NationalSawdust+ presents an evening of music, spoken word, and conversation linked to the writings of James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The timely and provocative program features arias from Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson’s new opera Blue, which premiered last summer, and excerpt readings from the recent theatrical adaptation of Coates’s watershed book, Between the World and Me; the book, published in 2015, transformed the conversation about race in America. Tesori is joined by Coates’s One World editor Chris Jackson; the Apollo Theater's Kamilah Forbes, who developed and directed the adaptation; Richard Gray, a social justice advocate working with community residents and youth to fight for equity in public education; and NationalSawdust+ curator Elena Park, who moderates the conversation.
With Tesori at the piano, mezzo-soprano Briana Hunter performs two excerpts from Blue, commissioned by the Glimmerglass Festival (note: this National Sawdust+ program took place on April 18, 2019, several months before the debut of the opera). Tesori and Thompson’s opera is inspired by contemporary events as well as the Coates book, lovingly written by a concerned father for his son, and Baldwin’s seminal The Fire Next Time (1963), in which Baldwin addressed his nephew. Blue brings audiences into the emotional epicenter of an African-American couple — a father and a mother — who lose their teenage son when he is killed by a police officer.
Lauren A. Whitehead performs excerpts from the recent adaptation of Coates’s book; conceived by Forbes with dramaturgy by Whitehead and original score by Jason Moran, the work was co-commissioned by the Apollo Theater and the Kennedy Center.
Special thanks to the Glimmerglass Festival, the Apollo Theater, and the Kennedy Center.
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