Frontiers Newsmagazine

Interesting and



"...Levels'  portrayal...captures

both Baldwin's strident


honorable characteristics..."






LA Weekly



"...Levels'  intense stage

presence beguiles..."






LA Watts Times



"...a pleasing, must-see

theater experience."


The Colonnade

The official Student Newspaper of

Georgia College & State University

February 22, 2008




Performance a journey to the 'top'

By Rochelle Smalls, Staff Reporter

“Down from the Mountain Top,” is a James Baldwin play that was held in Magnolia Ballroom on Feb. 19, in celebration of Black History and Social Justice Month. Sponsored by Arts Unlimited, The Black Student Alliance and the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, this solo play, written and performed by Calvin Levels, allowed the audience to experience the life of James Baldwin.

 Nadirah Ross, the Diversity Programming coordinator, “sees it as a talent to keep the audience’s attention being the only person on the stage.”

 “James Baldwin visits him (Levels) in a spiritual form,” said Ross, “and having never met figures such as James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X, this play makes it real.”

While Levels’ play was created to connect with the audience, Levels finds that he also has a great connection with Baldwin.

 “On the surface level, my special connection is with that of a fellow artist and his journey and integrity,” said Levels. “The more I work, the more I learn about myself and humanity, and I have come to realize something deeper yet to be discovered.”

Just as Baldwin’s father, Levels found that his father wanted him to become something other than an actor or writer. Levels’ father wanted him to become a boxer; however, Levels followed his dream of becoming an actor from Cleveland to Los Angeles and even to New York.

 It seems that Calvin Levels had been inspired by the theater classes at Karamu, his friend’s father who was an actor and portraying a Christmas tree in the school play while in kindergarten. By the age of 17, Levels knew that acting would become his profession.

Since “Down from the Mountain Top” is a solo play, Levels finds that he “works off the audience and gives his dialogue to the audience.”

Levels believes, that when one’s audience is silent, it actually means that they are with you.

“Baldwin spoke to the people and made sure they were getting what was said,” said Levels.

 When putting on his play, “different places affect me differently,” Levels said. “Georgia itself, was a very pivotal point in Baldwin’s life.”

 Baldwin describes Georgia clay as being red as blood, and hypothesized that it came from black men who were hung from trees. The racism that was present in America was fresh and ever present on the mind of Baldwin.

 Levels relates that “the stories of the South terrified him (Baldwin), yet he had to face it.” With his huge love for humanity, Baldwin could not back away from healing this nation. “I have vicariously lived that even though it’s a different time,” explains Levels.

 Finally, it is performance night and James Baldwin has taken over Calvin Levels, and together, the audience took a journey that they will never forget. The stage is set, soft music plays in the background, and entering from left stage came James Baldwin.

 He spoke of his loving mother, and how he believed that “writing would end … his cycle of poverty.” Just sitting and thinking of his family, one could see the love he had for them, as tears rolled down his cheeks.

 He also spoke of his father and the fact that “hate never fails to destroy the man who hates.” Later in Baldwin’s life, he realizes that he never truly hated his father.

 Baldwin took the audience from Harlem to Paris, and relayed all the struggles and encounters that were made. Through his ups and downs, Baldwin “refuses to let fear deny me of my dreams.”

By the time of the intermission, Baldwin’s audience got a chance to laugh, cry and reminisce with him on his journey; his “quest for truth.” Wanting to “preach the gospel of equality,” Baldwin was willing to go to any length to be “accepted for the content of my character,” said Baldwin.

 It seems that Levels had really become James Baldwin and fed off of the audience’s interaction by leaving the stage and speaking directly with the audience. While adding situations that would apply to today’s America, Baldwin spoke of Jena 6, New Orleans, Obama, Coretta Scott King and Iraq, and always knowing where one came from.

 Through his direct parallels with the audience, it seemed that everyone learned to take advantage of the privileges that are present and never take them for granted. By ending the play with, “It is your turn to go tell it on the mountain,” it was evident that a true self-examination needed to be done for a true change to occur and for true peace to be present.

 The play ends and Calvin Levels was standing at center stage.

“The information that was given out was good,” said Brayli James, a freshman biology major. “Through his tears, I felt his emotion.”

Portraying the life of a famous black writer who also fought for equality, Calvin Levels’ “Down from the Mountain Top” was the perfect play to celebrate Black History and Social Justice Month.

James Arthur Baldwin


American novelist,
writer, playwright,
poet, essayist,
civil-rights activist,
movement contributor

born in Harlem, N.Y.

teenage Pentecostal preacher in Harlem for four years

later turned away from the church
to explore themes of personal
identity in spirituality, sexuality, race and philosophy in his writings

lived in Europe for ten years, including Paris and Istanbul to escape from racial & sexual oppression

authored literature includes:
“Go Tell It on the Mountain”
“The Fire Next Time”
“Notes of a Native Son”
“If Beal Street Could Talk”
“Giovanni’s Room”



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