The historic Douglass Theatre on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard has a lot to offer Mercer’s student body. Founded in 1911 by Charles Henry Douglass, a wealthy African-American businessman and patron of the arts, the theatre began its career presenting films and hosting jazz and blues performances. The theatre remained a cultural Mecca for Macon’s African-American community before it closed in the ’70s. Following its restoration in 1997, the Douglass has employed an incredibly diverse arsenal of multicultural activities and events, including films, live musical and theatrical performances and operas. This semester there are several notable events and opportunities for students interested in film and the fine arts.
The Douglass will be hosting the College Town Film Series at 7 p.m. every Thursday night from Jan. 17 through Feb. 7. This year’s line-up looks particularly awesome: “Flash Gordon” (1980) on Jan. 24, “Frozen River” (2008) on Jan. 31, and “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012) on Feb. 7. A brief faculty-led discussion will precede each of these films. Don’t worry; there probably won’t be a test.
For the more theatrically oriented Mercerian, the Douglass is presenting an original production by Winsphere Jones called “Thy Kingdom Come”. This counterfactual drama takes place in an alternate 19th-century America as King Edward of New Amsterdam decides which of his sons will assume his throne. Drawn partly from the biblical stories of Cain and Abel, this work will explore themes of evil, redemption and the pursuit of power. “Thy Kingdom Come” runs Feb. 8-9 at 7:30 p.m.
For my fellow classicists here at Mercer, the Douglass streams live opera from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Typically these Met events feature a speaker who delivers a brief analysis of each opera before the show begins so the viewer has a brief understanding of the cultural significance of each work. There are three operas on the schedule for this semester. On March 2 will be Wagner’s “Parsifal”, based on the Arthurian legend surrounding Sir Percival and his quest for the Holy Grail. On March 16 is Zandonai’s “Francesca da Rimini”, which depicts the tragic circumstances of the titular historical figure. On April 27 is Handel’s “Giulio Cesare in Egitto”, which dramatizes Julius Caesar’s activities in Egypt and his romance with the beautiful Cleopatra.
Finally, the Douglass Theatre will participate in the eighth Macon Film Festival on Feb. 14-17, where it will screen films in partnership with the Cox Capitol Theatre and the Grand Opera House. Originally started in 2005, the Macon Film Festival celebrates the works of independent filmmakers for the edification and viewing pleasure of locals in Macon and Central Georgia. Since one can choose to purchase a $10 daily pass or an all-access pass, college students can have the opportunity to spend a whole weekend watching movies with friends or family. This is a great option for students on a budget.
I have to admit that I am still a new patron of the Douglass. Nevertheless, I’ve come to love the Douglass Theatre for its nostalgic atmosphere, its antiquarian appeal, and its continued commitment to provide patrons with excellent entertainment opportunities. Take my word for it: if you are a high-brow classicist, a theater geek, a movie buff or even a college student wanting to fulfill an out-of-class assignment, the Douglass offers many events and opportunities to satiate your culturally famished soul. In an age of globalism, sensory overload and sociopolitical uncertainty, it is comforting to know that there are still such places in the world to seek solace from the exasperations of modernity through cultural expression and the fine arts.