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Harlem Stage Commissioned Work 'Stranger on Earth' by Carl Hancock Rux Celebrates James Baldwin and Dinah Washington With Vocals by Marcelle Davies Lashley, Video by Onome Ekeh

By Jaime Prisco j.prisco@classicalite.com on Feb 04, 2015 12:24 PM EST

Harlem Stage will present a new commissioned work by Carl Hancock Rux titled Stranger on Earth. The production was made for the institution's "The Year of James Baldwin Centenary" celebration and will imagine a chance meeting between Baldwin and Dinah Washington in 1963, two of the era’s most iconic African Americans. The production will feature vocalist Marcelle Davies Lashley, who will interpret Washington's songs against a video montage by Onome Ekeh.

OBIE-winning playwriting and interdisciplinary performing artist Rux will draw from Baldwin’s landmark essays to create a work that addresses race, identity and the future of a world that Baldwin and Washington struggled to understand and inhabit.

Stranger on Earth will transport audiences to 1963, where violence and turbulance ruled Birmingham, Alabama, -- the same year in which NAACP stalwart Medgar Evers was assassinated by Ku Klux Klan members, four black girls were murdered in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing and President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

It was the same year Baldwin earned his reputation as a thinker on the topic of American race relations, a polemicist for the complex social and psychological pressures thwarting the equitable integration of blacks during the height of the civil rights movement and an outspoken advocate for gay men long before the espousal of queer equality in America.

It was also the year Washington, Queen of the Blues and Juke Boxes, married her seventh husband; prepared to write her memoirs; anticipated the 1964 release of A Stranger on Earth, which she thought would be her biggest hit record to date; and died from an accidental overdose of brandy, barbiturates and sleeping pills at 39.

Directed by Yen Moon, Stranger on Earth conjures this period and the towering lives of Baldwin and Washington with a mixture of Baldwin’s writings. The show will including portions of the essays Notes of a Native Son, Nobody Knows My Name and The Fire Next Time along with original text by Rux.

Harlem Stage conceived "The Year of James Baldwin," of which Stranger on Earth is a cornerstone, as a 14-month, citywide celebration of one of America’s most acerbic thinkers. Stranger on Earth will be shown at Harlem Stage Gatehouse Feb. 19 and 20. Click here for tickets.

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TagsHarlem Stage, Stranger on Earth, Carl Hancock Rux, James Baldwin, Dinah Washington, Marcelle Davies Lashley, Onome Ekeh