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

I saw the works of Langston Hughes in a new light after watching David Mills’s amusing performance of various Hughes pieces.  Actually, before this performance, I was unaware that Hughes has also written 47 plays in addition to his poetry that I am more familiar with. I really enjoyed how Mills chose to put a several of Hughes’s short stories together into one big performance. He began the show in an unusual way- beginning before the audience even sees him on stage. Afterwards, the true art of David Mills and Langston Hughes is heard and seen. To enjoy the performance to the fullest, I believe that one has to listen closely to the various inflections, tones and pitches Mills carried with his voice. After all, he is a one-man show who has to portray a wide range of characters. He was very expressive in his acting and that in effect created the lack of need to have a different person for each different role. It was clever of Mills to perform one of his own works, “Great Adventure,” to juxtapose against Hughes’s “Merry Go Round.” Both works are related to segregation and racism, but Mills’s work is a more modern day interpretation of this social issue compared to Hughes’s piece. We see how that there are still difficulties for certain people to enjoy something as common as amusement park rides just because of racial prejudice. In this way, maybe Mills is also trying to say that Hughes has a profound impact on how societal issues are viewed in the past and present. What’s special about having particularly David Mills perform Langston Hughes is the kind of deeper understanding Mills has about Hughes’s life since Mills lived in Hughes’s old apartment for three years. Therefore, he could easily have seen Hughes’s life through his own eyes.


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