What We Feel and What We Mean
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Meet the Artists “Performing Langston Hughes”

David Mills blew me away with his comical performance of the Langston Hughes works. Although I’m not a huge fan of poetry, I have enjoyed Hughes poetry in the past. Since Hughes is mostly known for his poetry I was really surprised to learn today that he had also written 47 plays which is more then what Shakespeare has written.

Mills performance was a combination of several of Hughes short stories. I found the way he started the performance interesting since instead of starting on the stage like others, he appeared from the back and had already begun his performance while walking to the stage. Voice in this performance is very important as he changes the pitch to let you know that there’s a change in character in his one man dialogue. He brings comic relief to the audience with higher pitch voice and the way he displays the characters attitude. My favorite part of the performance was the short story with the woman who was getting robbed by a kid on the street. I found the story funny but I also liked the underlying theme. The kid who’s trying to steal the purse didn’t realize the purse would be so heavy and in an attempt to run with the purse ends up falling himself due to the weight of the purse. He is then caught by the woman. Instead of bringing him to the authorities though, the woman brings the boy to where she lives, lets him wash his dirty face and even provides him with food. Throughout this part of the performance, I really enjoyed the way Mills changed from each character, from the shivering nervous kid to the powerful woman. He displayed the emotions behind their actions well by portraying how the woman now had control of the boy since she showed him who’s boss. The boy now afraid to run away from woman after attempting to steal her purse, just obeys her throughout the rest of the performance. What left me smiling in the end was when the woman asked him why he tried to steal her purse and he said then he wanted to buy shoes. Most people would get angry at people trying to steal their things but instead she replied with, “why didn’t you just ask me for the money?” At the end of that part of the story, the woman gives the boy $10 to buy his shoes. I found it nice that Hughes would write about the unexpected kindheartedness some people may have in them and I really enjoyed how well Mills displayed it. Mills never displayed the woman as gentle or naive, but it was rather the blunt way he portrayed her and how natural it was for her to just give.

As a treat to the audience Mills also performed one of his own works to compare it to Hughes “Merry go Round.” Mills performed his work titled “Great Adventure.” Both these works relate to segregation and racism. In both you can see the interaction the characters have with the issue of the race.  It’s kind of sad when you watch the performance and the children have to deal with the issue of racism on the rides. Mills “Great Adventure” is more of a modern day amusement park after Six Flags while during Hughes time there weren’t as many amusement parks. Mills tries to display how something we take for granted like all the amusement parks we have is precious to others and how they might not even be able to enjoy it as much. Throughout the story the children encounter segregation laws as they go on the rides. We see the guide cough after he says hold on to all your possessions which shows the stereotype that people hold. Compared to Mills interpretation of Hughes, the way he performs his own stories, is more active. There’s a lot more motion and it’s a lot more upbeat compared to his previous performance.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed David Mills performance. I felt that he interpreted Hughes really well and did a lot of research to get the right tone, feeling and message. His accents through the performance was to show where Hughes had written each work since he wrote one work in Italy and others in different areas. He also lived in Hughes old apartment for 3 years. I assume it would give him a better feel of the conditions Hughes was under when he wrote some of his works and the daily lifestyle Hughes would have in his neighborhood.



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