Following a stint at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival earlier this year, Def Poetry Jam will embark on a national tour starting at Philadelphia's Merriam Theatre (Oct. 16-19). Among the tour stops will be Newark, New Jersey's NJPAC (Oct. 21), Los Angeles' Wadsworth Auditorium (Oct. 23-26), Atlanta's Fox Theatre (Nov. 20-23) and Boston's Colonial Theatre (Dec. 9-14).
Def Poetry Jam is conceived and presented by Russell Simmons and Stan Lathan — who also directs. Lathan broke the news of the tour to Playbill On-Line (May 15) and also spoke of the published book of poems performed in the stageshow, published by Pocket Books, now available.
Russell Simmon's Def Poetry Jam opened on Broadway Nov. 14, 2002 following a run at San Francisco's Theatre on the Square. The unique theatrical production brought the slam-style poetry — made famous on HBO specials — to Broadway. The production closed at the Longacre Theatre, May 4, but garnered the Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event.
The diverse cast of modern-day troubadours includes original Broadway stars Black Ice, Mayda Del Valle, Suheir Hammad, Georgia Me, Lemon, Poetri and Beau Sia and newly added performer Bassey Ikpi. Also returning for the tour is DJ Tendaji interspersing everything classic R&B to modern hip-hop songs between poems.
The Def Poetry Jam design team includes Bruce Ryan (set), Paul Tazewell (costume), Yael Lubetzky (lighting) and Elton P. Halley (sound).