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Broadway-Style Performance Featured at Schools Across Territory

Dec. 4, 2007 — School students across the territory this week are enjoying a performance of a Broadway-style show that has entertained audiences around the nation: "The World is My Home: The Life and Times of Paul Robeson."
It's a one-man show, written, produced and performed by Jamaica native Stogie Kenyatta, a classically trained stage, television and screen actor, as well as screenwriter and stand-up comic.
Robeson, the son of a slave, became history's first black Renaissance man and one of America's most complex, brilliant citizens. Fluent in several languages, including Russian, Robeson was regarded by many as an intellectual and artistic genius. He was an early crusader for civil and human rights, but was also blackballed because of his ties to Russia, though he was never a communist.
Kenyatta performed Monday at Charlotte Amalie High School and Tuesday at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School. He performs Wednesday at Antilles School, then flies to St. Croix for shows Thursday and Friday at the St. Croix Educational Complex.
The V.I. Department of Education and Antilles School invited Kenyatta to perform to students in the wake of his September debut on St. Thomas as a guest of the University of the Virgin Islands. Though the venue was small and the crowd meager — Kenyatta expressed dismay that so few U.V.I. students attended an event that he has performed to packed university houses around the nation — word of the quality of his performance spread rapidly.
"The department is pleased to be able to bring this engaging, exciting and educationally valuable presentation to the students of this territory," said Acting Education Commissioner Donna Frett-Gregory in a written statement. "It is our hope that through Mr. Kenyatta's talented and thought-provoking performance our students gain an appreciation and alternate perspective, forging greater interest in the arts."
The performance brings an added dimension to history, said Paul Horovitz, head of Antilles School.
"The universality of Paul Robeson appeals to anyone of any culture," he said. "You can teach history from books, but this sort of performance brings it to life, and then sends kids back to the classroom to learn more."
Students packed the auditorium at CAHS Monday and immediately engaged with Kenyatta, whose performance elicits spontaneous responses as he occasionally transforms the audience into his neighbors while portraying Robeson as a boy of 5. He again draws audience response as he portrays Robeson in his early 20s, a swaggering lady's man enjoying the Harlem Renaissance and music by the likes of Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and Cab Calloway. "Hi dee hi dee hi dee hi," Kenyatta calls out, encouraging a response from the audience.
"This is just terrific," said CAHS Principal Jeanette Smith following the performance. "I think our students studying drama, literature, history, music all learned something today. There was just so much for everybody. It was truly the best we've had here, and I'm so glad the students had the opportunity to be exposed to this."
"I think the show was excellent," said CAHS junior Shermal Smith. "It was an eye opener, and it taught a lot about self confidence. It was the first time I ever saw anything like this, and it was wonderful. We need to bring more stuff like this to our schools."
"It is my privilege," Kenyatta said following his CAHS performance. "The students and faculty could not have been more receptive."
At Kean, lighting, sound and schedule complications hampered Kenyatta's show and prompted him to cut scenes mid-performance. Students — including some from Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School — seemed unaware, however, and broke out in loud applause as the show concluded with Robeson, an aged man, imagining sounds and images of slave ships crossing the Atlantic.
Kenyatta performs 10 separate characters during the show, with no intermission and all costume changes done on stage. He tantalized students with his seamless vacillation between portraying Robeson's girlfriend and Robeson himself as they discuss getting engaged.
"Don't you feel like you're going crazy?" asked one CAHS student, as Kenyatta entertained questions following his performance.
"The hardest part is playing the boy," Kenyatta replied, referencing the show's opening, in which the 6-foot 5-inch Kenyatta portrays Robeson as a rambunctious 5 year old. "It's hard because I have to raise my voice really high and he's got a lot of energy. But acting is about becoming someone else, and I don't feel like I'm going crazy, because it's not me."
Students at both schools were eager to learn about Kenyatta's other credits, which include spots on TV shows like "E.R.," "JAG," "The Bernie Mac Show," "Matlock" and "Jake and the Fatman," and movies including "Batman and Robin" and "Half Past Dead 2."
But his real passion is bringing his portrayal of Robeson, whom he regards as an inspirational force in his life, to students around the nation.
Robeson, born in 1898, was the third black to attend Rutgers University, was All American and graduated valedictorian. He went on to Columbia University School of Law, graduating with honors, but eventually left law when he was not allowed to appear in court because of the color of his skin. Instead he discovered acting and singing, performing to packed audiences in European capitals and in Russia. Robeson was also a professional football player.
Kenyatta, in speaking to students following his show, held Robeson up as an example of the importance of education in their lives. Looking at the Kean audience, he said, "Every one of you is going to college, right?"
