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“I TOO SING AMERICA: The Life and Poetry of Langston Hughes”

"Hughes"

“I TOO SING AMERICA” at Howard University. (Photo courtesy JD Knight)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com.

“I TOO SING AMERICA: The Life and Poetry of Langston Hughes” is showing at Howard University’s Ira Aldridge Theater, March 6-9. We recently caught up with one of the writers and producers of the play to discuss the inspiration behind the performance and the details of the show.

Andrew Jackson Moore and Raymond Caldwell devised a script about the one of America’s most famous musical and literary figures in just two weeks.

“Due to some other projects falling through at the last minute, we were left with a very constrained time frame,” Moore explained. “So Raymond and I dug into Langston Hughes’ rich of oeuvres of work, including hundreds of poems, essays and two autobiographies.”

Caldwell is a seasoned actor and director and has worked on Howard University’s production of “Breath, Boom,” “The Sound of Smoke,” “House Halfway,” “In the Blood,” “The Great Dismal,” “K Comma Joseph,” “The Masquerade is Over,” among others.

However, for Moore, who works as a digital writer and editor for FederalNewsRadio.com, the experience was a first.

According to Moore, audience members can expect to see and hear poetry, live music, jazz classics and even a big gospel number.

“We use every theatrical tool to tell Langston’s story,” says Moore, who also explains that the play’s dialogue is taken directly from Hughes’ own words and writings.

The play covers the span of Hughes’ life, including parts of his childhood, time spent in DC music venues and also his time spent in Harlem in the 1920s.

“We’ve turned many of his poems into little vignettes or scenes,” Moore says. “For example, Hughes wrote a great many poems based on the blues style. Rather than just have the actors recite each of the poems, we’ve staged them and turned them into set pieces. In the blues section, a group of women sit out on a stoop on a hot summer night and recount their troubles — all set to Hughes’ poetry. Hughes also wrote many poems about race in America, particularly in the Jim Crow South. So we’ve grouped some of them together to tell the story of a family in the South nearly torn apart by racial violence.”

Moore says he and Caldwell also uses choreography throughout the 11-person performance to “deconstruct” the poems.

“I TOO SING AMERICA” is showing March 6 through 9 at 7:30 pm, with a second performance on March 9 at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $10 for students and $17 for general admission. For more information, visit the play’s website.

UPDATE: The performance scheduled for Wednesday, March 6 has been cancelled due to the snow. 

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