Monday, January 22, 2007
No Black Male Show and Carl Hancock Rux
Occasionally I hear about upcoming performances in other parts of the country that I would love to attend, if only I had the money to travel like that. Carl Hancock Rux’s No Black Male Show is one such piece. I first saw Rux’s Chapter & Verse at the Nuyorican Poets Café in the early 90s. It was a dramatic production that featured poetry, music, and the enigmatic Rux. All of the actors were great, but Rux was a definite stand out. I don’t remember many particulars about the play, but I do remember Rux standing on a box, twirling like a dancer and delivering his lines with grace and raw emotion. He’s got this deep, rich voice that compels you to listen to every word he’s saying.
I had the privilege of attending a cast party for Rux’s Chapter & Verse (my friend Carolyn was serving as the stage manager). I remember Rux as a very down-to-earth brother who talked to me about artistic pursuits. I don’t remember the specifics of the conversation, but I felt like he really cared and wanted to share some well thought-out advice. I also got to witness an intimate performance that night by the great, Tony award winning actress, Trezana Beverly , who was one of the original cast members of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls … on Broadway. (I believe Ms. Beverly directed the Nuyorican Poets Café production of Chapter & Verse). I couldn’t believe that I was just inches away from such a tremendous talent.
Born in Harlem and raised in the Bronx, Rux was a product of the foster care system in New York and began drawing and telling himself stories when he was four years old. “There was so much I didn't know about my family, and, when you start off with all these mysteries, all these unanswered questions in your life, you need a narrative,” he told Baltimore City Paper’s John Lewis in 2001. “I was inventing a narrative for myself that was sort of like urban Fantasia,” he said. “It had its own kind of fantastical urbanity, but it was also kind of mystical.”
This poet saw his existence as more magical than the hackneyed images that were shoved down his throat in the media. No Black Male Show is not only about the overuse of black male stereotypes, it’s also about how black men view themselves, outside the box that others put them in. Rux was inspired to write a poem that led to the No Black Male Show after attending the exhibition Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art at New York's Whitney Museum in 1994.
Rux, a natural performance poet, is also a Renaissance man. He has published novels, written songs, plays and poetry. He’s an electrifying performer, which is why I’d love to see him perform No Black Male Show in Seattle, February 9-10.
Check out my review of Rux’s CD, Apothecary Rx.