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RED BANK: ‘BLUES’ WITH SOMETHING EXTRA

mcgreeveymayoredruben-9389220Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, former Asbury Park Mayor Ed Johnson and actor-director-playwright Ruben Santiago-Hudson take part in an April 26 panel discussion on Creating Social Change, an event keyed to Two River Theater’s world premiere of Santiago-Hudson’s YOUR BLUES AIN’T SWEET LIKE MINE.

From materials furnished by Two River Theater Company

With its world premiere engagement at Two River Theater, Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine marks the Red Bank return of Tony winning actor, director and August Wilson authority Ruben Santiago-Hudson — this time at the helm of his own original script; one that “brings an unlikely group together, spawning a passionate and explosive debate on America’s relationship to race.”

The second of three shows to make their world premiere at Two River this spring, the production also comes loaded with “extras” that range from downloadable playlists of vintage blues and jazz music mentioned in the script — to a series of on-site offerings that begin on Thursday, April 23 with a special exhibit of items from the Gene Alexander Peters Collection of Rare and Historic African American Artifacts.

On display in the theater lobby between 6 and 8 pm, the exhibit chronicles five critical periods for African Americans within the history of America: slavery; segregation and “Jim Crow;” the Civil Rights Era; the Black Power/Black Student Movement; and the Black Panther Party. Peters, a cultural history consultant and noted collector of rare African American artifacts, will speak about the collection from 7:15 to 7:45 pm, and will be available to answer questions. Take it here for additional information on the exhibit.

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As part of Two River Theater’s ongoing Nosotros series, which makes theater accessible to Latino audiences, Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine will be translated into Spanish via a screen visible to the audience during the 3 pm matinee performance on Sunday, April 26. While the adults in the family watch the play, their children and grandchildren will enjoy stories, theater games, and snacks in the theater lobby under the supervision of bilingual teaching artists and babysitters. These family-friendly events will take place between the hours of 2:30 and 4:45 pm. Tickets for this performance are $10; patrons should use the code “Spanish captions” when booking.

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Following that April 26 matinee performance, the Two River stage will host a special discussion about Creating Social Change moderated by TRTC artistic director John Dias, and featuring Ruben Santiago-Hudson with two special guests — Ed Johnson, who served the City of Asbury Park from 1998 to 2013 as Mayor, City Councilman and Chairman of the Urban Enterprise Zone; and former Governor of New Jersey James McGreevey.

Johnson is a Visiting Scholar and Lecturer in Political Science at Rutgers University and Brookdale Community College, while Governor McGreevey currently serves as executive director of the Jersey City Employment and Training Commission; spearheading re-integration programs for former prisoners through this post and other volunteer activities.

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According to the TRTC team, “during the play’s rehearsals, its actors and creative team were surrounded by an ever-growing collage of background information, contemporary news stories, pieces of art and poetry that inform the action and mood of the play,” with the company recreating that collage as an ongoing lobby display “to illustrate how the elements of a new play reach far beyond the rehearsal room.”

A video interview with Ruben Santiago-Hudson will also be screened in the lobby at 15-minute intervals (beginning 45 minutes prior to every curtain time of Your Blues), while a post-play discussion is scheduled to follow every performance.

Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine continues through May 3 with a mix of matinee and evening performances. Take it here for tickets ($20 – $65 adults) plus details on other special performances — and here for redbankgreen‘s interview with the show’s star, Broadway and TV actor Brandon J. Dirden.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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