Note on Commercial Theatre
You’ve taken my blues and gone —
And you fixed ‘em
So they don’t sound like me.
But someday somebody’ll
Stand up and talk about me,
And write about me —
Black and beautiful —
And sing about me,
And put on plays about me!
I reckon it’ll be
Yes, it’ll be me.
~ Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes is one of our greatest writers. He had the rare ability to take from jazz, blues, newspaper accounts, his own experience and the many disparate (sometimes conflicting) voices of his community. This collage created multifaceted poetry, which, because of its conversational tones and undemanding diction, appeals even to novice poetry readers.
Dr. Ron McCurdy, USC professor and chair of jazz studies, took Hughes’ 800-line, twelve part poetic suite “Ask Your Mama” and composed a multimedia performance that he hopes embodies Hughes’ original idea to create a musically accompanied performance of the poem (Though notes remain, Hughes died before he was able to see this work performed). McCurdy says of the original piece, “I felt the unrealized work had enormous potential, not only to entertain, but more importantly to introduce modern audiences to the power of Hughes’ words and the eloquence of his political discourse.”
The performance, titled “The Langston Hughes Project, Ask Your Mama, Twelve Moods for Jazz,” is a collaboration between McCurdy and filmmaker Damani Baker. They took Hughes’ original concept and updated it for modern audiences by utilizing contemporary media (video images), an accompanying jazz suite (composed by McCurdy and Eli Brueggemann), and spoken word by artist Malcolm-Jamal Warner. The Ron McCurdy Quartet will perform “Ask Your Mama” on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center (SMDCAC) on its main stage.
Perhaps McCurdy’s biggest contribution has been to allow Hughes to speak for himself; the performance strives to “recreate Hughes’ vision of the global struggle for freedom in the coming, turbulent decade.” (Of course, we could cite myriad examples of the turbulence we still face five decades later.) McCurdy is presenting us with the opportunity to listen to one of our greatest and most relevant writer sand poets, not on Broadway or in a Hollywood film, but as Hughes wanted to be heard. This is our chance to give a willing ear to that great voice.
Tickets to the performance are $30, $20, $10 ($5 tickets CultureShockmiami.com), $5 off orchestra level seats for students, seniors and active military service members. Tickets to the VIP reception are $50 and include entrance to the performance. The public should contact South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center’s box office at 786-573-5300, or visit www.smdcac.org. South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center’ is located at 10950 S.W. 211 St., Cutler Bay. Further information about The Langston Hughes Project is available at:http://www.ronmccurdy.com/about_hudges_project.htm.