About Michael F. Lange
~By Arabella Grayson
As a performer, Bay Area native Michael Lange was best known for his riveting portrayal of Malcolm X, having performed the fiery orator’s timeless speeches Message to the Grassroots and The Ballot or the Bullet on stages across the nation, beginning in the early 1990s, with more than 1000 performances to his credit.
Since founding Lange Productions 25 years ago, the Oakland-based actor, director and filmmaker produced, performed in, and directed numerous plays and films based on historical events and cultural icons; and was a frequent host on “Oakland Is,” a local community affairs show, for over a decade; hiring local talent and providing scholarships and mentoring opportunities for many, whenever he could.
Lange performed the role of Elijah Muhammad in Larry Americ Allen’s “The Expulsion of Malcolm X.” And, frequently appeared in local productions of Jeff Stetson’s award winning play The Meeting, a fictitious meeting between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. An award-winning director, Lange is recipient of two ARTY awards for Best Play and Best Director for “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men” and “The Old Settler,” respectively. Lange premiered the roles of the Human Isotope in Ed Ballou’s literary work Another Depression in San Francisco, and Mike in The Glimmer in New York City’s Times Square. As a playwright, he penned Prophet Nat, a musical docudrama based on Nat Turner’s Southampton Rebellion of 1831,” and “Death Takes A Stand.”
Lange produced and wrote the 60-minute documentary “Stains: Changing Lives After Incarceration,” which received an Honorable Mention at the People’s Film Festival in 2012. Lange is the director of three feature films, “Africa Rise”, “Stains: Life After Incarceration”, and “Soldier of Righteousness”. Most recently, on screen, Lange played the role of William Grimes in “The Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave,” in the currently unreleased film.
To untold thousands, Lange is best known as an educator and recreation administrator. A retired faculty member at San Jose State University, Lange taught writing courses for graduating seniors in the Department of Health Science and Recreation, from August 1998 until December 2013, drawing from his vast experience working as an administrator and instruction with the City of Oakland.
His career in recreation and the arts with the City of Oakland spanned nearly four decades, beginning in 1968 when he was hired as a part-time day camp counselor at Redwood Day Camp teaching art to children. Three years later, he was promoted to director of the Senior Citizens Program at Mosswood Recreation Center, a job he held for ten years, while simultaneously working as the children’s camp director of the Children’s Art Camp at Feather River Camp in Quincy California in. In 1988, Lange became camp manager, eventually serving as camp supervisor until 2003.
As a City of Oakland administrator, he also managed the Alice Arts Center (presently called the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts), a medium-sized facility for the performing arts; and the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, home to a 10,000-seat arena that hosts concerts, stage performances, circuses, trade shows, and the like. Lange retired from the City in March 2006 with a City Council Resolution commending him for “thirty-seven years of outstanding and distinguished service to the City of Oakland.”
Known as a man who never said “no” to anyone in need, Lange served on numerous boards and committees throughout his adult life, including the board of directors of the Oakland Ensemble Theatre (1982-1986); and the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, from its inception in 1974. He served as president of the African American Museum and Library at Oakland. Lange was featured in the book Black Artists in Oakland, and was working on two books at the time of his passing – a memoir based on his touring performances as Malcolm X, and a history of Feather River Camp. He continued to write until a few days before his passing on May 20, 2015, a day after Malcolm X, the man whose life shaped his acting career, would have celebrated his 90″ birthday, had he lived. Lange was directing Richard Torrence’s staged musical “Lord, Why Can’t I Do Right?” when he fell ill in January.
A longtime Oakland resident, Lange was memorialized on the Alice Street mural in downtown Oakland – his image painted in only a few days – alongside his mother Jerri Lange, the celebrated journalist and author. Lange received a bachelor’s degree in political science from University of California, Berkeley and a master’s degree in education administration from California State University, Hayward.