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TABLE OF CONTENTS Common Core Standards 3 Guidelines for Attending the Theatre 4 Artists 5 Themes 8 Mastery Assessment 11 For Further Exploration 13 Suggested Activities 19 Recommendations for Further Reading 21

Š Huntington Theatre Company Boston, MA 02115 October 2018 No portion of this curriculum guide may be reproduced without written permission from the Huntington Theatre Company’s Department of Education & Community Programs Inquiries should be directed to: Alexandra Smith | Interim Co-Director of Education This curriculum guide was prepared for the Huntington Theatre Company by: Dylan C. Wack | Education Apprentice Daniel Begin | Education Associate Alexandra Smith | Interim Co-Director of Education


STANDARDS: Student Matinee performances and pre-show workshops provide unique opportunities for experiential learning and support various combinations of the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts. They may also support standards in other subject areas such as Social Studies and History, depending on the individual play’s subject matter. Activities are also included in this Curriculum Guide and in our pre-show workshops that support several of the Massachusetts state standards in Theatre. Other arts areas may also be addressed depending on the individual play’s subject matter. Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details 1

Reading Literature: Craft and Structure 5

Grades 9-10: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Grades 11-12: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Grades 9-10: Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks), create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.

Grades 11-12: Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.

Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details 2 •

Grades 9-10: Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text. Grades 11-12: Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.

Reading Literature: Craft and Structure 6 •

Grades 9-10: Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.

Grades 11-12: Analyze a case in which grasping point of view required distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).

Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details 3

Reading Literature: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas 7

Grades 9-10: Analyze how complex characters (e.g. those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the themes.

Grades 11-12: Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop related elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

Grades 9-12: Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g. recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist).





1.7: Create and sustain a believable character throughout a scripted or improvised scene (By the end of Grade 8).

1.12: Describe and analyze, in written and oral form, characters’ wants, needs, objectives, and personality characteristics (By the end of Grade 8).

4.6: Draw renderings, floor plans, and/or build models of sets for a dramatic work and explain choices in using visual elements (line, shape/form, texture, color, space) and visual principals (unity, variety, harmony, balance, rhythm) (By the end of Grade 8).

1.13: In rehearsal and performance situations, perform as a productive and responsible member of an acting ensemble (i.e., demonstrate personal responsibility and commitment to a collaborative process) (By the end of Grade 8).

4.13: Conduct research to inform the design of sets, costumes, sound, and lighting for a dramatic production (Grades 9-12).

1.14: Create complex and believable characters through the integration of physical, vocal, and emotional choices (Grades 9-12).

1.15: Demonstrate an understanding of a dramatic work by developing a character analysis (Grades 9-12).

1.17: Demonstrate increased ability to work effectively alone and collaboratively with a partner or in an ensemble (Grades 9-12).


Strand 6: Purposes and Meanings in the Arts — Students will describe the purposes for which works of dance, music, theatre, visual arts, and architecture were and are created, and, when appropriate, interpret their meanings (Grades PreK-12).

Strand 10: Interdisciplinary Connections — Students will apply their knowledge of the arts to the study of English language arts, foreign languages, health, history and social science, mathematics, and science and technology/engineering (Grades PreK-12).


2.7: Read plays and stories from a variety of cultures and historical periods and identify the characters, setting, plot, theme, and conflict (By the end of Grade 8).

2.8: Improvise characters, dialogue, and actions that focus on the development and resolution of dramatic conflicts (By the end of Grade 8).

2.11: Read plays from a variety of genres and styles; compare and contrast the structure of plays to the structures of other forms of literature (Grades 9-12).

GUIDELINES FOR ATTENDING THE THEATRE Attending live theatre is a unique experience with many valuable educational and social benefits. To ensure that all audience members are able to enjoy the performance, please take a few minutes to discuss the following audience etiquette topics with your students before you come to the Huntington Theatre Company.


How is attending the theatre similar to and different from going to the movies? What behaviors are and are not appropriate when seeing a play? Why?

Remind students that because the performance is live, the audience’s behavior and reactions will affect the actors’ performances. No two audiences are exactly the same, and therefore no two performances are exactly the same—this is part of what makes theatre so special! Students’ behavior should reflect the level of performance they wish to see.

Theatre should be an enjoyable experience for the audience. It is absolutely all right to applaud when appropriate and laugh at the funny moments. Talking and calling out during the performance, however, are not allowed. Why might this be? Be sure to mention that not only would the people seated around them be able to hear their conversation, but the actors on stage could hear them, too. Theatres are constructed to carry sound efficiently!

Any noise or light can be a distraction, so please remind students to make sure their cell phones are turned off (or better yet, left at home or at school!). Texting, photography, and video recording are prohibited.

Food, gum, and drinks should not be brought into the theatre.

Students should sit with their group as seated by the Front of House staff and should not leave their seats once the performance has begun.


ARTISTS Cristofer worked on the screenplays for films such as The Shadow Box (1980), Falling in Love (1984), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), and Georgia O’Keeffe (2009) and directed movies such as Candida (1984), Gia (1998), Body Shots (1999), and Original Sin (2001). In addition to writing and directing, Cristofer returned to acting to star in shows like the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Captors as well as television series such as “Rubicon,” “Smash,” “Mr. Robot,” and “American Horror Story.” Renowned composer Terence Blanchard was the one who introduced Cristofer to the story of boxer Emile Griffith, and the two collaborated on an opera about Griffith’s life, but Cristofer was dissatisfied with the results. When the Court Theatre at the University of Chicago contacted Cristofer about writing a play to tell more of Griffith’s story, Cristofer jumped at the opportunity. Cristofer has expressed that part of why he finds Griffith’s story so intriguing is because Griffith’s experiences are still relevant in 2018. The play examines oppression, LGBTQ+ issues, and bigotry. In a statement released by the Huntington Theatre Company, Cristofer says he is “happy to return to the Huntington as a playwright this time, bringing [Huntington audiences] the true story of Emile Griffith — a young immigrant from the Virgin Islands, a gay man struggling with his identity in the brutal world of sports, trying at the end of his life as he slips into dementia to piece together the story of love and pain and joy that was his life. And to find peace. A true hero in my book.”

QUESTIONS: Playwright Michael Cristofer


Michael Cristofer is a multi-hyphenate artist with a resume that includes work as an actor, director, and writer. How might his experience in one area inform and support his work in another?


Michael Cristofer wrote Man in the Ring because he found Emile Griffith’s life story incredibly compelling. If you had to write a play about someone else’s life story, whose would it be and why?


What do you think the challenges were in writing this play? Why do you think this play is important for Bostonians to see?

PLAYWRIGHT MICHAEL CRISTOFER Michael Cristofer is an acclaimed Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and actor who is no stranger to the Huntington Theatre Company. He was born into an Irish Catholic family in Trenton New Jersey in January of 1945 and was raised in New Jersey for most of his life until he moved to Washington, DC to attend the Catholic University of America. He quit school before graduating and instead toured with a show in Europe and was funded by the State Department of the United States. After a few years of trying to “make it” as an actor in New York City, he followed the lead of many other actors of the time and moved to Los Angeles in 1972. While the entertainment industry in Los Angeles focused on acting for film and television, moving to Los Angeles was what jumpstarted Cristofer’s theatrical career. His first gig in Los Angeles came when he was cast as Crow in a production of Sam Shepard’s The Tooth of Crime at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. This led Cristofer to be cast in many other shows and provided the connections he needed to get a professional production for The Shadow Box, which marked Cristofer’s first serious efforts as a playwright. The Shadow Box made its debut at the Mark Taper Forum and then was produced in many major American cities before it made its way to Broadway in 1977. This is the play for which Cristofer ultimately won the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Excellence in Drama. In the years following his success on Broadway, Cristofer split his time between Los Angeles and New York. He spent his time writing and working on a long list of productions. As a playwright he worked on The Lady and the Clarinet at the Mark Taper Forum (1980), Black Angel at Circle Repertory Company (1982), Breaking Up at Primary Stages (1993), and Amazing Grace at the Pittsburg Public Theater (1994).

