Harlem Stage to Premiere Stew's NOTES OF A NATIVE SONG This June
Harlem Stage is pleased to present the world premiere of Notes of a Native Song, a new work by Tony and Obie award-winning playwright, singer-songwriter Stew (Passing Strange), co-composed with his long-time collaborator Heidi Rodewald, who also performs.
Commissioned and produced by Harlem Stage, Notes of a Native Song is a live collage of songs, text and video inspired by James Baldwin's brave and visionary proclivity for airing uncomfortable truths as celebratory events of poetry and beauty. In his most personal work to date, Stew filters Baldwin's wisdom through his joyfully irreverent, surrealist aesthetic, utilizing the great individualist's work as a prism, shield and springboard to contemplate the reality of Harlem today and the limits of "socially engaged art." Along with his band, Stew creates a deeply personal and bitingly funny cabaret show.
On March 11 at 7:30pm, Harlem Stage will present Behind the Curtain with Stew, an intimate excursion into the creative process with Stew, holding court as only he can, while discussing his influences -- musical, visual and written -- in his creation of Notes of a Native Song, as well as what has compelled him to do this work.
Six performances of Notes of a Native Song will take place June 3-6 at 7:30pm and June 6 & 7 at 2pm at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse, 150 Convent Avenue (at West 135th Street) in Manhattan. $55 tickets ($44 MyHarlemStage Members) can be purchased online at HarlemStage.org or via phone at 212.281.9250 ext. 19 or 20.
The Year of James Baldwin, Harlem Stage's most ambitious programming initiative to date, is conceived as a 14-month, citywide celebration of one of America's most acerbic thinkers and is presented in partnership with Columbia University School of the Arts and New York Live Arts, in collaboration with the New School/Vera List Center for Art and Politics, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and numerous other collaborators. The series presents work by some of the most gifted artists working today to further Baldwin's legacy and includes two major world premieres: Notes of a Native Song by Stew and Carl Hancock Rux's recent Stranger on Earth.
Harlem Stage Executive Director Patricia Cruz says of the celebration, "The idea of honoring and examining the work of James Baldwin began as a singular program concept that allowed us to continue the Harlem Stage mission of recognizing artists whose work has defined Harlem. It is our great joy to do this during the 90th anniversary of Baldwin's birth. In these troubled times, his thinking still provides a path to understanding who we are. Hopefully that self-realization will enable us to be better and more generous citizens of our communities, our country and our world."
The Year of James Baldwin kicked off April 26, 2014, when both Stew and Rux performed previews of their works at New York Live Arts as part of their Live Ideas Festival, which kicked off the larger festival. The celebration also includes this year's edition of Harlem Stage's acclaimed dance series E-Moves (April 10-18), for which four exceptional choreographers are creating works inspired by the words and ideas of Baldwin and the soulful songs of Billie Holiday; and James Baldwin and Rethinking the Path Ahead (May 13), a discussion, co-presented with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, featuring Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director of the Schomburg Center, and Dr. Fredrick Harris, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center on African-American Politics and Society at Columbia University. Also, Harlem Stage (May-June) and The Vera List Center (April) will host a sound installation by Mendi & Keith Obadike entitled Blues Speaker (Praise Song for James Baldwin). Through the generosity of the Vintage Books, Harlem Stage was also able to introduce his works to the public schools that they serve.
The Year of James Baldwin is part of a Harlem Stage season full of art that reverberates-the institution's signature mission. Harlem Stage is also celebrating the Billie Holiday centenary, not only with this year's E-Moves, but also with When the Moon Turns Green: The Myth and Music of Billie Holiday (April 28), a discussion presented in partnership with Columbia University Center for Jazz Studies; Parallel Lives: Billie Holiday & Edith Piaf (April 30 & May 1), curated by Nona Hendryx, including performances by Ms. Hendryx, Joey Arias, Women of the World and others; and the New York premiere of José James' Yesterday I Had the Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday (May 7-8). All three events are part of the 2015 Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival.
About Stew - Composer, singer, and raconteur Stew has received awards and nominations for works that include Passing Strange for which he received the 2008 Tony award for 'Best Book of a Musical.' Stew also wrote lyrics and co-composed music for the musical. A four-time Tony nominee and two-time Obie winner, Stew leads, along with his collaborator Heidi Rodewald, two critically acclaimed bands: The Negro Problem and Stew. His critically acclaimed discography includes Post Minstrel Syndrome, Joys and Concerns, Guest Host, The Naked Dutch Painter, Welcome Black, Something Deeper Than These Changes, the cast album of Passing Strange, and "Gary Come Home" for the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants.
About Harlem Stage (Commissioner, Producer, Presenter) - Over 30 years Harlem Stage has become one of the nation's leading arts organizations, achieving this distinction by commissioning, incubating and presenting innovative works by visionary artists of color, and by facilitating a productive engagement with the communities it serves through the performing arts. Harlem Stage has a long-standing tradition of supporting artists and organizations around the corner and across the globe, including legendary artists such as Harry Belafonte, Max Roach, Sekou Sundiata, Abbey Lincoln, Sonia Sanchez, Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente, as well as contemporary artists like Bill T. Jones, Vijay Iyer, Mike Ladd, Tania Léon, Carl Hancock Rux, Nora Chipaumire and Jason Moran. Its education programs each year provide 5,000 New York City children with access to a world of diverse cultures through the performing arts. In 2006, Harlem Stage opened the landmarked, award-winning Harlem Stage Gatehouse - in an abandoned space that was once the source of fresh water flowing to New York City, and is now a vital source of creativity, ideas and culture. Harlem Stage received the Dawson Award for sustained Excellence in the Performing Arts by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters in 2014.
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