Chestertown, MD, January 31, 2007 — It will be an afternoon of jazz, poetry and drama as award-winning playwright Robert Earl Price reads excerpts from "Blue Monk," his play about jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, at Washington College's Casey Academic Center Forum on Tuesday, February 13, at 4:30 p.m.
Price's evocation of the immortal jazz giant known as the "Genius of Modern Music" will be accompanied, appropriately enough, by the Washington College Jazz Combo, under the direction of Ken Schweitzer.
Monk (1917-1982) recently received a posthumous Pulitzer Prize "for a body of distinguished and innovative musical composition that has had a significant and enduring impact on the evolution of jazz." While he has been dubbed "the High Priest of Bebop," Monk's unique style was considered too avant-garde even for many of his fellow cutting-edge bop musicians in the 1940s, not to mention the listening public at large. But by the late 1950s, tastes were catching up with Monk's complex, sophisticated musical phraseology, and his fame and fortunes were on the rise. By 1964 he was on the cover of Time magazine. Many of Monk's compositions—"Round Midnight," "52nd Street Theme," "Blue Monk" and others—are among the most oft-recorded standards in the jazz canon. In 1993 he was honored with a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
It's hard to imagine a more apt playwright to tap into the Monk mystique than Robert Earl Price, who has tackled similar subjects—the tragic jazz icon Charlie Parker, the legend-shrouded bluesman Robert Johnson—in some of his other theatrical productions. When "Blue Monk" was produced in Johannesburg, it was so well received that it ended up as one of five plays nominated for South Africa's National Theater Award. (Price's Charlie Parker opus, "Yardbird's Vamp," likewise enjoyed overseas success, playing to standing-room-only crowds for the duration of its Berlin run.)
Price, a graduate of the American Film Institute, was a protégé of the Oscar-winning director Jan Kadar and Pulitzer/Emmy winner Alex Haley. Price was the script consultant for the Peabody Award-winning production of "The Boy King" (the story of Dr. Martin Luther King's youth) and a principal writer on the CBS/Alex Haley series "Palmerstown, U.S.A." Price's many awards include the American Film Institute's William Wyler Award for screenwriting and a Cultural Olympics Commission for theater.
Currently playwright in residence at Atlanta's famed 7 Stages Theatre, Price also is a poet of some note, with four collections of verse—Bloodlines, Blood Elegy, Blues Blood and Wise Blood—published to date. His poems also have appeared in scores of journals and magazines. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for poetry, a Broadside Press Award, a Bronze Jubilee Award, and dozens of other poetry prizes and notices.
"Blue Monk" is being presented by the Washington College Drama Department, the Black Studies Program, and the Dean of the College. Norman James Theatre is in William Smith Hall. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, call 410-778-7888.