DIRECTOR MICHAEL GREIF Michael Greif, director of the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Man in the Ring, is an award-winning stage director from Brooklyn, New York. Greif’s long career in the theatre spans over 30 years. Grief majored in acting at Northwestern University with a focus in oral interpretation but was inspired during his junior and senior years to try directing productions with student groups. When he helmed a production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Greif was inspired to shift his focus to directing. In this process, he discovered a love of helping others be their best for a live audience. Greif followed this passion and studied under Des McAnuff at the University of California, San Diego. In the years after graduate school, Greif accepted the role of artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse (1994-1999). It was during his time at La Jolla that Greif was approached to direct a new musical called Rent. Up to that point in time, Greif had a love for directing straight plays rather than musicals, but he ultimately chose to take a chance on Rent because of its realistic portrayal of flawed, deeply human characters, as well as the social importance of the story it told. This was a career defining decision as it earned Greif his first Tony Award nomination for Best Direction of a Musical. MAN IN THE RING CURRICULUM GUIDE


Director Michael Greif

Greif describes his approach when directing plays and musicals as “tribal” and “extremely collaborative.” Greif begins his process by finding the tone that the writers are trying to achieve and then collaborates with the actors and the creative team to communicate this tone to the audience. Actors in a recent revival of Rent, which Greif also worked on, praised him for his ability to “edit” them while still allowing them to help shape the characters in the show. In more recent years, Greif has directed many productions including Our Lady of Kibeho (2014) and Landscape of the Body (2006), and A Few Stout Individuals (2002) all at the Signature Theater Company, as well a production of War Paint (2006) at the Goodman Theatre that moved to Broadway in 2017. Greif has received Tony nominations for his directorial work on Grey Gardens (2006), Next to Normal (2009), and Dear Evan Hansen (2016). Greif’s most recent hit, Dear Evan Hansen, tells the story of Evan, a high school boy who deals with severe social anxiety, which inhibits his ability to connect with other people his own age. When one of his classmates commits suicide, Evan finds himself caught in a lie that brings him closer to this classmate’s family. This experience ultimately allows Evan to confront his social anxiety head-on and connect with his inner-purpose. In an interview with Deadline, Greif talks about working on shows where the audience can see themselves in the characters on stage. He notes that there is a specificity to the story of every production he directs that makes them easily accessible to all audiences. Greif also notes that shows like Dear Evan Hansen and Rent allow audiences and himself to have a connection to moments in the play, or to specific characters. This means the shows can age well, allowing for patrons to continue to come back to the theatre to see the same show again and again and have new experiences each time.



John Douglas Thompson


After seeing Man in the Ring, do some research on Dear Evan Hansen and other productions directed by Michael Greif. What do these productions have in common, aesthetically speaking? How would you describe Greif’s directing style? Compare and contrast his work on two or more productions.


Working on a new show can be like being in school, as you learn something new every day. Michael Greif describes his rehearsals as “tribal” due to their collaborative nature. How does collaboration work in your classes at school? What are the challenges and benefits?


Michael Greif has had a long career in the theatre. Although he started out as an actor, he identified a new desire to direct and took specific steps to shift his trajectory. What is a career goal you want to achieve in your own life? Do some research and determine the next three steps you need to take in order to get there. Aim for one to be finished in six months from now, one to be finished in one year from now, and one to be finished in two years from now.

ACTOR JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON John Douglas Thompson’s career as an actor for stage, television, and film spans over 20 years, but his life as an actor began in an unlikely place. Thompson was born in 1964 in Bath, England, and lived in Montreal before his family moved to Rochester, New York. He attended Le Moyne College in Syracuse where he studied business and marketing and went on to work in marketing for a software company. It was during this time that Thompson stumbled into his passion for theatre. While living in New Haven, Connecticut, he asked a friend on a date to see Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson. His friend never showed up, but instead of leaving the theatre, Thompson stayed to watch the performance. Thompson credits that decision as what inspired him to become an actor. Thompson was deeply moved by the production and said in a September 2009 interview with The New York Times that in that moment, it occurred to him that “this represents what I want to do.” Shortly thereafter, an economic downturn caused Thompson to lose his job with the technology company. But rather than seeking a new position in the same field, Thompson saw the moment as an opportunity to follow his newfound passion. He enrolled in the conservatory acting program at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island, becoming the second oldest student in his class. After graduating in 1994, he found significant success performing Shakespeare, notably with American Repertory Theater in Cambridge and Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. He made his Broadway debut in

the 2005 production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, opposite Denzel Washington. Since that time, he has performed in New York City and throughout the United States. In 2017, he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his portrayal of Becker in August Wilson’s Jitney. His other Broadway credits include Cyrano de Bergerac and the 2018 revival of the musical Carousel. Other credits include Othello (Theatre for a New Audience), Satchmo at the Waldorf (Westside Theatre), Richard III (Shakespeare and Company), and The Emperor Jones (Irish Repertory Theatre). Thanks to his incredible work ethic and extraordinary talent, John Douglas Thompson is today considered one of the best Shakespearean actors in America as well as an expert in the field of classical acting. Ciaran O’Reilly, Artistic Director of Irish Repertory Theatre in New York describes Thompson as one of the greatest actors working today. “He’s absolutely willing to do anything and to try anything,” O’Reilly told Monica Drake of The New York Times. Thompson will make his Huntington Theatre Company debut as Emile Griffith in Man in the Ring.


How does John Douglas Thompson’s life and experience reflect the life of the character he is playing in Man in the Ring, Emile Griffith?


How might Thompson’s expertise as a Shakespearean actor prove useful for his work on Man in the Ring?

John Douglas Thompson (Emile), Michael Greif (Director), Michael Cristofer (Playwright), and Kyle Vincent Terry (Young Emile)




MASCULINITY: THE ESSENTIAL VS. SOCIAL SELF The American Heritage Dictionary defines the term identity as “the collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitely known or recognizable.” The same dictionary defines identify as “to associate or affiliate [oneself] closely with a person or group; to establish an identification with another or others.” In other words, identity is a label that one uses to connect with others but is also a statement of the way the outside world defines who a person is. What if the way society views an individual contradicts how the individual views themselves? How do gender, cultural identity, and sexual orientation become factors in the conflict between the essential self, how someone sees themselves and articulates their own identity, and the social self, the way someone’s identity manifests as reflection of the expectations of those around them? This struggle between the essential and social selves is a major theme in Man in the Ring. Throughout the play, Emile struggles to accept who he is on the inside while also fulfilling the image of the man that society wants him to be. Emile’s manager, Howie, is the first person in the play to call out the conflict between Emile’s essential and social selves. In Act 1, Scene 3, Young Emile goes with his mother, Emelda, seeking employment from Howie as a hat-maker. Even though Emile has a real talent for making decorative hats, Howie is shocked that this muscular young man is using his hands for such delicate work.

HOWIE: You’re telling me this boy what is built like a brick shithouse, this boy with hands like mits and shoulders like the grand canyon… you could serve dinner for six on those shoulders… you’re telling me this boy made this frilly little sissy hat with ribbons and bows and the stitched on little pansies… is that what you’re telling me? (Act 1, Scene 3)

In Man in the Ring, masculinity and strength are represented in the sport of boxing. In reality, the identities of many men do not reflect society’s ideal image of masculinity and so young men and boys’ participation in sports helps them to bridge that gap. Howie is certain that a man of Emile’s stature can put his strength to better use than making hats and decides to push Emile to become a boxer instead. This reflects the way American society values and rewards strength and masculinity. Society often puts pressure on men to prove their masculinity by demonstrating competitive and dominant behaviors with very little emotional expressiveness, all of which manifest strongly in athletics. This is part of why Howie pushes so hard for Emile to shift his focus. Howie believes Emile already has the look that represents the masculine ideal and decides to help socialize Emile into this role.



