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Roger Robinson: Taking Another Tony Award-Nominated Turn in August Wilson's 'Joe Turner'

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Since the revival of August Wilson's 'Joe Turner's Come and Gone' racked up six 2009 Tony Award nominations, the critically acclaimed Broadway production is a must-see production.

Ask President Obama, who took his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, on a date last weekend to see the dramatic play, which also stars Chad L. Coleman, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Ernie Hudson, Andre Holland and Aunjaunue Ellis.

With just a few days before the annual Tony Awards on June 7, BV Newswire chatted with best featured actor nominee Roger Robinson, who plays griot and conjurer Bynum Walker in 'Joe Turner's Come and Gone.' The theater veteran explained why this story has touched the hearts of theater-goers and how Wilson's legacy will continue to live on for years to come.

No novice to Wilson's work, Robinson has appeared in six of the late playwright's 10 plays, which chronicle the black experience across a century. This marks the second time he has been nominated for a Tony, the first time was for the acclaimed 'Seven Guitars' in 1996.

"I had never done this particular show or role. I met with the director [Barlett Sher], and he used a word that drew me to it: collaboration," he explained. "And, it showed me he would be open to exploring this experience with me, and that he would be open to black culture even though he was a white man."

And explore the depths of the role Robinson does in the near three hour-long tour de force.

Black Music Notes January 8

    1/8/09: Prince
    You can now add Prince's name alongside Jay-Z, Eminem, and Dr. Dre for the list of 2009's most-anticipated projects. The iconic superstar is not only planning to release one new album, he's planning to bless fans with three new projects without the help of a major label, according to an interview with the 'Los Angeles Times.' A "major retailer" has teamed with the recording artist formerly known as "The Artist" to release the music physically, while a new Prince website will sell it in digital formats. Tentatively two of the new albums are titled 'MPLSOUND,' which features "trippy, experimental pop songs" and the guitar-driven opus titled 'Lotus Flower.' The third set entitled 'Elixir,' will feature his protégé Bria Valente. According to Prince, fans can expect a more mellow Sade type of vibe for 'Elixir.' "We got sick of waiting for Sade to make a new album," he said of the project. At press time there are no set release dates for any of the records.

    1/8/09: Marvin Sapp
    Despite achieving major cross-over success with his hit single 'Never Would Have Made It,' gospel singer Marvin Sapp fell short of being nominated for this year's '51st Annual Grammy Awards.' According to the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences, "the live version was on the album that was entered into the process in the previous year." NARAS Vice President Bill Freimuth said, "it didn't really take off in the public consciousness until this year." Although the record-breaking song, which spent 40 weeks at number one on 'Billboard's Gospel radio charts, isn't nominated for a Grammy nod, the former Commissioned front-man picked up an award for Best Gospel Artist at the 2008 BET Awards. 'The 51st Annual Grammy Awards' will air live, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on CBS Feb. 8.

    1/8/09: Christopher Williams / Howard Hewitt / Peabo Bryson
    Multi-platinum producer / multi-instrumentalist Norman Connors isn't taking any chances for his forthcoming album, 'Star Power.' For his first recording in seven years, the 'You Are My Starship' producer has reached out to the likes of Peabo Bryson, Howard Hewitt and Christopher Williams, and bassist/vocalist Michael Henderson among others. 'Star Power' also features several memorable instrumental tracks including a funky version of Michael Jackson's 1979 hit "Rock With You" featuring guitarist Ray Parker, Jr. 'Star Power' hits stores on Feb. 24 via Shanchie.

    1/8/09: Soulja Boy
    In 2006 multi-platinum rapper Nas declared 'Hip-Hop Is Dead' with his eighth solo album. Two years later the New York MC still has many questioning his stance on today's hip-hop scene. Apparently Soulja Boy has a solution to the controversial topic. Recently the teen sensation released a video clip via the web stating "Nas killed hip-hop." "He came out and publically said, 'Hip-Hop is dead.' And then after that everybody started saying, 'Hip-Hop is dead,'" the rapper explained. "U see how George Bush f**ked up America? Same way Nas did with Hip-Hop. He came out and said 'Hip-Hop Is Dead' and f**ked up everything!"

