From ‘Native Son’ to ‘Native Song’
Before performances of Stew and The Negro Problem: Notes of a Native Song on November 22-23, Tony Award-winning playwright and composer Stew visited Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to speak about the relevancy of his work today as it comments on Notes of a Native Son by legendary writer and activist James Baldwin.
Watch a livestream of the talk and read Stew’s artist statement:
Notes of a Native Song is not a musical nor a play with music.
It’s a song-cycle, a set, a concert or, put squarely, just a buncha songs
with banter in between.
Please note this show is gonna be
as new to us
as it will be to you.
We re-invent it every time.
We have to.
That’s what JB taught us to do.
Lots of artists subscribe to the idea of completeness,
but songs, like America,
and Baldwin’s visions,
are never really finished —
they just keep evolving, adapting, adjusting to the times.
Jazz cats & rock folk know this implicitly,
musical theater people? far less so.
James Baldwin wrote and lived his ever-changing song.
Heidi and I are club-rats who stumbled onto Broadway by accident.
We developed our story-telling skills in dive-bars and after-parties.
JB was a boy-preacher who stumbled willfully into being a badass.
And he also knew a thing or two about dive bars and after-parties.
JB is my Keith Richards.