About Raisin’ Cane by Harry Clark
Posted Jan 18, 2016
It was an exceptional time. It was our time. It was time.
Time: 1920s. Place: Harlem, New York, USA.
The Harlem Renaissance was a pent-up explosion of brilliant prose, poetry, politics and music of African-Americans ready to say their piece.
The words and thoughts of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, George Schuyler, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, W.E.B. Du Bois, Gwendolyn Bennett, Father Divine, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many others are woven into a panoramic theatrical narrative that scans an extraordinary outpouring of artistic endeavor lasting a decade until the Great Depression brought all to an end. Jean Toomer’s Cane, the incomparable short novel that started the sparks flying, is given its full due in this musical theater work. The theatrical narrative is a tour-de-force for an African-American actress to embody the thoughts and emotions of such a powerful and diverse set of thinkers, artists, religious leaders and politicians. Raisin’ Cane has found just such an actress and entertainer in renown film, television, and stage actress Jasmine Guy.
With a superb original score by New England jazz master bassist/composer Avery Sharpe, the music and words become one. Composed for the trio of bassist Avery Sharpe, brother Kevin Sharpe on many percussion instruments, and jazz violinist great John Blake, the music is suggestive of the period. At times the score supports the spoken word, at times interacts with the spoken word, and it also has its space to shine solely on its own. A special feature of Raisin’ Cane are visuals, photos and paintings of the key artists, plus striking photos and paintings of the period showing Harlemites in everyday work situations and in joyful celebratory dance and musical jazz settings. The text is taken from writings of W.E.B. DuBois (Returning from War), Zora Neale Hurston, the novel Cane of Jean Toomer, poems of WeldonJohnson(O Southland), Claude McKay(If We Must Die and “The Tropics in New York”), Gwendolyn Bennett(To Usward), Lanston Hughes(“I, Too, Sing America” and “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”),Countee Cullen(“Nothing Endures”), and Georgia Douglas Johnson (“I Want to Die While You Love Me”).
See Raisin’ Cane Friday, Jan. 29 at the Fox Cities P.A.C.!