Emile’s sexuality adds another layer to the conflict between his social self and his essential self. While Emile never publicly states his sexuality to any other character, his actions in the play, like what he wears and public appearances in gay bars, lead others to assume that he is gay. During the 1950s and 1960s, when Man in the Ring takes place, attraction to someone of the same sex was not accepted. Emile’s society does not accept his essential self because of the traditional stereotypical view of gay men as feminine and weak. People around Emile do not believe that the different facets of Emile’s identity can coexist. At the end of the play’s first act, Emile says “I like everybody. I like the girls and I like the boys… And it don’t mean nothing about me what I do in the dark. Ain’t nobodies business. No. No. No” (Act 1, Scene 5). Emile’s boxing opponent, Benny Paret, seizes the opportunity to mock Emile in a public setting. Right before Paret and Griffith fight, Paret draws on stereotypes and pokes fun at Emile’s sexuality by asking Emile if he wants to “...make [him] his boyfriend and suck his dick” (Act 1, Scene 7). Paret even goes so far as to call Emile a “maricon” which means “faggot.” Benny forces Emile into a state of deep emotional distress by spotlighting the conflict between Emile’s identity and social expectations of a masculinepresenting athlete. For some men, the pressure of this conflict can cause them to lash out, develop anxiety, and be prone to aggressive, violent behavior. Emile is no exception. He draws attention to this struggle in a monologue later in Act 1, Scene 7:

A man is a man, he say. That’s all. Some flesh and bone. Inside. Outside. The skin he wear, the walk he walk, the talk he talk… And the dream he dream. No, no, no. You take that dream, boy, you bury him deep where he do no harm. And the heart that beat and tell him what he feel is what he feel. No, no. You take that heart, boy, you bury him deep.


In Man in the Ring, Emile is often made of fun of because he is seen as less masculine than the other boxers. Think back to when you saw or read the show. Are there any scenes that stuck out to you that displayed this? If so, why did that particular scene stick out to you?


The American Heritage Dictionary (1993) defines identity as “the collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitely known or recognizable.” What were the recognizable parts of Emile’s identity?


Do you think Howie and Emelda were morally right to force Emile into becoming a boxer? Why or why not? Put yourself in their shoes. Would you have made the same decision?

4. Can you think of a time where you or someone else you know was told they could not do something because of societal views of gender? What did it feel like to have this happen to you or to watch it happen to someone else? Did you continue with this? 5.

Can you remember when you first realized that men are meant to have short hair, that women’s faces aren’t acceptable without makeup but men’s are, that boys aren’t supposed to like pink, or cry too much? How have these stereotypes impacted your own identity? How do you feel about them today?

influence over Emile drives him to leave his hat designing days in the past to pursue financial security for himself and his mother. Emile has never had a stable family before getting to New York; in the first scene at the gay bar Emile tells his lover about the physical mistreatment his aunt subjected him to for spilling the water he carried uphill, which transforms into a scene of sexual abuse between Young Emile and a man who introduces himself as Uncle Jim. Through the flashback to scene with Uncle Jim, it becomes clear that Emile’s concept of family up until he arrived in New York was based on trauma.

Emile (center) being held by his mother Emelda (1967)

FAMILY AND SUCCESS Man in the Ring depicts aspects of Emile Griffith’s challenging upbringing, including his shifting family dynamics that resulted from his family’s immigration to the United States. When Emile was still young, his mother, Emelda, moved from St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands to the United States mainland and left her son to be cared for by a cousin. According to the UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti, the child welfare research branch of UNICEF, “children who remain behind can also be affected by migration. Sometimes, a migrating parent may be better able to financially support his or her family through remittances than one who stays behind, thus contributing to a range of positive outcomes.” While the island of St. Thomas is technically part of the United States, Emile’s family’s immigration story is similar to those of many other immigrants from around the world. Like many other parents, Emelda chose to leave her children behind in the US Virgin Islands to pursue financial security that could only be found elsewhere. Her responsibility to her family forced her to grapple with incredibly difficult decisions, not only about whether to leave her children with distant family members, but also when to ask that Emile also move to New York to help her make ends meet. Emile’s immigration story reveals the intricacies of family and money, and how the relationship between parents and children can change based on financial strain and success. Due to his history of abuse by family members, Emile is far more susceptible to the sway that Emelda and Howie exert over his early career. Although they are clearly more interested in the money he makes from boxing rather than his interest in the sport, Emelda and Howie are present in his life in positive ways that Emile has not had before. Howie, Emile’s coach, manager, and a strong father figure in Emile’s life, pushes him toward a career in boxing despite Emile’s lack of interest, coaxing Emile to get in the ring. In Act 1, Scene 3, Howie tries to encourage Emile, saying “what I got is better than work. For you and for me. What I got is a big idea, bigger than hats in a hat factory.” Howie’s

Emile’s boxing career provides him with hope for improved family connection as he rapidly attains success at the outset of his career. He invites his estranged father to the boxing matches and is frustrated when he receives no response and his father is a no-show in the arena. In Act 1, Scene 5, Emile confesses his desire for his family to be reunited, saying “I just think if he could see me now…maybe he come back and make us a family again.” Emile lacks genuine interest in boxing but naively believes that he may be able to leverage his success towards family reunification. Emile’s relationship with his family is further complicated by finances as victories in the ring bring him fame and fortune. Emelda’s concern regarding Emile’s courtship with Sadie and his exceedingly lavish lifestyle creates a divide between the two that is irreconcilable. Emile is distrustful of his mother’s motives, accusing her of being a “money loving whore,” rejecting her advice to honor his identity as a queer person. Sick of being told what to do by those in his life, Emile retorts in Act 2, Scene 3:

I fight the fights. I pay the bills. I put the clothes on your back. The food on your table, and wrap your ass in sable fur. What more you want from me? What more you want? Huh?! What, what?!

The transformation of Emile and Emelda’s familial relationship to a more transactional one is the consequence of a lifetime in the public eye and the closeting of Emile’s sexuality by the public and by Howie. Emile is frustrated by his struggle to find happiness as his family’s major source of income and he sees his family as using him for financial gain. Emelda tries to acknowledge her son’s sexuality and warns that pursuing Sadie will ultimately make him unhappy; Emile rebukes her compassion, and in Act 2, Scene 3 she defends herself in the only way she knows how:

I know I ain’t the best mommie in the world and maybe I ain’t the mommie you need. But baby, I’m the only mommie you got.

Financial and career success provide temporary salves for Emile’s troubled life, and he is constantly drawn into conflict with Emelda, Howie, and Luis (Emile’s lover and later, his adopted son), despite their efforts to protect and support him. In contrast to the anonymity of the chorus of actors who barrage Emile with the pressures of a life in the public sphere, his family provide moments of kindness; in a life marred by poverty, guilt, and repression, family is the constant, and can be a constant for good, if given the opportunity.


Emile’s identities as a boxer and as a bisexual man are greatly influenced by his family. What lessons does he learn from his family about identity? Who is the most influential person in his life?


In the play, Emile and Young Emile interact with each other in a familial way. Describe this relationship. Why doesn’t Young Emile take the advice of his older self?




What is the difference between Emile’s relationship with his family and his relationships with Sadie and Luis?

