Stew & The Negro Problem
Notes of a Native Song
Thursday, February 14, 2019 | 8:00 pm
Friday, February 15, 2019 | 8:00 pm
Saturday, February 16, 2019 | 8:00 pm
Sunday, February 17, 2019 | 7:00 pm
Nearly forty years passed before the Tony Award-winning playwright and singer Stew realized that James Baldwin had changed his life. As a Los Angeles teenager, Stew loved Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain: he empathized with Baldwin’s desire to live in a country where people were not persecuted for the color of their skin. Stew eventually followed in Baldwin’s footsteps by moving to Europe, an experience that afforded him an invaluable perspective on his homeland and became the inspiration for his Broadway play with collaborator Heidi Rodewald, Passing Strange. Decades later, when he reread Go Tell It on the Mountain, Stew recognized the profound gift Baldwin had given him.
In the new song cycle Notes of a Native Song — written for Harlem Stage’s Baldwin centenary celebration and named for Baldwin’s 1955 collection of essays on being black in America, Notes of a Native Son — Stew and his mighty band the Negro Problem use Baldwin’s work to examine our lingering civil rights woes through a rapturous mix of rock, jazz, and soul. The show turns Baldwin into a sort of rock star, which has how Stew has long seen him — a flawed, essential visionary who transforms how we see ourselves. Notes of a Native Song reaffirms Baldwin’s inspirational stature while humanizing him, giving a hero new life.
“A celebration of Baldwin’s legacy as an inspiration for artists to create their own work that, like his, defies genres and expectations.”