The cast of MetroStage’s production of “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been …”
Photo Courtesy of MetroStage
“Politics can be the graveyard of the poet. And only Poetry can be his resurrection.” — Langston Hughes (1964).
Art and Politics. Two vital aspects of our lives, our society, our culture. And sometimes they clash and collide. In 1953 during the red scare, the government’s witch hunt for Communist sympathizers in the entertainment industry and the arts was in full force with U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy leading the troops. Many artists lost jobs, their livelihood and were ruined. This is the setting for “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been …” when the Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes was called before Senator McCarthy’s subcommittee.
MetroStage is very pleased to be presenting the second production of Carlyle Brown’s timely, almost prescient play. In 2012 it was historic. In 2017 it is historic, timely and an important reminder of what can occur when a government is out of control and threatens the free speech and thoughts of its constituency. Playwright Brown has fictionalized the account of Hughes being called before the Senate Subcommittee but as an audience you will be exposed to the evocative poetry and music that so reflects the Harlem Renaissance and the times, and you will also experience what was happening in the Senate Chambers to so many.
In addition to Langston Hughes there are actors playing the roles of Senators McCarthy and Everett Dirksen, counsel Roy Cohn and David Schine, and Langston’s lawyer Frank Reeves. It is a fascinating window into the mind of a poet, an African American poet reflecting on the Harlem Renaissance and the times, and the inner workings of this Senate Committee that terrorized so many artists. So enjoy the play, the original music supporting the poetry, and also reflect on what we are witnessing as history continues to unfold before us daily. Poetry, Music and Politics are on stage at MetroStage this month.