Tag Archives: Brooklyn OMNIBUS

This Strange Freak’s name is fog

The Englert Theatre, one of the University of Iowa's performing arts venues in Iowa City. (Photo courtesy Jacob Yarrow, Unversity of Iowa)

Weather scuttles Stew & The Negro Problem’s Iowa Omnibus show — for now

What does Mother Nature have against Iowa City, Ia.?

Stew at Joe's Pub on Jan. 23, 2012. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

In 2008, the Iowa River overran its banks and devastated the city, destroying much property in the city, including the notable Max Abramovitz-designed Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

The flood-ravaged Hancher Auditorium, designed by Max Abramovitz, the architect of Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.

The latest natural disaster didn’t cause physical damage that we know of, but the psychic damage is certainly huge. A “freak fog” closed the local airport and kept Stew and Heidi Rodewald and their band, The Negro Problem, from making it to Iowa City in time for their Feb. 2 gig.

As we reported the other day, Stew & The Negro Problem were to present Iowa Omnibus as the centerpiece of a Feb. 2 show at the Englert Theatre, a civic auditorium that is housing some of UI’s performing arts productions. It was commissioned by UI’s Hancher Auditorium, the campus performing arts presenter, inspired by Stew and Heidi’s 2010 Brooklyn Omnibus shows, as well as their hit musical, Passing Strange.

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How Stew and Heidi took on Iowa City

Stew & Heidi Rodewald at Joe's Pub in New York City. (Photos © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

Remember Stew & Heidi Rodewald of The Negro Problem‘s theatrical show, Brooklyn Omnibus at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2010? It made a lot of sense. Both of these creative people had spent time living in the County of Kings and knew it pretty well. And the songs reflected their experiences there.

Jacob Yarrow (Photo by Tom Jorgensen)

It was a bit of a surprise when Stew, in the middle of a Jan. 23 CD-release show at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan, asked the audience: “Remember Brooklyn Omnibus? We’re doing an Iowa City Omnibus.”

The Englert Theater, one of the University of Iowa's performing arts venues in Iowa City. (Photo courtesy Jacob Yarrow, Unversity of Iowa)

Thanks to the magic of Twitter, we quickly found out who was behind this Iowa City venture, and took some time to get the lowdown for you.

It turns out that Jacob Yarrow, programming director of the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City, saw the Spike Lee film version of Stew and Heidi’s Broadway show, Passing Strange. That was enough to give him a real hankering to bring some of Stew and Heidi’s music in the Midwest, tailored to the flood-ravaged city. So he got in touch and commissioned the duo to do an Omnibus for them.

It takes the stage on Thursday, Feb. 2. As of last week, Yarrow hadn’t heard a note of Stew and Heidi’s work, but was looking forward to hearing it. As he explains after the jump, the Iowa City commission pretty much gave the duo free rein.

My guess is that Iowa City and the University of Iowa will never be quite the same again after Stew and Heidi’s visit.

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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