The performance stars Jason McKinney as Robeson, the African-American renaissance man who rose to prominence in multiple arenas at a time when racism and segregation was rampant in the United States. Robeson used his fame as a performer to become a voice for people who were marginalized both at home and abroad. Despite a hugely successful career on stage and in films and international popularity, he was eventually silenced and his career effectively ended by prejudice and accusations of him being a Communist. "A Play Based on the Life of Paul Robeson" sheds light on the life of this courageous, influential and complex man whose message remains relevant for today's audiences. Tickets are $25 for general admission seating and are available online at www.thecapritheater.org or by calling (612) 343-3390.
The show is produced and presented by United in Music. United in Music's Christopher Bagley co-stars as Robeson's long-time collaborator Lawrence Brown.
"Paul Robeson's life story reminds us of the important work he did so bravely to advance the civil rights discussion," said Bagley, "And those issues could not be any less important today. We are reminded every day that there is still so much work to be done to end racial discrimination."
After Robeson's death, his son, Paul Robeson, Jr. established the Paul Robeson Foundation, which benefits arts, culture and humanities organizations. Robeson Jr. passed away on April 26 at age 86. The junior Robeson's daughter, Susan Robeson, currently serves as the foundation's chair. Susan Robeson is a filmmaker with ties to the Twin Cities. She credits her grandfather with influencing her career path into media.
"He had a deep impact. I am guided by his values – strive to be the best that you can be, not better than someone else, but the best that you can be." she said, "And use your skills and knowledge, not just for your benefit but to better your community, your people."
The play, written by Phillip Hayes Dean, who also recently passed away on April 14, brings attention to the important legacy of Robeson, which had faded into the shadows of American lore. Although the production attracted a degree of controversy when first presented in the late 1970s with James Earl Jones in the lead role, "Paul Robeson" went on to have two highly successful runs on Broadway in 1988 and 1995 with Avery Brooks as Robeson. The current touring version is the most recent incarnation of the Broadway play. The performances in Minneapolis are part of a three-city Midwest run and a piece of a larger national tour.