Leslie “Ezra” Smith’s one-man autobiographical stage show is notable for several reasons. It’s the first solo theatrical show for this longtime stage actor and stalwart of the local spoken-word scene. It’s also a chance to hear a story rare on local stages, the coming-of-age of a young black man.
It’s a moving show, with a lot of interesting insights. For instance, as Tyler Plosia emphasizes in his review for CP, Smith’s stories about his formative influences delve into not only some you might expect — Maya Angelou, the speeches of Malcolm X — but also hip-hop music. As a source of information about the world, and adulthood, hip hop served Smith as the father he never really had.
I was also struck by a story that Smith, who grew up in Pittsburgh, tells in the show about another big influence on him: his grade-school music teacher, Ms. Hudson. “Miss Hudson was the first artist in my life,” he says, recalling her lessons about singing technique and the class’s rendition of “The Greatest Love of All.”
With cash-strapped schools cutting art and music classes, this should especially give us pause. Here’s an example of a kid who was most engaged at school — to the point that he cites it three decades later — not by an “academic” class, but by a dedicated teacher in a subject that many budget-makers declare expendable. And he went on to become a pretty fair artist himself.
The Book of Ezra has two more performances, tomorrow and Saturday, both at 8 p.m. at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown.
Tickets are $10-25 and are available here.