Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Legendary Beat Poet Remembered in World-Premiere Play at Washington College

Cast Includes Popular Area Singer Karen Somerville

Chestertown, MD — Washington College will present the world premiere of "The Golden Sardine," the latest work by award-winning poet/playwright Robert Earl Price, at the Norman James Theatre on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, November 21-23, at 8 p.m.

"The Golden Sardine" tells the story of legendary Beat poet Bob Kaufman—a talented and complex artist who was instrumental in creating the Beatnik movement. The only major African-American Beat poet, Kaufman gained fame on "The Tonight Show" then shunned invitations to lecture at Harvard. His verse was heavily influenced by the rhythms and idioms of bebop. The critic Raymond Foye called Kaufman "the quintessential jazz poet."

It's hard to imagine a more fitting playwright to tap into the Kaufman mystique than Robert Earl Price, currently an artist-in-residence in the Washington College Drama Department. He 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 Jr.'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.

Recently the 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.

The premiere of "The Golden Sardine" is the result of a theater lab that encourages the collaboration of theater professionals, students and faculty. The cast features Washington College drama instructor Polly Somerfield and popular area singer Karen Somerville.

Drama Department Chair Dale Daigle directs with support from Jason Rubin, Lawrence Stahl and a crew of students, including Faith Erline as dramaturg, Maggie Farrell and Jory Peele as stage managers, and Kristian Wilson, Jess Blanch, Brian Schultz and Lilly McAllen on projection and lighting.

Admission to "The Golden Sardine" is free and open to the public.

November 11, 2008

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