What We Feel and What We Mean
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Meet the Artist–David Mills/Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

Last Tuesday, I went to the Macaulay building to see David Mills perform his interpretation of some of Langston Hughes’s works. I personally really enjoyed his performance and was interested to see how he interpreted some of Hughes’s more famous poems.

I was really amazed at his commitment to the work. To be able to perform so many of Hughes’s poems and short stories in such a short amount of time demonstrate his passion for both literature and for theatre. I was especially taken by his performance of Madam Alberta K. The whole thing, besides being funny and humorous, brought to life for me the social and economic struggles of someone like Madam. I think it is surely a testament to Mills as a performer that by his third Madam sketch, I wasn’t seeing Mills anymore. I was seeing Madam Alberta K.

I also found it really interesting to learn more about Mills as a poet and author himself. Someone in the audience asked about how influential Hughes was as a poet on his own work, both consciously and subconsciously. Mills came to the realization that one of his poems, “Great Adventures,” greatly mirrored Hughes’s own poem “Merry-Go-Round.” I found it extremely interesting that subconsciously Mills mirrored his poetry on Hughes’s, albeit with a much more modern take on the same theme.

Mills’s performance of “Great Adventures” was greatly enjoyable as well. This part really demonstrated to me the difference between text and performance. If I was to read the text of the poem, I can guarantee I would not have enjoyed it as much. Having Mills himself perform the poem gives the watchers a much more in depth look at the theme of the poem, the intentions behind some of the word choices and the meaning behind the seemingly innocuous inserts that appeared in the poem.

Lastly, I feel the biggest accomplishment of Mills was to spark my interest in Langston Hughes. In middle school, I had read his more famous works like “Dream Deferred” and “Crystal Stair.” Watching the performance introduced me to his other less-known works like the Madam stories and “Merry-Go-Round.” I am proud to write that before writing this post, I actually read some of Hughes’s poetry and short stories. I am truly in awe of Hughes’s prowess both as a poet and as a social commentator.


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