ECPA’s Raisin Cane Kicks Off National Tour

News Story: February 28, 2007
The Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts Celebrates
Black History Month, 2007 with a National Tour of
Raisin’ Cane: A Theatrical Portrait in Prose, Poetry and Jazz Starring Jasmine Guy
To celebrate Black History Month in 2007, the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts at Sacred Heart University will produce the national tour of Raisin’ Cane – A Theatrical Portrait in Prose, Poetry and Jazz, featuring Jasmine Guy, star of stage, screen and television.

Raisin’ Cane – A Theatrical Portrait in Prose, Poetry and Jazz open its national tour on the East Coast January 26, 2007 and tour nationally for six weeks, ending March 11, 2007.

The Harlem Renaissance was a pent-up explosion of brilliant prose, poetry, politics and music of African-Americans ready to say their piece in the 1920s and early 30s. For this production, the words, thoughts and ideas of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, George Schuyler, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, WE Dubois, Gwendolyn Bennett, Father Divine, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many others are woven into a panoramic theatrical narrative tapestry that scans an extraordinary outpouring of artistic endeavor lasting a full decade until the Great Depression brought all to an end. Jean Toomer’s seminal work “Cane,” the incomparable short novel that started the sparks flying, is given its full due in this musical theater work.

The theatrical narrative is a tour-de-force for an African-American actress to embody the thoughts and emotions of such powerful and diverse thinkers, artists, religious leaders and politicians. Raisin’ Cane found just such an actress and entertainer in Jasmine Guy.

Jasmine Guy began her career as a dancer for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. She moved to acting and television with a part in the television film “At Mother's Request” and a starring role as co-ed beauty Whitley in the Cosby show “A Different World,” which enjoyed a six-season run, and for which she also wrote several episodes. In addition, she made her feature film debut in Spike Lee's politically charged college comedy/musical “School Daze” (1988) and co-starred in Eddie Murphy's “Harlem Nights” (1989). Additional television credits include such movies as “Runaway” (1989), “A Killer Among Us” (1990), and “Stompin' at the Savoy” (1992). Even after “A Different World,” Guy was constantly in demand to guest star on such shows as “Melrose Place” and “NYPD Blue.” She returned to the stage as a musical theater actress in touring companies of Grease, The Wiz and more recently in the musical Chicago as Velma Kelly, a role she found to be “edgy, gutsy, desperate, funny and a joy to play.” She continues, “I found the role a perfect combination of all my performing abilities. Through Velma I could be a real triple threat. My return to the stage was challenging, fun and rewarding.”

For Raisin’ Cane, Chamber Music PLUS Artistic Director, Harry Clark, commissioned a totally new jazz score by jazz master Avery Sharpe. The jazz score creates a panoramic theatrical presentation of words, music and such graphic images as photos and paintings of the key artists as well as striking photos and paintings of the period showing Harlemites in everyday work situations and in joyful celebratory dance and musical jazz settings.  The first live staging of Raisin’ Cane took place at Sacred Heart University’s Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts during Black History Month in 2006.  Ever since, the ECPA and SHU have worked to bring the piece to a wide range of audiences spanning across the United States.
According to Clark, “I would not have attempted the creation of this work without my long and proud association with composer and superb jazz bassist Avery Sharpe. Raisin’ Cane comes to life with his original jazz score performed by his own Avery Sharpe Jazz Trio which includes Avery along with his brother Kevin Sharpe, playing numerous percussion instruments, and jazz violinist great John Blake. At times the score functions as support to the spoken word, at times it interacts with the spoken word, and it also has its space to shine solely on its own.”
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