Langston Hughes-Inspired Performances Tonight and Tomorrow at the Kelly-Strayhorn | Blogh

Langston Hughes-Inspired Performances Tonight and Tomorrow at the Kelly-Strayhorn

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Anthony Thompson, in character
  • Anthony Thompson, in character
A New York-based actor brings his long-running performance as Hughes’ iconic character Jesse B. Semple to town for two more performances.

Anthony Thompson, a Pittsburgh native, has spent three decades onstage portraying Semple (or “Simple”), an African-American everyman the famed poet created in the 1940s for a series of newspaper columns. Simple was later the subject of a series of popular books by Hughes. (Here’s a sample of Simple.)

Thompson’s solo show is titled Jesse B. Simple Alive in Harlem. According to a press release, the performance “weaves blues, jazz, spirituals, Langston Hughes’ ‘Simple Tales’ and poetic verse to create a startling glimpse of the African American’s experience with Jim Crow, lynching and the great migration to Harlem [and] depicts the survival of an oppressed people and celebrates the life of those who have lived and enjoyed life despite the bitterness of their circumstances.”

In 2009, Thompson portrayed Simple at the Wynton Marsalis Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s world-premiere Jesse B. Semple Suite, a collaboration with trombonist Vincent Gardner. He has performed the show at community venues nationally.

Two shows of a current three-show run in Pittsburgh remain, tonight and tomorrow. Both performances begin at 8 p.m.

Tonight’s show is preceded by a 6 p.m. artist meet-and-greet and artist talk, facilitated by educator and African drummer Anthony B. Mitchell. 

Tickets are $15-20. For reservations or more information, call 412-712-5691, email jessebsimplealive@yahoo.com, or see here.

The Kelly-Strayhorn is located at 5941 Penn Ave., in East Liberty.

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