    1/8/09: Heavy D/Terrie M. Williams
    Grammy Award nominated hip hop veteran Heavy D is lending a helping hand to celebrity and corporate publicist Terrie M. Williams for a special cause. As a best-selling author and a co-founder of The Stay Strong Foundation, Williams has been championing mental health advocacy for African Americans for the past few years. Her latest book, 'Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting,' has resonated throughout the black community since its release last year. On Jan. 15, a special event, 'The Open Book,' will take place at New York City's Symphony Space, featuring a live, rare performance by the 'Overweight Lover' lyricist, who was recently nominated for a Grammy Award in the "Best Reggae Album" category.

    1/8/09: Talib Kweli
    Although Brooklyn MC Talib Kweli is currently busy wrapping up his forthcoming album with long-time collaborator/producer Hi-Tek, his Blacksmith Music label recently separated from giant Warner Bros. Records. "My label Blacksmith is no longer distributed by Warner Brothers, which means they will not put out Blacksmith future projects," Kweli told 'AllHipHop.com.' "I still have a deal to put out Talib Kweli and Reflection Eternal thru Blacksmith/WBR." According to 'Billboard,' a Warner spokesperson says the company has the option to release music from Blacksmith artists such as Jean Grae, Strong Arm Steady and singer Anjulie. Kweli and Hi-Tek's 'Reflection Eternal: Train of Thought II' is expected to hit stores sometime this year.

    1/8/09: Shari Addison
    BET 'Sunday's Best' first runner-up Shari Addison will finally release her long-awaited self-titled debut CD on Jan. 13. Last year, Addison wowed audiences week after week with her powerful performances while winning countless fans along the way, and earning a recording contract with Zomba Gospel. The album's first single, 'No Battle, No Blessing' sets off the new year at the top of the gospel radio charts as the #1 most added song for this week. "I am so excited about this project," the Chicago native said. "All of the songs are me, but it's a multi-faceted me and exposes many different layers of my faith. It's uplifting and encouraging and I believe that no matter what's going on during your day, there's something that will minister to you."

    1/8/09: Jody Watley/Evelyn Champagne King / Regina Belle
    Soul Legends Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle are among the many stars featured on Time Life Music's 'Songs 4 Worship Soul' album, set for release on March 3. The all-star project, which features new recordings of modern gospel classics sung by soul music legends, includes a rendition of Richard Smallwood's 'Total Praise' (covered by Belle and Bryson). Disco queen Evelyn "Champagne" King trades her dance card for a tender touch on Yolanda Adams' 'Open My Heart,' while balladeer Deniece Williams brings the funk on Fred Hammond's 'Glory to Glory to Glory.' Jody Watley, Howard Hewett, Teddy Pendergrass, Brian McKnight, and American Idol contestant Ruben Studdard are also featured on the 14-track collection.


The Seattle native's portrayal of Bynum has left such an impression that he's also being honored by his colleagues.

On June 9, the 'Brother to Brother' star will become the first African American to receive the 2009 Richard Seff Award, presented by the Actors' Equity Foundation to an actor 50 or older in a supporting role in a Broadway or off-Broadway production.

Robinson's only lament is that the entire cast could not have been honored for their stellar performances.

"I wish the Tony Awards had an ensemble award like the Olivier's and Screen Actors Guild but [New York] theater needs to do that because this one would have been honored."

Robinson believes Wilson is a great American poet and his "use of language is second to none, except Eugene O'Neil and perhaps Tennessee Williams." In the age of Tyler Perry's popularity, the 69-year-old actor believes that there is still a place for these type of theatrical productions.

"August is literature. [Sure] Tyler is a marketing expert and a genius to make his empire, [but] August Wilson is probably one of the most produced American playwrights."

Currently, 'Joe Turner's Come and Gone' is playing at the Belasco Theatre. It's set to close its limited run June 14.

Given its buzz, an extension is a possibility, especially if the play scores a few of the Tony Awards it's nominated for.




Tagged as: Tony Award, TonyAward

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