that we owe to Thurgood that we don’t really know about. He did so much for ending segregation in schools and with all these monumental court cases that have had a really big impact. All the stuff that’s in this show is stuff I wasn’t taught in school, but it’s definitely stuff I should have been taught. It’s talking about our American history and how we teach that history.”

Tags : 2021Brian MarableChautauqua Theater CompanyctcThurgoodThurgood MarshallWeek Eight
David Kwiatkowski

The author David Kwiatkowski