4. Imagine you become rich and famous. How might this change your relationship to your parents? To your siblings? To your friends?

HAPPINESS AND FULFILMENT When one achieves celebrity and wealth, a common expectation is that comfort and happiness will follow. Man in the Ring offers the story of a man who comes from nothing and rises to great wealth and success, however whether he attains happiness in the process is not so clear. Emile’s boxing career spanned nearly two decades and ended with a winning record overall. He traveled around the world and at the height of his career made $175,000 for a single match. Conventional wisdom would assume that these factors would equal happiness, however Emile is clearly unsatisfied. From the moment he arrives in New York City, Emile had a clear dream to be in the limelight and believes he can make it big through his passions for baseball and singing. Perhaps unrealistic for a young man who grew up poor in the West Indies, Young Emile’s attitude does not falter, stating in Act 1, Scene 1:

Dey say don’t hang yo hat higher dan you can reach. But I say reach for what you cannot reach. Reach for what you cannot even see. And puss and dawg heaven, that’s where you land.

Emile also dreams of designing hats for a living. He arrives from St. Thomas proudly with a baseball bat and self-made hat in his hands and explains that both of his hands are busy and both of his hands are happy. But Howie, Emile’s boss at the hat factory where he finds work, sees his potential as a boxer due to his physically impressive stature, persuades him to leave behind his ambition to design hats and pursue the wealth that would come with boxing; Emile reluctantly begins to box in the amateur league. While he has great success as a boxer, he also suffers from years of head trauma, leading to significant memory loss and cognitive processing issues. Despite his trouble with memory, he still remembers his love of hat-designing, extolling the virtues of the Jackie Kennedy pillbox hat he created when he arrived in New York 20 years

Emile Griffith and Luis Rodrigo, his caretaker and lover



earlier. Emile’s thoughts remain with his hats rather than with boxing, making it clear that despite his financial success, his heart remains on his first creative passion. At the center of the conflicts in Man in the Ring is Emile and society’s struggle to accept his identity as a bisexual man. Playwright Michael Cristofer introduces Young Emile with a baseball bat in one hand and the suitcase with the fancy hat in it in the other. He holds in his hands the dichotomy he would be struggling with for the rest of his life, the balance of feminine and masculine, and how these represent his sexuality. Young Emile’s relationships with Luis and Sadie mirror his relationship to his career. With Luis, he is happy, flirtatious, and has little care for what others think. His relationship with Sadie begins in much the same way, however over time it becomes clear that it is not what he really wants. Ultimately, Emile cannot continue his marriage with Sadie because of his sexual orientation. While his infidelity brings Emile’s morality into question, his sexual orientation cannot be ignored; in a union based on mutual happiness and support, Emile could not remain a part of the marriage. In the era when homosexuality was not accepted, especially within the world of professional sports, he has no choice but to clandestinely pursue an affair with Luis. While much of Emile’s memories are obscured by his dementia, the condition does reveal that his connection to Luis was the one that made him most happy.


The roadblocks to Emile’s happiness and fulfillment are often based in others’ expectations of what masculinity looks like. How has our understanding of masculinity and femininity changed since the 1970s? How is it the same? Which industries are still considered manly/womanly?


How do you define success? How do you define happiness? Does success in one’s career impede happiness in one’s personal life?


Who or what makes you happy? Do you think the impact of these sources of joy will change as you get older? What do you think might cause this kind of shift?

Emile’s first creative passion was designing hats




17. Emile continuously says that he is not a killer and knows nothing about fighting. What does he say he knows something about?


What song opens the play? Why do you think the playwright chose to begin the show with this song?

2. What does Luis find at the beginning of the show? Where does he find it?

18. What competition did Howie put Emile in very early in his career? What place did Emile come in?

3. What is a mumu?


4. Besides Luis, who does Emile have a conversation with at the end of the scene? What does he tell this person?

19. Who is the person Emile is disappointed did not come to his fight?

5. What sport does Young Emile want to play?

20. What does Emelda mean by “First water pig find, he got to wallow in it?”

6. Besides playing sports, what else does Young Emile think is going to make him famous?

21. What does Emile tell Young Emile he has inside of him? 22. Who does Emile meet at the gay bar?

SCENE 2 7. Who is Emelda?

23. What does Emile say he has in his head?

8. How many children does Emelda have?

24. What does Emile say his Aunt Blanche would make him do if he spilled water?

9. Who does Emelda leave Emile with? 10. What does Emile bring Emelda? Where did he get it?

25. Who did Emile ask to give him strength during the nights when Aunt Blanche punished him?

11. How does Emile describe himself?


12. What does Emile say makes him the happiest?

26. Who is Uncle Jim? What does Uncle Jim do to Emile?


27. Who are Emile and Luis going to see?

13. Who does Emelda take Emile to see? What is her intention in visiting this man?


14. Why is Howie so surprised that Emile makes hats? What does Howie want Emile to start doing instead?

29. What does Benny call Emile? What does it mean?

28. What does Benny ask Emile to be as a joke?

15. What does Howie do to Emile to test his “killer instinct?”

30. What does Howie say a “man” is?

16. What song does the ensemble sing to Emile? Why do you think the playwright chose to include this song at this moment in the show?

31. What happens to Benny at the end of the fight?


Kyle Vincent Terry and John Douglas Thompson both play Emile Griffith at different stages of his life




What song is sung at the top of Act II? Why do you think the playwright chose to put this song in the play?

15. What are the three words that Howie asks Young Emile to repeat? 16. How many fights did Emile participate in during his career as a boxer? How many wins? How many losses?

2. Who does Emile hallucinate he is talking to?


3. Why is Emile nervous to meet Benny’s son?

17. How does Luis recognize Emile?


18. Where did Sadie and Emile get married?

4. What question are Emile and Howie asked multiple times, even a year after the fight?

19. Who was late to the wedding?

5. Why did Benny not want to fight Emile?

21. What does Emile want Luis to help him do?

6. According to Howie, why did the newspapers not print the truth about the fight between Benny and Emile?

22. What was the only thing that Emile had left after his career ended? Who moved in with him?

7. Who does Emile start speaking to at the end of the scene?

23. What does Emile remember happening to him on his way home one night?

SCENE 3 8. Who is Sadie? 9. What does Emile say he wants to do with Sadie?

20. Why does Emile leave Sadie in the hotel room?

24. Why was Emile attacked? 25. What injuries did Emile sustain from this attack?

10. What does Emelda say Emile will do if he stays with Sadie? Why?


11. What does Emile accuse Emelda of doing?

27. How has Emile been spending his days?

12. What song does Emelda sing at the end of the scene? What does this song symbolize?

28. What do the kids and fighters say Emile gives them?


30. Who does Emile think Benny, Jr. is?

13. Why does Emile start losing fights? 14. What kind of hat does Young Emile say he is going to make for Howie?



26. Who does Emile finally meet?

29. Why does Emile want to meet Benny, Jr.?

FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION labels in terms of his sexual orientation, saying: “I will dance with anybody. I’ve chased men and women. I like men and women both. But I don’t like that word: homosexual, gay, or faggot. I don’t know what I am.” In an interview with the British newspaper The Times after Griffith’s death, Luis Rodrigo revealed that he and Griffith were in a romantic relationship. Benny Paret was born in Santa Clara, Cuba in 1937. Like Griffith, he came to the United States to pursue a better life. Living in poverty and illiterate in both English and Spanish, he arrived just before the Cuban Revolution. Paret was called “Kid,” a common nickname for Cuban boxers and athletes, and began boxing under the management of Manuel Alfaro. Paret married Lucy Hernandez, a Puerto Rican dancer living in New York who hated his career as a boxer and dreamed of a life outside of the ring. Paret purchased a house in Miami for Lucy and their son and planned to become a butcher after he retired from boxing. He was the welterweight champion in 1961 when Griffith took the title in a knockout. Paret went on to regain the title from Griffith five months later. They would fight again, but not before Paret would lose impressively to Gene Fullmer; Paret was fought to the ground three times, ultimately being knocked out by the larger Fullmer, leading some to speculate that Paret would retire not long after the fight. But Paret would go on to meet Griffith again, and this third match between Griffith and Paret proved fatal. Prior to the fight, Paret called Griffith “maricón,” the Spanish slang for “faggot,” and touched his buttocks during the weigh-in. Paret was looking to gain an advantage in the fight and while Griffith was quiet about his sexuality, there were rumors that he frequented gay bars. During the fight, Griffith pinned Paret to the corner and punched him in the head upwards of 25 times. Paret fell to the canvas and died ten days later of blood clots that formed in his brain. He was 25 years old when he died. Lucy gave birth to their second son in 1962 and never remarried.

