Julian Middle School’s CAST program is excited to present Ol Man Robeson—songs, scenes and celebration from a great life in the American theatre. Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976) was an actor, singer, athlete and civil rights activist who saw a life of accomplishments wiped from history books because of the red scare of the 1950’s. This production puts CAST performers in scenes from some of Robeson’s most famous plays and movies, interspersed with spirituals and selections from Kern and Hammerstein’s Show Boat. It will conclude with a rousing full company version of Show Boat’s famous “OL MAN RIVER,” which was written expressly for Robeson and ultimately became his signature song. In his characteristic way, however, Robeson made changes to the lyrics as his own viewpoints changed. This production helps to explain how his body of work may have influenced those changes.
The production also features an excerpt from Shakespeare’s Othello, arguably Robeson’s most famous role. In addition to serving as great preparation for high school literature classes, studying Othello has given students from Julian a chance to look critically at violence in the work of Shakespeare. CAST was fortunate to obtain the volunteer services of Oak Parker Delia Ford, who is a stage combat instructor and performer with the Chicago theatre community’s esteemed “Babes with Blades.” Students have spent approximately 25 hours recreating an important swordplay scene that will ultimately take about two and half minutes in the final production. Babes with Blades believes that:
“The adolescent brain is developing so quickly, and life experience is so minimal that most middle school kids have trouble understanding consequences. Stage combat—particularly in Shakespeare —is all about consequences: how words escalate to blows, how blows lead to permanent damage/death, how you don’t get to take that back. Letting kids take on those roles, those skill sets, gives them an opportunity—a cooperative, partner-oriented opportunity—to experience violence and its consequences and learn from them in a safe and supervised environment.”
CAST is presenting Ol Man Robeson with assistance from students from the VanderCook College of Music who, under the direction of Professor Mary Ann Krupa and as part of their preparation as music educators, have coached CAST participants in their vocal performance. VanderCook’s students will also make up the pit orchestra for the performances.
Ol Man Robeson will be presented to the public as part of Julian’s ongoing celebration of African American History Month in February. The performances on Friday, February 10 and Saturday, February 11 will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Julian Auditorium. They are open to the public, and tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students. The production will be presented again on Thursday, February 16 and Friday, February 17 for all incoming Julian sixth graders. In addition, there will be performances at VanderCook College of Music on Tuesday, February 14 and at the Oak Park Arms on Tuesday, February 21.
All afternoon and evening performances are open to the public. For tickets and information, please contact Kathy Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org or (708) 524-7848. Tickets can also be purchased online at http://oakpark.revtrak.net/tek9.asp?pg=products&grp=91&sess=e506dae84c3a4c7a1eb50877d7247d94.