The 100th anniversary of the birth of the African-American actor, singer and political activist Paul Robeson is being celebrated at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in downtown Newark with three separate events Mar. 30, Mar. 31 and April 1:
Paul Robeson: The Artist & the Image, a multimedia presentation by Paul Robeson, Jr. Mar. 30 at 7 PM. Tickets are $12 ($7 for children under 14).
Speak of Me as I Am, a sneak peak at a new documentary of the life and times of Robeson, co-produced by the BBC, NJN Public Television and NVC Arts. The film includes archival footage and interviews with Pete Seeger, Studs Terkel and Robeson biographer Martin Duberman. Mar. 31 at 7 PM. Tickets are $12 ($7 for children under 14).
Paul Robeson, All American, a new play by actor Ossie Davis, dramatizes Robeson's life and times. The play is a co-production of Theatreworks/USA and the Paul Robeson Cultural Center. April 1 at 7 PM. Tickets are $18 ($7 for children under 14) or $35, which includes a post-performance reception with Ossie Davis.
Robeson, born April 9, 1898, was a football hero at Rutgers University and a graduate of Columbia Law School who was persuaded by Eugene O'Neill to forsake the bar for the stage. His first play, in 1924, was O'Neill's All God's Chillun Got Wings at the Provincetown Players theatre. He went on to star in O'Neill's The Emperor Jones and The Hairy Ape and also gained fame for his 1943 Othello on Broadway. He became closely identified with the Kern-Hammerstein song "Old Man River," which he first sang in the 1928 London production of Show Boat. Robeson, who has been hailed by some as "the grandfather of the Civil Rights movement," marched in civil rights protests and labor strikes in the U.S. and abroad in the '30s and '40s. In later years he was criticized for visiting the Soviet Union as an avowed Communist. Robeson died in 1976; two years later James Earl Jones appeared on Broadway in a one-man show about the actor's life.
The NJPAC is at 1 Center St. For tickets, call (888) GO-NJPAC.
-- By Rebecca Paller