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UK Set to Celebrate the Life and Works
of Langston Hughes

By Brad Duncan

 

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The Langston Hughes Centennial Celebration kicks off with UK Opera's production of "Street Scene," libretto by Hughes and music by Kurt Weill, produced by Everett McCorvey, director of the UK opera program. "Street Scene" is set on the Lower East Side of New York in the 1940s and tells the story of a day in the life of the Maurrant family.

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Oct. 10, 2002 (Lexington, Ky.) -- This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Langston Hughes, and during October, the University of Kentucky will sponsor a series of events based on his works. Hughes was a prolific playwright, fiction writer and the Poet Laureate of Harlem.

The Langston Hughes Centennial Celebration kicks off with UK Opera's production of "Street Scene," libretto by Hughes and music by Kurt Weill, produced by Everett McCorvey, director of the UK opera program. "Street Scene" is set on the Lower East Side of New York in the 1940s and tells the story of a day in the life of the Maurrant family. It contains a variety of music from classical to jazz with a mixture of comedy and tragedy.

Performances will take place at the Lexington Opera House at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 11; Thursday, Oct. 17; and Saturday, Oct. 19, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Oct. 13. For ticket information, call the Singletary Center for the Arts Ticket Office at (859) 257-4929.

The celebration also includes the following events:

At 7:30 p.m Monday, Oct. 14, a keynote lecture will be given by Arnold Rampersad, the Stanford University Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities, author of Hughes' biography, and co-executor of Hughes' estate. Rampersad will speak on the life and works of Hughes. The free lecture will be given in the William T. Young Library auditorium.

On Tuesday, Oct. 15, a day-long "Symposium on the Harlem Renaissance" will be held at the UK Student Center. Leading scholars of the Harlem Renaissance and a noted Kurt Weill historian will give talks on Hughes, music and literature, and issues of gender and race in the early 20th century. Admission to all sessions is free. The schedule is as follows:

-- 9:30 a.m. Coffee and doughnuts

-- 9:45 a.m. Meta DuEwa Jones, professor of English, George Washington University,
Author, "Jazz Prosodies: Orality and Textuality," (Callalo 25.1)

-- 11 a.m. Kenneth Warren, professor of English, University of Chicago
Author, "Black and White Strangers: Race and American Literary Realism"

-- 2 p.m. Mason Stokes, professor of English, Skidmore College
Author, "The Color of Sex: Whiteness, Heterosexuality and the Fictions of White Supremacy"

-- 3:30 p.m. Jürgen Schebera
Kurt Weill Scholar and author, "Kurt Weill, an Illustrated Life"
Berlin, Germany

On Wednesday, Oct. 16, vocal students and others from the UK College of Fine Arts, under the direction of Cliff Jackson, will give a concert featuring works by American composers who set Hughes' words to music. This free event will take place at 8 p.m. in Memorial Hall.

The final event will be a free student-led Poetry Slam at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, in Center Theatre of the Student Center. Open to participation from the entire Lexington community, prizes will be awarded for the best performers.

"This is a major event in the history of this university," McCorvey said. "In Arnold Rampersad, we are bringing to campus one of the foremost African-American scholars of our generation. He not only has written biographies on Langston Hughes but also of sports icons Jackie Robinson and Arthur Ashe. The opera 'Street Scene' is another milestone in the history of American opera because it is the collaboration of an African American and a Jewish immigrant writing on the life immigrants in New York."


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