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Muhammad Ali, Stepin Fetchit meet on Paul Robeson stage

Imagined conversations among great historical figures seems to be the order of the day on the Buffalo theater scene.

Fond memories of American Repertory Theater’s 2015 production of Steve Martin’s historical fantasy “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” still linger. Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, who never actually met, are facing off in Mark St. Germain’s “Freud’s Last Session” in the Road Less Traveled Theatre. And on Feb. 5, two historical figures of monumental importance will meet on the stage of the African American Cultural Center’s Paul Robeson Theatre (350 Masten Ave.) to hash out some issues of their own.

Those figures are the great boxer and cultural icon Muhammad Ali and the lesser-known but no less groundbreaking actor Stepin Fetchit, whose real-life friendship receives several added layers of historical fiction in Will Power’s play “Fetch Clay, Make Man.” The Paul Robeson production is directed by Buffalo theater veteran Laverne Clay and stars Johnnie Rowe as Muhammad Ali and an actor who goes by the stage name Fisher as Fetchit.

The play, set in Lewiston, Maine in 1965 in, takes up Ali’s relationship with the Nation of Islam and his fight with Sonny Liston for which he asks Fetchit for advice. The show also deals with Fetchit’s time in Hollywood in the 1920s, during which time he formed the stereotypical (and in retrospect, wildly exploitative) persona that would make him one of the first black actors to achieve nationwide renown before his career faltered in the 1950s.

Tickets to the show, which also features Joey Giambra, Courtney Turner and Johnny Rowe, are $22 to $25. Call 884-2013 or visit

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