The Coterie opens 40th Season with world premiere about teenage Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Coterie Theatre opens its 40th Anniversary Season with the world premiere of Becoming Martin, a new play about the teenage life of Martin Luther King, Jr., commissioned by The Coterie from noted filmmaker and writer, Kevin Willmott. The story centers on the mentorship MLK, Jr., receives when he enters Morehouse College at age 15. Through debate over civil disobedience concepts, Morehouse College President, Dr. Benjamin Mays, sets young MLK on a path towards fighting for civil rights.

Pictured: Walter Coppage (as Dr. Benjamin Mays) and Aaron Ellis (as Martin Luther King, Jr.). Photo by J. Robert Schraeder.

Becoming Martin offers young audiences a completely unique chance to see the early life and development of the leader Martin Luther King, Jr., would later become. Set in September 1944, the play shows a 15-year-old King as he steps onto campus at Morehouse College, one of the nation’s most prestigious historically Black colleges for men. Growing up in segregated Atlanta, King had experienced first-hand the pain of racism and Jim Crow laws. He knew he wanted to serve his people and dismantle systematic racism — but didn’t yet know how, yet. Becoming Martin takes Martin Luther King, Jr., out of grainy, historical recordings of ground-breaking speeches and transforms him into the kid his friends called “Tweed” — a regular teen who likes girls, gets average grades, deals with a domineering parent, and grows to respect a teacher who will help him lay the foundation for the leader he will one day become.

Becoming Martin reunites The Coterie with Kevin Willmott, who currently serves as a professor of film studies at Kansas University and is hailed as one of the most prolific independent filmmakers today. His recent feature film, BlacKkKlansman, which he co-wrote with Spike Lee, won the Grand Prix at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and was a box office hit when it opened nationwide in August 2018.

Directed by Chip Miller, Becoming Martin features Walter Coppage, Sherri Roulette-Mosley​, Aaron Ellis, Granvile O’Neal, and George L. Forbes in the cast and will be produced in community partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City and The Black Archives of Mid-America. In conjunction with the run of Becoming Martin, The Coterie will offer In-School Workshops that will introduce students to the events in the play and help put the story into historical context. For information and reservations visit

Appropriate for families with ages eleven and older, The Coterie’s production of Becoming Martin will run approximately 75 minutes with no intermission. A brief post-performance Question & Answer session will follow each performance. Becoming Martin will be performed live on The Coterie’s stage in Crown Center, September 18 – October 21, 2018. Tickets are $12.00 for youth under 18, students, and seniors age 60 and older; and $15.00 for adults. Groups of 20 or more pay only $5.00-$8.00 per person (some restrictions apply – call the box office for details). Tickets, group reservations and more information is available at