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Dec. 4, 2007 -- School students across the territory this week are enjoying a performance of a Broadway-style show that has entertained audiences around the nation: "The World is My Home: The Life and Times of Paul Robeson."
It's a one-man show, written, produced and performed by Jamaica native Stogie Kenyatta, a classically trained stage, television and screen actor, as well as screenwriter and stand-up comic.
Robeson, the son of a slave, became history's first black Renaissance man and one of America's most complex, brilliant citizens. Fluent in several languages, including Russian, Robeson was regarded by many as an intellectual and artistic genius. He was an early crusader for civil and human rights, but was also blackballed because of his ties to Russia, though he was never a communist.
Kenyatta performed Monday at Charlotte Amalie High School and Tuesday at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School. He performs Wednesday at Antilles School, then flies to St. Croix for shows Thursday and Friday at the St. Croix Educational Complex.
The V.I. Department of Education and Antilles School invited Kenyatta to perform to students in the wake of his September debut on St. Thomas as a guest of the University of the Virgin Islands. Though the venue was small and the crowd meager -- Kenyatta expressed dismay that so few U.V.I. students attended an event that he has performed to packed university houses around the nation -- word of the quality of his performance spread rapidly.
"The department is pleased to be able to bring this engaging, exciting and educationally valuable presentation to the students of this territory," said Acting Education Commissioner Donna Frett-Gregory in a written statement. "It is our hope that through Mr. Kenyatta's talented and thought-provoking performance our students gain an appreciation and alternate perspective, forging greater interest in the arts."
The performance brings an added dimension to history, said Paul Horovitz, head of Antilles School.
"The universality of Paul Robeson appeals to anyone of any culture," he said. "You can teach history from books, but this sort of performance brings it to life, and then sends kids back to the classroom to learn more."
Students packed the auditorium at CAHS Monday and immediately engaged with Kenyatta, whose performance elicits spontaneous responses as he occasionally transforms the audience into his neighbors while portraying Robeson as a boy of 5. He again draws audience response as he portrays Robeson in his early 20s, a swaggering lady's man enjoying the Harlem Renaissance and music by the likes of Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and Cab Calloway. "Hi dee hi dee hi dee hi," Kenyatta calls out, encouraging a response from the audience.
"This is just terrific," said CAHS Principal Jeanette Smith following the performance. "I think our students studying drama, literature, history, music all learned something today. There was just so much for everybody. It was truly the best we've had here, and I'm so glad the students had the opportunity to be exposed to this."
"I think the show was excellent," said CAHS junior Shermal Smith. "It was an eye opener, and it taught a lot about self confidence. It was the first time I ever saw anything like this, and it was wonderful. We need to bring more stuff like this to our schools."
"It is my privilege," Kenyatta said following his CAHS performance. "The students and faculty could not have been more receptive."
At Kean, lighting, sound and schedule complications hampered Kenyatta's show and prompted him to cut scenes mid-performance. Students -- including some from Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School -- seemed unaware, however, and broke out in loud applause as the show concluded with Robeson, an aged man, imagining sounds and images of slave ships crossing the Atlantic.
Kenyatta performs 10 separate characters during the show, with no intermission and all costume changes done on stage. He tantalized students with his seamless vacillation between portraying Robeson's girlfriend and Robeson himself as they discuss getting engaged.
"Don't you feel like you're going crazy?" asked one CAHS student, as Kenyatta entertained questions following his performance.
"The hardest part is playing the boy," Kenyatta replied, referencing the show's opening, in which the 6-foot 5-inch Kenyatta portrays Robeson as a rambunctious 5 year old. "It's hard because I have to raise my voice really high and he's got a lot of energy. But acting is about becoming someone else, and I don't feel like I'm going crazy, because it's not me."
Students at both schools were eager to learn about Kenyatta's other credits, which include spots on TV shows like "E.R.," "JAG," "The Bernie Mac Show," "Matlock" and "Jake and the Fatman," and movies including "Batman and Robin" and "Half Past Dead 2."
But his real passion is bringing his portrayal of Robeson, whom he regards as an inspirational force in his life, to students around the nation.
Robeson, born in 1898, was the third black to attend Rutgers University, was All American and graduated valedictorian. He went on to Columbia University School of Law, graduating with honors, but eventually left law when he was not allowed to appear in court because of the color of his skin. Instead he discovered acting and singing, performing to packed audiences in European capitals and in Russia. Robeson was also a professional football player.
Kenyatta, in speaking to students following his show, held Robeson up as an example of the importance of education in their lives. Looking at the Kean audience, he said, "Every one of you is going to college, right?"
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.