Poetry on Stage
Dreamweaver: The Works of Langston Hughes
Friday, February 10th,
Saturday, February 11th, 3:00 PM
61 West Superior Street
Free reservations at http://poetryfoundation.eventbrite.com or by calling (312) 787-7070
Actor and writer David Mills’s one-person dramatic rendition of Langston Hughes’s poems and short stories journeys through the Harlem Renaissance—from the 1920s through the 1960s. Mills portrays Hughes’s notable characters, such as Madam Alberta K. Johnson and Jesse B. Semple, and delivers excerpts from the iconic poetry collection, Montage of a Dream Deferred. The program highlights Hughes’s unending love for Harlem—its foibles and fantasies, its beauty and brutality. Blues poems and such classic pieces such as “I’ve Known Rivers,” “Mother to Son,” “Theme for English B,” and “I, Too” are presented alongside lesser-known works like “Merry Go Round” and “Advice.” One of the show’s centerpieces is the hilarious but little-known short story “Rock, Church,” and Mills also performs the short stories “Thank You Ma’am” and “There Ought to Be a Law.”
David Mills studied economics and theater at Yale before spending three years as Writer-in-Residence at Langston Hughes’s landmark home. Author of a collection of poems, The Dream Detective, he has performed on stages around the country and overseas.
Langston Hughes was first recognized as an important literary figure during the 1920s, a period known as the "Harlem Renaissance" because of the number of emerging black writers. In his own words, his poetry is about "workers, roustabouts, and singers, and job hunters on Lenox Avenue in New York, or Seventh Street in Washington or South State in Chicago—people up today and down tomorrow.” Hughes recorded faithfully the nuances of black life and its frustrations, and was the first black American to earn his living solely from his writing and public lectures.
This exhibition showcases highlights from the literary archives of Gwendolyn E. Brooks (1917–2000), Illinois Poet Laureate and the first black winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Brooks’s papers include youthful poetry and prose, scrapbooks of pieces she published as a young woman, extensive correspondence with a significant roster of other writers, and manuscript drafts and proofs, especially after she left mainstream publishing to produce her works with black-owned presses.