Emile Griffith

EMILE GRIFFITH AND BENNY “KID” PARET Emile Griffith was born on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands in 1938, as one of eight children. His father left the family when Griffith was a child, and young Griffith was sent to live with family members while his mother moved to New York City to make money to support her family back on the island. When Griffith was a teenager, he joined his mother in New York where he met Howard Albert, a former boxer, who sent him to Gil Clancy, an up-and-coming boxing trainer. Griffith quickly moved through the amateur leagues and became a professional boxer in 1958. He would face Benny Paret three times between 1961 and 1962, ending with the match that killed Paret. Griffith continued boxing until 1977 but said in an interview with Sports Illustrated in 2005, “After Paret, I never wanted to hurt a guy again. I was so scared to hit someone, I was always holding back.” Griffith’s marriage to Mercedes Donastorg, referred to as “Sadie” in the play, ended in divorce, at which time he was taken care of by Luis Rodrigo, who he adopted and lived with for the rest of his life. When asked about his sexuality by Sports Illustrated in 2005, Griffith acknowledged his bisexuality, however he eschewed

Neither man originally wanted to be a boxer. Griffith aspired to design hats and Benny had his plans to become a butcher after fighting his final match. Both men’s coaches and managers exerted a powerful influence over their fighters, pushing them to perform at the highest level of their sport. In addition to the pressure from their coaches, there was undoubtedly pressure from fans and spectators. Primetime coverage of boxing cultivated a large television audience for boxing and ran regularly from 1946-1964 before ABC’s Fight of the Week was cancelled. Paret also faced unspoken pressure from Cuba to succeed and to represent the nation well during the Cold War. The popularity of boxing led to wealth and fame for both Griffith and Paret.


Griffith and Paret were both poor outsiders to the New York boxing community. Consider the status of an outsider. What factors would make these men pursue boxing as their chosen profession? How might spectators think about foreign boxers? Why would a playwright choose to reinvent or riff on elements from famous or popular works?


Benny Paret, Jr. blamed his father’s manager for his death, stating that after the Fullmer fight Benny Paret should never have been in the ring. Who should be held responsible for Benny’s death? What does Howie’s monologue at the beginning of Act II reveal about this topic?



Brain with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a common neurodegenerative disease among professional athletes.

BOXING AS A BLOOD SPORT The popular major league sports in the United States today such as baseball, basketball, hockey, and football all have rules aimed at ensuring the safety of the players and penalties for the players who break those rules. However, it is impossible to remove modern sporting from its roots: the stadiums these teams play in and the connection to the Roman Colosseum is clear. The Colosseum was one of the centers of entertainment at the height of the Roman empire and hosted events such as chariot races, dramatic representations of historic battles, and for a time, mock naval battles. Most famously, armor-clad gladiators would march into the stadium armed with swords and whips to fight to the death. Gladiators were held as slaves and were the poorest members of Roman society; if they lost a battle, they were killed — if they won, they could win their freedom. These gruesome battles would be attended by people from all parts of Roman society, from the elite, including the Emperor, all the way down to the poorest people in society. The success and popularity of the gladiatorial games lasted for hundreds of years, only declining during the rise of Christianity in the empire. Obviously, the winner of a boxing match is not required to murder their opponent for the appeasement of the crowd, however the structure of the match, as well as the closely personal nature of the sport’s violence, is not entirely separate from its Roman roots. While boxing originally developed as a professional sport under the Marquess of Queensbury, the British nobleman who formalized the rules in 1865 to ensure a “gentlemen’s game,” the safety of the boxers extended as far as the padded boxing gloves they wore. To this day, fighters in both boxing and mixed martial arts generally wear gloves with no other protection. Historically, American boxing audiences have come from all walks of life, but the boxers themselves have often come from humble backgrounds. Many were immigrants or, like Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson, from poor, rural parts of the American south. These men became modern gladiators; from the poorest places of society they could strive for the American dream if they were willing to literally fight for it. By the 1960s, a large percentage of the dominant professional boxers were also people of color. While this allowed for there to be Black celebrities at a time when this was still not common, notable Black scholars such as Elijah Muhammad believed that sports in general “harmed the black community . . . that white America had intentionally encouraged blacks to participate in games in order to divert their attention from the real source of their problems and keep them from advancing.” He equated the practice of white Americans tuning their television sets to watch two black men physically attack each other in the name of sport with gladiatorial combat.



The on-air death of Benny Paret led to a huge decline in televised boxing — regular primetime coverage of boxing would cease by 1964 — with calls for a total ban on the violent sport. While boxing became less and less popular, other sports such as football, hockey, and baseball took on dominant roles in American society. With the merger of the National Football League and the American Football League into the modern structure of the NFL, American football became the most popular sport broadcast on television, which continues to this day. Of the top 20 most watched broadcasts in American history, 17 are Super Bowl games. While boxing and football have many differences, they share two notable connections: the demographics of the players and the danger they subject to. As of 2017, 70 percent of NFL players are Black, while the US population is 12.6 percent Black or African American. This disproportionate number of Black players, particularly when viewed in comparison to the percentage of Black NFL head coaches or team CEOs and presidents, again gives the troubling notion that Black players are being exploited for the gain and entertainment of white audiences. Examinations of the brains of athletes in high-impact sports such as football and boxing shows that those athletes are at a high risk of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative neurological disorder caused by head injuries. People with CTE suffer from memory loss, decreased cognitive skills, and challenges with emotional regulation. Aaron Hernandez (1989-2017), a former New England Patriot’s tight end before his arrest and conviction for a 2013 homicide, was the subject of brain scans and testing by the Boston University CTE Center after his death by suicide in 2017. BU researcher Ann McKee stated that the level of CTE in Hernandez’s brain was unprecedented in a man his age, with significant damage done to the parts of his brain responsible for judgement and reasoning. While there can be no conclusion that he was more likely to commit violent crimes due to his brain damage, the connection between his CTE and the unfortunate events that led to his fall from grace from the NFL, and ultimately his death.


What does the term “blood sport” mean to you? What kind of person would participate in a “blood sport” or enjoy watching it?


All sports, in some way or another, put athletes at risk of severe injury and possible death. Why are these sports still so popular? Why are young athletes striving to put themselves in harm’s way?


What events, sporting or otherwise, feel gladiatorial in their nature to you? Are these events naturally adversarial? Have they been manufactured to be dramatic and on a bigger scale than necessary?

Aaron Hernandez suffered from CTE, which some researchers believe may have caused him to be more violent.

Our study shows there appears to be a threshold at which continued repetitive blows to the brain begin to cause measurable changes in memory and thinking, despite brain volume changes that can be found earlier.”

