NASHVILLE, Tenn. – OZ Arts Nashville presents Notes of a Native Song from Stew and Heidi, the Tony and Obie Award-winning creators of the barrier-breaking Broadway hit Passing Strange.
Named for civil rights activist James Baldwin’s 1955 collection of essays on being Black in America, Notes of a Native Son, this theatrical song cycle explores the famed writer’s lasting relevance and influence through a rapturous blend of rock, blues, and spoken word.
The mononymous musician and playwright Stew credits Baldwin as a vital influence on his life as a Black American artist. First introduced to Baldwin’s writing in elementary school, Stew didn’t realize how much the author’s words had influenced his own path until he revisited Baldwin’s semiautobiographical novel Go Tell It on the Mountain in his late 50s.
Baldwin, a Black expatriate who sought racial equity in Europe in the face of blatant American racism before the civil rights movement, is renowned for his commentary on the Black experience in America as well as homosexuality in the Black community.
The thought-provoking influence of the Black expatriate plays an important role in Stew’s own semiautobiographical work, the Tony and Obie Award-winning Broadway musical Passing Strange, which was filmed by director Spike Lee in 2008. However, Baldwin’s complex legacy is more directly explored in the song cycle Notes of a Native Song. Reuniting with frequent collaborator Heidi Rodewald, Stew delves deeper into the enduring relevance of Baldwin’s words and life through the lens of today’s social and political climate.
OZ Arts Executive and Artistic Director Mark Murphy says, “Stew and Heidi have created an urgent and potent evening of theater and music, reminding us how essential the writing of activist and visionary James Baldwin is to contemporary culture and activism. After winning Tony and Obie awards for their Broadway hit Passing Strange, the duo now mixes irresistible music with video and stirring text to bring life to Baldwin’s words, reflected through the incisive songwriting that makes Stew and Heidi’s work so powerful.”
Stew and Heidi’s Notes of a Native Song will be performed at OZ Arts Nashville on January 31 and February 1 at 8PM. Tickets are $25-30 and are available now at www.ozartsnashville.org or 615-350-7200.
For more information about this theatrical concert event, please visit www.ozartsnashville.org/notes-of-a-native-song.
Stew is an American singer-songwriter, playwright, and performance artist from Los Angeles, Calif. He formed a four-piece band called The Negro Problem, which in 1995 released a box set collection of singles including an innovative cover of "MacArthur Park" and a multi-part pop operetta entitled "Miss Jones". He later went on to release albums under his own name, and won the Tony and Obie Awards for his groundbreaking, semi-autobiographical Broadway hit Passing Strange. Additional works include Notes of a Native Song (Spring 2015 Harlem Stage), Wagner, Max! Wagner! (Fall 2015 Kennedy Center), The Total Bent (Public Theater 2016), Making It (Spring 2010 St. Anne’s Warehouse), Brooklyn Omnibus (Fall 2010 Brooklyn Academy of Music), Resurrection City (2016 Studio Theatre), and Chicago Omnibus (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago 2012). His film work includes Spike Lee’s Passing Strange.
About Heidi Rodewald
Heidi Rodewald is the Tony Award-nominated, Obie Award-winning co-composer of the musical Passing Strange. She has also composed music for Karen Kandel’s Portraits: Night and Day (2004); Brides of the Moon by The Five Lesbian Brothers (2010); and co-composed music for Shakespeare’s Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, and Romeo and Juliet (2010–12). Rodewald joined the band The Negro Problem in 1997, where she began a longtime collaboration with Stew—as a co-composer, producer, arranger, and performer. She is the co-composer of the musical Family Album, Notes of a Native Song, The Total Bent, and Wagner, Max! Wagner!, Another Kind of Love, and The Good Swimmer. She has also scored her first film, I Dream Too Much, (2015 SXSW).
About OZ Arts Nashville
Since opening in 2014, OZ Arts Nashville, a 501(c)(3) contemporary arts center, has changed the cultural landscape of the city. Housed in the former C.A.O. cigar warehouse owned by Nashville’s Ozgener family, OZ Arts, under the artistic leadership of Mark Murphy, brings world-class performances and art installations to the city, and gives ambitious local artists opportunities to work on a grand scale. The flexible 10,000 square-foot, column-free venue, nestled amidst five acres of artfully landscaped grounds, is continually reconfigured to serve artists’ imaginations, and to challenge and inspire a diverse range of curious audiences. OZ Arts regularly engages the community for participation with visiting artists and artworks – either directly, through school visits, workshops, master classes, school performances and/or curated programs led by local teaching artists. In addition, OZ Arts founded a program called OZ School Days, a daylong, multi-arts program presented in partnership with Centennial Performing Arts Studios that aims to engage students aged 5 – 15 years old on days when Metro Nashville Public Schools are out of session (ex: Columbus Day, Presidents Day). For more information, please visit http://www.ozartsnashville.org/.
If You Go:
Stew and Heidi’s Notes of a Native Song
Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2020
OZ Arts Nashville
6172 Cockrill Bend Cir.
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