MLK campus play series to celebrate 25 years with 'The Dream on Stage'

silhouettes of actors on stage superimposed with image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Credit: Sharon Siegfried

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Penn State Harrisburg and PenOwl Productions Theatre Company will celebrate 25 years of the MLK Campus Play Series with “The Dream on Stage,” at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21, in the Mukund S. Kulkarni Theatre on campus.

In honoring the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., all of the plays in the series center on uplifting stories of the African American experience in this country. Primary themes are surmounting oppression, rising above hatred, having hope, and helping others.

“The Dream on Stage” will showcase excerpts from eight plays previously performed in the series, including:

  • “Family Song” (Year 2) — Meet Mrs. Mattie Simpson Walker, a leader in the local Negro community, who is helping five African American students prepare to integrate an all-white high school.
  • “Day Day’s Quilt” (Year 5) — Day Day, the matriarch of an enslaved family, reminds her children and grandchildren of the strength of the African people just to stay alive during the terrible time of bondage. She encourages them to be strong as well, knowing that it will probably be their last evening together before they are all sold away.
  • “Millie D’s Bar & Grill” (Year 8) — Mason Dixon has dedicated his life to promoting racial harmony. In the play, he shares with daughter Audra why he feels promoting racial harmony is his calling.
  • “Mr. Dr. Lehrer, Friend” (Year 9) — Jewish scholar Emil Loewenstein befriends a student at a historically Black College in the 1940s. The men become friends for life as they bond over tragedy and triumph in their lives.
  • “My Appalachian Heart” (Year 10) — Ruthelle Ward and Henry Lee Morgan are cousins, who communicate through letters for some 30 years as Henry Lee travels to Keystone, West Virginia, to work in the coal mines and improve relations between Black and white miners.
  • “The Dinner Guest” (Year 13) — Rayjean Kinney is an African American woman who is opposed to her cousin dating Aidan Donnelly, a man who is white.
  • “Susquehanna To Freedom: The Role of the Susquehanna River in the Underground Railroad” (Year 15) — William Gildersleeve was a white abolitionist in Wilkes Barre. His narrative is one of the documented Underground Railroad stories highlighted from 10 of the counties which border the Susquehanna River from Havre de Grace, Maryland, to Cooperstown, New York. The play speculates on how a trio of freedom seekers in Harford County, Maryland, might have made their way to freedom using the river as a guide and suggests the possibility that Gildersleeve assisted them.
  • “Riveted” (Year 19) — Tells the story of Carolina Barnett and cousin Alberta Rhodes who work at the Olmsted Air Force Base, the grounds on which Penn State Harrisburg now stands. The play tells the story of the remarkable contributions that Black women made to the nation and the allies during World War II and the decisions they faced when they resumed civilian life.

All plays were written and produced by Dorothy King, founder of PenOwl Productions Theatre Company and retired assistant professor of sociology. The cast is led by David Payne.

The production is sponsored by Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Humanities, American studies program, and PenOwl Productions Theatre Company. The production is funded by the Penn State Harrisburg Diversity and Educational Equity Committee and the School of Humanities.

The event is free and open to the public. Reservations can be made at For more information, please call 717-948-6470.