Tag Archives: The Public Theater

Stew and The Negro Problem returning to Barbès

UPDATE: Stew Sez Showtime’s now 9:30 p.m.

Photo from Stew's Facebook announcement of the upcoming gig at Barbès.

Photo from Stew’s Facebook announcement of the upcoming gig at Barbès.

There was a moment or two of confusion Thursday morning when Stew,the singer-songwriter and Tony winner for the book of Passing Strange posted on Facebook that he and his band, The Negro Problem, would be appearing two weeks from now at “our beloved Barbès” and included the date of Oct. 25.

Stew, Heidi and an incarnation of The Negro Problem at Barbés in 2011. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Stew, Heidi and an incarnation of The Negro Problem at Barbés in 2011. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Well, fans of Stew’s work won’t have to wait that long. Maybe Stew is just jonesing for Fall. But according to the Barbès calendar, it’s Thursday, July 25, at 10 p.m., which is in two weeks.

Whew. Glad I could clear that up.

Stew posted a Facebook update on Friday, July 19, saying showtime was changed to 9:30. So I’m getting there by 9 just to be on the safe side:

showtime for stew & the negro problem’s BARBES show this THURSDAY JULY 25th is now 9:30. We will play some songs inspired by recent events.

Continue reading

The Public Theater announces its promising new season

How can any theater lineup featuring the talents of David Byrne, Fatboy Slim, Colman Domingo, Michael John LaChiusa, Edna Ferber and more go wrong?

New York’s Public Theater has just announced its schedule for the 2012-2013 theater season.

We’re particularly excited to see the world premiere of  David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s musical Here Lies Love on the bill and are looking forward to the New York premiere of the musical Giant, based on Edna (Show Boat) Ferber’s novel with lyrics and music by Michael John LaChiusa.

But then there’s Colman Domingo‘s play Wild With Happy getting its world premiere, too!

See for yourself, after the jump.

Continue reading

Have you seen The Total Bent yet?

Stew, Heidi and members of The Loser's Lounge at Barbés in Park Slope, Brooklyn. (Photos © Steven P. Marsh)

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? was supposed to see The Total Bent, the new show by Stew and Heidi Rodewald of Passing Strange fame, in one of its very first Public Lab performances at The Public Theater in downtown Manhattan last month. But then construction delays at the theater — the Public is undergoing a massive, and much-needed, facelift — got in the way.

That created some pretty massive chaos, forcing The Total Bent‘s schedule to push back. Some shows, including ours, were canceled and rebooked.

So we haven’t seen the show yet. We’ll be there for the penultimate performance on Sunday afternoon, March 18.

All the changes also forced the scuttling of interviews and press access to the creative team.

Continue reading

Stew just can’t shed his Negro Problem

Stew in his breakup show, "Making It," at St. Ann's Warehouse in February 2010. (Copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Three shows at Joe’s Pub mark Tuesday’s release of Stew & The Negro Problem’s new album, Making It

The cover of Making It features a photo by Stew's daughter, Bibi.

First of all, let’s say “welcome black” to Stew & The Negro Problem.

It’s been 10 long years since Stew (born Mark Stewart in 1961) and his band The Negro Problem made a proper, official album: 2002’s Welcome Black. But on Tuesday, Jan. 24, the wait is officially over when Making It gets its official release.

Thank goodness. It’s long overdue. But you’ll surely find it worth the wait.

It’s a crazy, creative look at the breakup of Stew’s relationship with his longtime girlfriend and musical collaborator Heidi Rodewald. The breakup came in the run-up to the pair’s amazing theater project,  Passing Strange, which briefly thumbed its nose at the Broadway establishment from the Belasco Theatre over six months in 2008. (It also lives on in a Spike Lee film of the show’s final performances.)

Heidi Rodewald and Stew. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Stew and Heidi managed to survive the breakup and continue their artistic relationship, albeit not without some problems. This album documents the breakup, and in some ways, the promise of their continued collaboration.

This is Stew’s fourth album under the rather provocative name of The Negro Problem, though on  this release on TNP records, the band is billed as “Stew & The Negro Problem.” And even though Stew seemed to abandon the band name in favor of his own moniker, Stew and Heidi haven’t released a rock album since 2003’s Something Deeper Than These Changes, billed simply to Stew. (Yes, there was a Passing Strange soundtrack in 2008, but that wasn’t a Stew record, let alone a Negro Problem record!)