— Dr. Charles Bernick, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

LGBTQ+ ATHLETES In the past, it was extremely rare to find an openly gay athlete playing on a professional sports team. Recently however, with the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, as well as a major cultural push for LGBTQ+ pride, more gay athletes have been stepping forward to inspire the next generation. Here are some profiles of some of the most prominent LGBTQ+ sports figures: Gus Kenworthy, born October 1, 1991, is an Olympic slopestyle skier who grew up in Telluride, Colorado. Growing up in Colorado, Kenworthy was extremely competitive with his two brothers Hugh and Nick. It was because of this competitive side that he developed such a skill for skiing. When he first began competing, Kenworthy became known as a skier who would try new jumps before anybody else. At the age of 15, Kenworthy took first place in superpipe event and third in the slopestyle event at the United States Amateur Snowboard Association nationals. This was only the beginning for Kenworthy has he went on to win competition after competition. During the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Kenworthy was awarded silver medal in slope style skiing. The following fall, he came out to the world in ESPN Magazine. Kenworthy expressed that he feels the hardest part of his line of work is how negatively the sport talks about people in the LGBTQ+ community. Now, two years after coming out, Kenworthy says in an interview with CBS News that the industry he works in is still extremely homophobic. However, he is proud to live his truth while also doing what he loves. He hopes to inspire future generations and to prove that gay athletes are not less talented than their straight teammates. You can listen to this interview here: Adam Rippon, born November 11, 1989, is the first openly gay American male skater to compete in the Olympics. Rippon was born in a small town in Pennsylvania and showed talent for skating at a very young age. While he did not qualify for the 2010 or 2014 Olympics, he did qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, where he won a bronze medal as a member of the US men’s figure skating team. Since coming out in 2015, Rippon has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Rippon says that he tries to use his platform on social media to

Gus Kenworthy

Adam Rippon

help younger people in the LGBTQ+ community realize that it is okay to be themselves. Adam Rippon gained a large fan base during the Olympic games and in April of 2018 joined the cast of “Dancing with the Stars,” where he won the competition and took home the mirror ball trophy. In July of 2018, Rippon announced that he will be a judge on “Dancing with the Stars: Junior.” More than just a gay athlete, Rippon’s fearlessness in embracing his identity has made him a leader in the gay community. Brittany Bowe, born February 24, 1988, is another openly gay US Olympian. The 2018 Winter Olympics were the second in which she participated, but the first in which she competed as an “out” athlete. Bowe is a former inline skater who took up speedskating in 2010. In her eight years of skating at the Olympic level, Bowe has worked hard to make strides in refining her abilities. While she has not been as public about her sexuality as Kenworthy and Rippon, her openness and honesty about her identity positions her as a leader in the community and living proof that the term “gay” is not defined by gender. Jason Collins, born December 2, 1978, was the first gay male professional athlete to publicly admit his sexuality in 2013. Collins was born in Northridge, California in 1978. Collins and his twin brother loved played basketball growing up and both even attended college at Stanford to play on the university’s team. In 2001, Collins was taken 18th in the NBA draft by the New Jersey Nets. In his NBA career, Collins also spent time playing for the Memphis Grizzlies, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Boston Celtics, and the Washington Wizards. After becoming a free agent, Collins came out in an article released by Sports Illustrated in 2013. Now he works as an ambassador for NBA Cares. The issues that they work on change depending on what current social issue is in the eye of the public. In his free time, he mentors younger athletes, teaching them to be themselves and to live stress free.

I wanted to acknowledge this new identity that I was becoming more and more comfortable with.”

— Jason Collins


Do further research on these athletes. Are there any parallels between their journeys’ in athletics and Emile Griffith’s?


Do some more research on the topic of LGBTQ+ athletes. Who did you decide to focus on for your research and why? How difficult was it to find information about them?


What specific challenges do LGBTQ+ professional athletes face when they decide to come out?

4. Can you think of any other athletes, celebrities, politicians, or public figures who identify as LGBTQ+? Why did you think of them?

Brittany Bowe



In 1983, the American Medical Association called for a ban on boxing because of the consequences of engaging in such a violent physical sport. Boxers had faced permanent medical issues for years, such as concussions, bleeding in the brain, broken bones, eye injuries such as retinal detachment and, even death. The political landscape had grown somewhat less volatile and revelations that many of the highly political fights of the 1970s were fixed, which lead to reduced television viewership of boxing matches. Meanwhile, television networks began broadcasting events for other sports that were growing in popularity. This was the start of the decline of boxing in the public eye. Since 2008, with the increase in popularity of social media, cable networks have implemented major marketing campaigns in advance of fights, often creating “good vs. evil” storylines. Despite the financial success of these bouts, the boxing’s popularity is nowhere near as high as it was in the mid to late 20th century.


Emile Griffith

BOXING IN THE UNITED STATES In August of 2017, more than 50 million people tuned in to watch the historic boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. What makes the sport of boxing so popular and why do people continue to tune in to watch? The sport of boxing originally came to the United States in the late 1700s. It mostly grew in popularity in the larger urban centers of the United States such as Boston and New Orleans. The government originally looked down on the sport mostly because of the betting and gambling that came along with it. It wasn’t until the late 19th Century that boxing gained political support, led by the example of President Theodore Roosevelt who was a boxer himself. By the 20th century, the United States was the center of the professional boxing world, mostly because Americans also started to see the economic incentive in the sport. It was also at this time that the concept of weight classes were created to accommodate more athletes who wanted to compete. The rise in ticket sales to live boxing matches rose immensely throughout the 20th century. Television brought the sport to a whole new level. Americans who could afford a television, could now watch boxing for free without leaving the comfort of their living room, accessibility which helped boxing become more ingrained in American culture. Boxing is fairly easy for anyone to follow, regardless of whether one knowns the finer points of the rules. The ability to clearly recognize which fighter is leading in the match allows boxing to be used as a larger metaphor for “right vs wrong” or “good vs evil.” This image of “good vs. evil” picked up steam during the 1970s as there was political turmoil. Liberals often supported one fighter who shared their beliefs, while conservatives supported the other. An example of these politicized fights is the famous bout between Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier. Muhammed Ali, an athlete with ties to Islam who refused to serve in the Vietnam War, was claimed by many as a representative for liberal America. On the other hand, conservatives claimed Ali’s rival, Joe Frazier. The politicization of the fights created demand for popular boxers to fight more often, resulting in a more profitable boxing industry and an upsurge in boxing-related injuries.




Do research into the political landscape of the 1970s. What were Americans’ major concerns at that time? How did these issues directly influence the narratives around boxing?


How do you think the history of boxing would have changed if television was never invented?

3. The physical and mental toll of boxing on its participants is partially to blame for the sport’s decline in popularity. Knowing this, do you predict any other physical sports will also lose popularity? Why or why not? 4. Do some research on how boxers were treated while trying to “make it” in the mid-20th century. Write a song or poem from the perspective of a boxer trying to achieve success in which you also examine at least two of the following themes: power, professional pressure, responsibility, family, success, or aging.

“ “

The men who take part in these fights are as hard as nails, and it is not worthwhile to feel sentimental about their receiving punishment which as a matter of fact they do not mind. Of course, the men who look on ought to be able to stand up with the gloves, or without them, themselves; I have scant use for the type of sportsmanship which consists merely in looking on at the feats of someone else.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

Boxing is for men, and is about men, and is men. A celebration of the lost religion of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost.”

— Carol Joyce Oates

Someday they’re going to write a blues song just for fighters. It will be for a slow guitar, soft trumpet, and a bell.”

