Tag Archives: The Negro Problem

Stew, Heidi & The Negro Problem to play the final Weeksville Garden Party in Brooklyn on Saturday

Stew & Heidi Rodewald of The Negro Problem. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone‘s favorite band, The Negro Problem, is playing a gig in Brooklyn this Saturday, July 28. They’re in the hood for the fourth and final installment of the Weeksville Garden Party, a July tradition of free weekly performances at the Weeksville Heritage Center at 1698 Bergen Street between Rochester and Buffalo Avenues in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood.

The Weeksville Heritage Center itself, dedicated to the unique history of the 19th Century village of Weeksville, founded by free blacks, is worth exploring. We’d recommend arriving early — doors are at 4, with The Negro Problem set to perform at 6 — to check the place out.

Remember, it’s free. But if you like the show and the museum, they’ll gladly accept donations. We know WYMMWIG‘s readers are generous. Don’t let us down.

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Image

Last chance to see Stew & The Negro Problem in NYC

Stew, Heidi Rodewald and The Negro Problem at Joe’s Pub on Jan. 23, 2012. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

If you didn’t get to Joe’s Pub last night to see Stew &  The Negro Problem and grab a copy of the new album, Making It, all is not lost. 

They’ve got another CD-release show at Joe’s at 9:30 tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 24). Tickets, $30, are available here. Book now. If you miss it, you’ll be sorry.
 

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

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

More video of Stew, Heidi and The Negro Problem at Joe’s Pub

It’s time for a better taste of The Negro Problem‘s fantastic show at Joe’s Pub on Jan 7 .

Here’s all the video Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? managed to shoot in the crowded room.

The first clip is just an excerpt, the last minute or so of one of my favorite Stew/TNP songs, “Peter Jennings,” performed with as much joy and excitement as I’ve ever seen.

After that is “Willow Song,” a Stew and Heidi number that many in the audience hadn’t heard before. It was written for last summer’s production of Othello for Shakespeare on the Sound, an outdoor community Shakespeare program in Connecticut. (Stew and Heidi tackle Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing for SotS Artistic Director Joanna Settle this summer.) It’s a beautiful, dreamy number that worked well in the play, but also stands alone surprisingly well.

Finally, for all you Passing Strange fans, there’s “Amsterdam.”

Enjoy!

The Negro Problem at Joe’s Pub: Video

I promised video of The Negro Problem‘s fantastic show at Joe’s Pub on Jan 7 . Here’s the first one, with more to come as soon as the overworked staff at Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? can find the time to process it.

This clip is just an excerpt, the last minute or so of one of my favorite Stew/TNP songs, “Peter Jennings,” performed with as much joy and excitement as I’ve ever seen.

Clips still to come are longer. But this will give you a good idea of the show’s energy.

The Negro Problem: Stew, Heidi and friends come home to Joe’s Pub

Stew, Heidi Rodewald and The Negro Problem at Joe's Pub on Friday, Jan. 7, 2011. (Photos copyright 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Stew, Heidi Rodewald and their current incarnation of The Negro Problem came home to NYC — to Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater — on Jan. 7.

What a homecoming it was.  The show was rocking and well-paced, with old favorites — many reimagined in one way or another — and newer material from last fall’s Brooklyn Omnibus, a show premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

“Ken,” the never-fails-to-get-laughs tune about Barbie’s boyfriend Ken secretly being gay, was done with a reggae feel to it. And they did “Willow Song” from their music for last summer’s Shakespeare on the Sound production of Othello. They also did a great rendition of Stew’s self-proclaimed best song ever, “Gary Come Home,” written for TV’s SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon show.

The current incarnation of The Negro Problem, Stew and Heidi’s first project together, is really just the pair of them backed by Joe McGinty‘s Loser’s Lounge crew plus awesome longtime guitarist Jon Spurney. (Spurney wasn’t in the earliest incarnations of The Negro Problem, but then again, neither was Heidi. Spurn was, however, involved from the beginning with the material that eventually became the acclaimed musical, Passing Strange.)

The place was packed. The show was great. And it seemed to go by in a flash.

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? was thrilled to be there. We’ll shut up now so you can look at the photos. (Video will come later!)

Stew in his Utilikilt with a new approach to hairstyling, and Heidi at Joe's Pub.

Continue reading

Stew sez: The Negro Problem is touring this fall!

Stew and Heidi perform as The Broadway Problem at Lincoln Center Out of Doors last summer. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Deep in his critique of the New York Magazine‘s piece about his upcoming show Making It, composer and bon vivant Stew lets drop a little bomb that is sure to please his fans, especially those outside of New York City: “The Negro Problem will be on tour this Fall.”

Stew, is that a promise? Or a tease? Let’s hope it’s the former.

Some form of The Negro Problem —  with Stew and Heidi Rodewald at the core but under names like The Broadway Problem — has played around NYC in the last year. But fans elsewhere have had to rely on the movie version of Passing Strange (on the big screen, on PBS, On Deman, or on DVD) to get anything resembling a TNP fix. So this is nothing but good news.

More on Making It, which begins its six-show run at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Dumbo, Brooklyn on Feb. 17, will follow. I just wanted to get this tidbit on the table.