Let’s just say it’s about time! It’s always seemed to me that Stew needs The Negro Problem to fuel his angry-not-as-young-as-he-used-to-be-man persona. (Truth be told, he’s used The Negro Problem name occasionally in recent years, but this seems to be a definitive return home.) Continue reading

Condola Rashad: Stick Fly’s not-so-secret weapon

Producer Alicia Keys to appear at post-show talkbacks this week

Condola Rashad outside the Cort Theatre. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

When Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? saw a preview performance of Stick Fly on Broadway, we had a great time. The show is flawed, never quite making a clear point while keeping the audience entertained.

But we decided to check out Lydia R. Diamond‘s play (being promoted far and wide in the name of Alicia Keys, one of the producers of the comedic family drama with a twist) even before we knew what the show was about. That’s because we we were blown away by the actor with a below-the-title billing who absolutely steals the show: Condola Rashad.

Keys will be attending the show and conducting “an intimate post-show conversation” on Monday, Dec. 19 and Thursday, Dec. 22.

Continue reading

Stew: Thank God I’m off Broadway

Heidi Rodewald and Stew. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Stew & Heidi returning to the Public Theater

Stew, the singer-songwriter who fronts The Negro Problem and wrote the hit musical Passing Strange with musical partner Heidi Rodewald, makes much of his testy relationship with Broadway.

In fact, he makes specific reference to it in one of the newer Negro Problem tunes. He repeats, with great emphasis, “thank God I’m off Broadway.”

Thorny relationship notwithstanding, Stew and Heidi return next season to the scene of the crime, the place where Passing Strange took root and flowered: New York City’s Public Theater. Their new show, titled The Total Bent, is set for its world premiere on Feb. 14, 2012.

It’s no surprise that The Total Bent is a story about a musician. (Full description after the jump.) After all, Passing Strange was that, although it had a biographical arc that the promised new show appears to lack.  (I wonder if they’ve actually started writing yet? They tend to be very deadline-motivated.)

The Strange pair are working with director Joanna Settle, who forged a deal with them to direct a show at The Public around the time Passing Strange was ending its Broadway run.

Stew and Heidi have been involved in Settle’s creative process for a couple of years, writing music for her Shakespeare on the Sound outdoor productions for the last two years.

Granted, a show at The Public doesn’t give Stew and Heidi a guaranteed ride on the Broadway Limited, but the odds are decent. We shall see.

Click through to the jump for details about the show.

Continue reading

Stew and Heidi are in good hands

Director Joanna Settle at the post-show talkback at the final Shakespeare on the Sound show. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Director Joanna Settle at the post-show talkback at the final performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream for Shakespeare on the Sound. Jesse Perez (Puck) looks on. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Director Joanna Settle says she first met Stew at NYC’s Public Theater in 2007, when she went to tell him to turn down the volume of the music for Passing Strange. She was in another theater in the building, working on what she called a “little genocide play” — aka the developmental production of Winter Miller’s In Darfur — and his rock music was just a little too loud to suit her at that moment.

Heidi Rodewald

Heidi Rodewald

bigstew

Stew

After they got that out of the way, though, it seems that a great working relationship was born.

Judging from the way Joanna has continued to work with Stew, commissioning him to compose an original score for A Midsummer Night’s Dream,  her first production as artistic director of Connecticut’s Shakespeare on the Sound, it truly is a great relationship.

The score for the Shakespeare production, which closed on Sunday, was vintage Stew, full of the lush pop sounds that characterize his appealing work. (You’ll be able to judge for yourself soon, as the Shakespeare company is releasing a CD of Stew performing the songs.) It was perfectly paired with the Bard’s words, and organically integrated into the structure of the show. That was a treat, as I’ve seen too many outdoor Shakespeare productions into which some pop songs awkwardly shoehorned.

And the production, played out on a serpentine boardwalk of a stage, was imaginatively conceived and directed. It gives me high hopes for Stew and Heidi’s collaboration with Joanna.

Joanna Settle continues her conversation with the audience.

Joanna Settle continues her conversation with the audience.

As I’ve reported before on this blog, Joanna will continue to work with Stew. She’s signed on to direct the next play that Stew and his longtime collaborator Heidi Rodewald are working on. There’s no date or title announced, but it’s slated to be presented at The Public Theater.

It’s a good bet that we’ll get more clues about the nature of the new piece when Stew, Heidi and The Broadway Problem take the stage at Lincoln Center Out of Doors on Aug. 19.  Click here for more information.  The show will be at the bandshell in Damrosch Park at West 62nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue at the southwest corner of the Lincoln Center campus. The performance starts at  7 p.m. Free.