— Sonny Liston

towards the public: when you are in the middle, it is expected of you to put on a show for the others watching. To watch this game being played, follow this link: The lyrics to the song are:

A map of the transatlantic slave trade which led to the influx of African slaves living in the West Indies

FOLK MUSIC IN MAN IN THE RING Man in the Ring is considered a play with music (as opposed to musical) for the way playwright Michael Cristofer uses folk songs and children’s chants to augment moments in the story. For his play, Cristofer focused on incorporating folk songs from the West Indies for his play, including “Brown Girl in the Ring,” “Gypsy in the Moonlight,” “Go Down Killer Road,” “Go and Dig My Grave,” “Dis Long Time Boy/Girl,” and “Duerte Mi Nino.” The West Indies is a group of crescent shaped islands half way between the Gulf of Mexico and the peninsula of Florida. Emile Griffith was born in the US Virgin Islands, but the West Indies includes other Caribbean islands such as Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Antigua, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Barbados, and Granada. Christopher Columbus arrived in the West Indies in 1492 and Europeans viewed the islands as an opportunity to expand their trade empires, eventually incorporating the transatlantic slave trade. In addition to claiming the land for Spain, Columbus also claimed the indigenous people for his homeland. Enslaved Africans were vital to the trade of goods including sugar, molasses, and wood, before the slaves themselves became an export from West Indian colonies to the United States. When slavery ended in 1834 in the Caribbean, the population of the Islands were now made up of Indigenous people, Africans who had been brought over in the slave trade, and people who had moved to the island by free will. The traditions and ideals that all of these people brought to the Caribbean started to meld together to create one collective cultural identity. Examples of the ideals of this melded identity can be found in the music that came out of the Caribbean. Let’s take a look at each song that can be found in Man in the Ring. “Brown Boy in the Ring” “Brown Boy in the Ring” is the first song that we hear in Man in the Ring but is also used multiple times during the show. It can also be called “Brown Girl in the Ring” if the person in the middle identifies as a female. This song was used in a traditional Caribbean children’s game in which players form a circle around one player in the middle. The group starts to sing and clap around the center player. The person in the middle starts to dance on the second verse, and on the third verse the person in the middle chooses a partner and they dance and skip together. The game continues with the partner as the new person in the middle. This game promotes community, individuality, and the idea of always having a face

Brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la There’s a brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la la Brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la She looks like a sugar in a plum Plum plum Show me your motion Tra la la la la Come on show me your motion Tra la la la la la Show me your motion Tra la la la la She looks like a sugar in a plum Plum plum “Gypsy in the Moonlight” This song is also a children’s game and is very similar to “Brown Boy in the Ring.” In this game, the players form a circle and one person is chosen to be the gypsy. While everyone sings the first verse the gypsy dances around the circle. During the second verse, the selected child dances in and out of the circle. During the third verse the person in the middle choses a partner to dance with, and at the end of the verse, that partner becomes the person in the middle. This game, like “Brown Boy in the Ring,” reinforces ideas of community and putting on a show, with particular emphasis on direct interaction with the audience. To watch this game being played, click the follow this link: The lyrics to the song are: Gypsy in the moonlight Gypsy in the dew Gypsy never come back Until the clock strike two. Walk in gypsy, walk in, Walk in here I say* Walk into my parlour To hear my banjo play. I don’t love nobody And nobody love me All I want is someone** To come and dance with me. Tra la la la la la Tra la la la la la Tra la la la la la “Go Down Killer Road” This song is originally called “Go Down Manuel Road” and was changed for the play, both in its title and it’s addition of Emile Griffith’s name into the lyrics. This is a song that was often used as a playground game. The players make a circle and have either one or two items in their hand. On the beat, they pass the items around the circle. This song was really used to help teach children keep rhythm as music played a large part in the culture of the Caribbean.



To listen to this song and watch the game, follow this link: While the game itself is used particularly to teach beat and rhythm, it is the words that draw a direct connection to Man in the Ring. The original lyrics of this song are: Go down Manuel Road, gal and boy [you’ve got] To break rock stone Go down Manuel Road, gal and boy [you’ve got] To break rock stone Break them one by one (gal and boy) Break them two by two...(gal and boy) if your finger gets mashed, don’t cry While the words used in the play are: Go down Killer Road, Emile-boy [you’ve got] To break rock stone Go down Killer Road, Emile-boy [you’ve got] To break rock stone Break them one by one Emile-boy Break them two by two...Emile-boy Break them three by three Emile-boy Break them three by three...Emile-boy Finger smash, you no cry, Emile-boy Finger smash, you no cry, Emile-boy Smash de face, no cry, Emile-boy Smash de face, no cry, Emile-boy You got to break the stone. “Go and Dig My Grave” Go and dig my grave originated from the Bahamas and was published in the United States in 1914 in a collection of folk songs. This song was written to be sung by a larger group, starting out with four men, and adding female voices in the background. While this is not a children’s game, the song comments on death and hardship, which is a very common theme in many folksongs from Africa. To listen to this song, click and follow this link: The lyrics to the song are: Go and dif my grave both long an’ narrow, Make my coffin long and strong, Go and Dig my grave long an’ narrow, Make my coffin long and strong Well it’s two, two to my head, And it’s two, two to my feet And it’s two, two to carry me, Lord, when I die. Oh! Mi Soul’s gonna’ shine like a star, Oh! Mi little soul gonna’ shine like a stahr, Oh! Mi little soul gonna’ shine like a stahr, I’m bound for ‘even when I die. “Dis Long Time Boy/Girl” This song is a traditional Jamaican folk song. It is a children’s song and traditionally used as a to bring a community together. It references a “John Crow” which is a Jamaican vulture and is a very important part of Jamaican folklore. You can see an example of a community singing and dancing to this song here: The lyrics to this song are:



This long time boy, I never see you, Come let me hold your hand This long time boy, I never see you Come let me hold your hand. Bald-head John Crow sitting on the treetop, Plucks off the blossom, Let me hold your hand boy Let me hold your hand. This long time girl, I never see you, Come let me wheel and turn This long time girl, I never see you Come let me wheel and turn. Bald-head John Crow sitting on the treetop, Plucks off the blossom, Let me wheel and turn gal, Let me wheel and turn. “Duerte Me Nino” This Spanish lullaby is originally from Bolivia. It is sung to help put children to sleep and is also taught to younger children and toddlers to encourage their imaginations. You can hear the song by following this link: The lyrics to this song in English are: Sleep, my child, sleep my love, Sleep, piece of my heart, Sleep, my child for I have things to do, To wash your nappies, sit down to sew... This child wants me to lull him, To sleep in my arms and on my heart. The traditional folk songs of the Caribbean have evolved into contemporary genres such as Ska, Reggae, and Calypso. This music, similar to the songs in Man in the Ring, uses distinct syncopations, cross rhythms, drum beats, and call-and-response sections. The songs in Man in the Ring are engaging, simple to understand, hold greater meanings, and invite audiences into the world of Emile Griffith.


Why do you think some of the words were changed in “Go Down Killer Road?”


In your own words, explain why music became so important to people who lived in the West Indies and the Caribbean. Do you belong to a group where music plays an important role in the community? If so, why?


The songs in Man in the Ring are used at very specific moments in the show to help move the story forward. After seeing the performance, why do you think these specific songs were chosen for inclusion in the play? Pick one of the songs and explain how its message or theme ties into Emile Griffith’s story.

4. What songs did you learn when you were younger? Who taught them to you? Who did you sing them with? Looking back on these experiences, do these songs have deeper meanings than you originally realized?



Choose one of the following quotes from Man in the Ring. Write an essay analyzing the quote’s meaning. Consider the following:

Glossary (Adopted from the Human Rights Campaign) •

LGBTQ+: An acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer”

2. What does this statement reveal about the society that Emile Griffith was brought up in?

Lesbian: Someone who identifies as a woman who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to other women.

