Theater Review: 'Fetch Clay, Make Man'

A new play by SMU's Artist-in-Residence Will Power debuts in New York to high praises.

Will Power

By Joe Dziemianowicz
The New York Daily News

Every picture tells a story. And in the case of Will Power’s “Fetch Clay, Make Man,” a vintage snapshot led to a taut and complex tale drawn from boxing history.

Elegantly acted, directed and designed, the drama is showcased in a knockout production at New York Theatre Workshop.

Will Power
Will Power

The playwright was inspired in 2005 when he saw a photograph of newly crowned heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali. He was 23 and revered for his athletic prowess, but not for being a Black Muslim. At his side in the photo: Hollywood star Stepin Fetchit. He was 40 years the fighter’s senior and reviled for damaging black culture.

What could this odd couple be doing together? The two-hour, two-act work is Power’s fictionalized take, blending fact and writerly imagination. It’s informed and enhanced by the roiling tensions of the ever-fascinating 1960s.

The story takes place during the runup to Ali’s legendary 1965 rematch with Sonny Liston. Flashbacks return us to Fetchit’s rise and fall in Tinseltown, with film big William Fox (Richard Masur). Peter Nigrini’s bold, scene-setting projections tell us exactly where we are.

Read the full review.

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