Muhammad Ali “And In This Corner” Premiere in Louisville

By ESB - 01/16/2015 - Comments

StageOne Family Theatre, Louisville, KY’s professional theatre for young audiences, presents a new look at the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali with the world premiere production of And in This Corner…Cassius Clay, on January 17, 2015, Ali’s 73rd birthday. Dubbed “Play it Forward: Champions Night,” the evening will feature a gala dinner as well as the play, and a post-show champagne reception honoring the Champ and the new production. The event will be co-hosted by StageOne Family Theatre, The Muhammad Ali Center and The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. Performances will continue atThe Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts from January 19th to February 14th.

And In This Corner…Cassius Clay was commissioned as part of StageOne’s new play development series and when the company connected with renowned playwright, Idris Goodwin, both teams hit the ground running. Most people are familiar with the adult Ali, but few know Cassius Clay, Jr., a young boy who rarely engaged in any organized sport. The story begins when 12 year old Clay has a chance encounter with police officer Joe Martin after his bike was stolen. The boy is beside himself with anger and ready to take on all comers, but asMartin quips, “You gonna whup anybody – you better learn how.” Martin invites Clay to the Columbia Gym where Martin taught boxing skills to boys from the poorer parts of town. It was in those workouts that Martin honed Clay’s natural talents, and helped him become a world class boxer. But the story is more than boxing; it’s also a story about a young man who finds his voice and stands up for social justice during a tumultuous time in history. Playwright Goodwin says “At the core of the story is something that should resonate with all generations of people — the ideas of social responsibility, fighting for equality, finding a passion of opening doors to find who you could be”.

While Equity casting was done mostly out of Chicago, ultimately the story still maintained a Louisville flavor. Twenty-six year old Justin Cornwell landed the role of Cassius, and while he now lives in Chicago, is actually a Louisville native. He joins a decorated cast, which includes William McNulty (Actors Theatre of Louisville) as Joe Martin, Ebony Joy and Cedric Mays who play Clay’s parents Odessa and Cassius, Sr., Crystian Wiltshire as younger brother Rudy, Robert N. Isaac in a swing role as childhood nemesis Corky Baker as well as Sugar Ray Robinson, and Brian Barber as Polish boxer Zbigniew Pietrzykowski, who fought Ali in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Rejinal Simon and Leah Michelle Roberts also appear as fictitious characters throughout the plot. This production will be directed by Andrew D. Harris.

Thanks to a unique partnership between StageOne and the Muhammad Ali Center, And in This Corner…Cassius Clay will be part of a unique dual trip experience for area children. Over the next few weeks, more than 20,000 students will not only see the play, they will tour the adjacent Muhammad Ali Center.

Performances of And In This Corner…Cassius Clay will take place on January 19th at 1pm; January 24th & February 14th at 2pm and January 31st and February 7th at 2pm / 7pm. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 502-584-7777. Tickets are $20.00 for adults / $15.00 for students 12 & under. The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts is located at 501 W. Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202.

Justin Cornwell (Cassius Clay Jr.) is proud to return to his hometown of Louisville to perform the iconic role of Cassius Clay. His Chicago credits include the Short Shakes and Shakespeare in the Park iterations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as appearing as an understudy in Othello: The Remix and A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Other Chicago credits includeDetroit 67 (Northlight Theater) and Thinking Caps (Strangeloop Theater). Television credits include Chicago PD (NBC) and Empire (FOX). He also appears in the hit video game Watchdogs (Ubisoft). Justin attended the University of Louisville where he studied theater and graphic design as well as appearing in several productions on the Thrust stage. Proud Member of Actors’ Equity.

Idris Goodwin (Playwright) is a playwright, spoken word performer and essayist. His play How We Got On, developed at the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, premiered in Actors Theatre’s 2012 Humana Festival and is being produced at theaters across the country. Goodwin is currently developing new stage works with Denver Center Theatre Company, as well as his world premiere with StageOne Family Theatre. This is Modern Art (co-written with Kevin Coval for Steppenwolf Theatre Company) was selected for the 2014 New Visions/New Voices program at the Kennedy Center. Goodwin is a Core Writer for The Playwrights’ Center and has enjoyed writing residencies with Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the New Harmony Project. These Are The Breaks (Write Bloody, 2011), his debut collection of essays and poetry, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He’s performed on HBO, The Discovery Channel, Sesame Street and National Public Radio. Goodwin teaches performance writing and hip hop aesthetics at Colorado College.