New play 'The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King' takes a unique look at the civil rights leader

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A new play onstage in Los Angeles confronts the complexity of race relations between whites and blacks in America, billed as an unapologetic examination of a revered leader's less flattering side.

In "The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King," Philip Casnoff plays a white professor, Simon Case, who is at odds with his colleagues at a university sociology department about his unconventional political views.

"There is a sometimes rough debate in the play about what the right point of view is," Casnoff said, "and what infuriates Simon is that they won't even hear his side of the debate."

Case marries a black graduate student named Lashawna, played by Tracey Leigh, forcing him to confront his ideas about race.

"There's a debate as far as affirmative action," Leigh said, "and how much is personal responsibility that needs to be brought to the fore, and how much should programs help, and how much do people need to raise themselves up by their own bootstraps."

Casnoff admits that being the only white person with in an entirely black cast made him think twice before sharing his opinion.

"I come feeling that I'm walking a razor's edge in rehearsals about the ideas that I express — my own ideas," he said.

"The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King" plays at Atwater Village Theatre through April 29.

With contributions by Nick Stoffel

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