3. How does the quote contribute to the forward progression of the scene and of the plot as a whole?

Gay: A person who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to members of the same gender.

oung Emile: “Dey Say don’t hang yo hat higher dan you can rach. Y But I say reach for what you cannot reach. Reach for what you cannot even see. And puss and dawg heaven, that’s where you land.”

Bisexual: A person emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender, or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way, or to the same degree.

Queer: A term people use to express fluid identities and orientations.

Emile: “Champagne dreams. And Lime juice money.”


Emelda: “You got one hand on a baseball bat and one hand on this fancy hat concoction.”

Howie: “You’re telling me this boy what is built like a brick shithouse, this boy with hands like mits and shoulders like the grand canyon…you’re telling me this boy made this frilly little sissy hat with the ribbons and the bows and the stitched on little pansies… is that what you’re telling me?”

On page 15, four LGBTQ+ athletes were highlighted (Gus Kenworthy, Adam Rippon, Brittany Bowe, and Jason Collins). Choose one of these athletes and do more research on them. Through your research, try and identify why they have become so widely known. Once you have completed your research, write a scene recreating one part of their lives.


Are the words spoken meant literally or is there unspoken subtext?

Emelda: “But we got to be smart and know which good thing is best for us. We got to be smart like old papa pig. First water pig find, he got to wallow in it.”

Young Emile: “And I sit there all night long with them bricks over my head, my arms are shaking bad and I say, make me strong, devil. If you got some power in me. Make me strong. Put some devil strength in me and get me through this night. This night that is so long.”

Howie: “In this worldm a man does not bend. Not for no other man. You bend, you break.”

Howie: “No fighter in this man’s world is ever gonna be less than a man.”

Howie: “You fight him and you burry him. That’s what you do. You lay him down in the dirt. That makes you strong. That makes you tough. That makes you not weak. Because weak is for women.”

Howie: “the brain, it ain’t meant to get hit.”

Emile: “What you do in the dark, she does come to light.”

Emile: “I go where I belong.”

Howie: “And how come the papers don’t write the truth of what happened that night? What’s the answer to that? I’ll tell you why. Because the truth don’t fit in a three inch column. The truth don’t fit all the time on a newspaper page. And sometimes what you see with your own two eyes ain’t nothing but a shitload of lies.

Emelda: “You better listen to what I tell you. Cause every pig will have his Saturday… You can’t run from what is going on inside of you.”

Luis: “Oh, now you want the whole world to forgive you. Well, let me tell you something, Papi. It ain’t gonna happen.”

The scene you write must include the following: • 25 lines of dialogue • Two entrances • One exit • One change in thought for one of the characters (for example, a change of opinion) 2.

After you have written your scene, get in a group of three – five people. Between all of you, decide on one scene that you would like to present to the class.


After everyone in the class presents, discuss the similarities and differences between all of your scenes.

A. Discuss your experiences writing the scenes. What did you find easy about it? What was difficult?

B. How does it feel to be responsible for translating a real person’s experiences to the stage?

BRINGING TABLEAUS TO LIFE: THE INNER MONOLOGUE OF MAJOR EVENTS Many of the events depicted in Man in the Ring are portrayed through the internal monologues of the characters based on real people who were involved in the boxing match between Benny Paret and Emile Griffith in 1962. Internal monologues are the unspoken thoughts of characters that influence their action in the play, despite these thoughts never being said out loud. Actors will often invent internal monologues for characters to help them better understand their character’s perspective and provide context for their motivation. Through the theatrical devise of the internal monologue, the audience gets a window into what Emile and Benny’s families are thinking and how Emile would say to his younger self if he could go back in time. Whether they are central figures in the play or somewhat on the sidelines of the true events that inspired it, playwright Michael Cristofer has created a play where characters both large and small get to take center stage and share their perspective on Emile Griffith’s story. MAN IN THE RING CURRICULUM GUIDE


In this activity, you will be challenged to imagine different points of view to a singular event, and then to dramatize these experiences, much like Michael Cristofer has done, using internal monologue. Part 1: Break into small groups and choose a professional sporting event.

COLOR THEORY The Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Man in the Ring strategically uses lighting to help define the play’s settings and the characters’ emotions. Man in the Ring includes moments that shift rapidly from the present to the past, and from an urban setting to a tropical Caribbean island. The person who ultimately decides how to distinguish these is the lighting designer.

The event can be real or fictional, but it must take place in public and it must have both athletes and spectators.

Imagine all aspects of the environment of the event.

Start with setting. Is the event outdoors? In a stadium? In an arena?

After seeing the show, it is now your turn to become the lighting designer.

Who is present at this event? What kinds of athletes? How many spectators?


Thinking about the physical shape of this event, create a tableau (a frozen image telling the story of this event).

Continue shaping the environment. What sounds are heard at a typical event of this nature? One at a time each actor in the tableau may make one sound that helps tell the story of this tableau. Then try overlapping the sounds, allowing them to prompt and respond to one another. For the final portion of the tableau, each actor may create one movement that tells the story of the event. The movement must have a beginning, middle, and end. It does not necessarily have to match the sound that the actor is making.


Part 2: Create the characters’ inner monologues. •

Take a moment away from the group and imagine the character you are playing in this tableau.

Create a personal story for them: Consider where does this person come from and how they came to be here at this event. Is this a normal day for this character? Or is this a special occasion? Create conflict if you want — did another player or spectator make you angry?

Craft an internal monologue for your character. Write a monologue of at least ten lines that reveal what the character would say if they could.

As a group, go through the movements that were created by everyone several times, each time letting someone new perform their monologue.

Notice the different points of view; who is happy about this event? Who is sad? Is there stress or anxiety in anyone’s monologue?

Take a moment and write or discuss your thoughts about the different types of monologues. What stuck out to you as effective? Who surprised you with their point of view? What information was revealed that was not evident before the monologue was performed?




Start by researching photos of New York City and St. Thomas. Print these pictures out and create a vision board for each separate location.

A. What do you notice about the pictures?

B. What are the similarities between the pictures of New York?

C. What are the similarities between the pictures of St. Thomas?

D. What are the similarities and differences between the pictures of both locations?

Once your vision board is complete, do some research on how certain colors can produce certain emotions in people.

A. Make a list of colors and what emotions they can evoke.

B. Do additional research into what colors go well together and which ones clash and make a list of these.

C. Share your findings with the class.

Once you have finished your research, make a group of four – six people.

A. Compare your findings from your research with your classmates. Specifically talk about the connections between your research and the vision board you made of the locations. Are there specific colors that you see more in the New York photos rather than the St. Thomas ones? How do they make you feel? Are there specific colors that you see more in the St. Thomas photos rather than the New York ones? How do they make you feel?

4. Finally, as a group, create color palettes for the production. You need to come up with one color palette that you would use to distinguish an urban area, and one color palette that you would use to distinguish the Caribbean. Decide how you think each location should feel, and then pick your colors from that. 5. After you finish share your color palettes with the rest of the class. Why did you choose these colors? Are they similar to the other groups or different? Why do you think that is? How similar were your choices, to the choices of the lighting designer of Man in the Ring?

A visual representation of color theory, including concepts and terms


“Effects of Masculine Identity and Gender Role Stress on Aggression in Men” by Amy Cohen, University of Virginia, 2001

“Perception is Reality: The Looking Glass Self,” Lesley University

“Masculinity as Homophobia” by Michael S. Kimmel, Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, 2013

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black and I’m gay.” Sports Illustrated, May 6, 2013

“The Shadow Boxer” by Gary Smith, Sports Illustrated, 2005

Glory Bound: Black Athletes in a White America Wiggins, D.K. (1997)





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Man in the Ring: Curriculum Guide  
Man in the Ring: Curriculum Guide