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Call Mr. Robeson: A Life, With Songs 

When: Wed., May 30, 8 p.m., Thu., May 31, 6 p.m., Fri., June 1, 6 p.m., Sat., June 2, 8 p.m. and Tue., June 5, 8 p.m. 2012
Phone: (866) 811-4111
Price: $22
www.piccolospoleto.com

The fall of a legend. From fame and fortune, Paul Robeson fell to disgrace and impoverishment. Before he was an acclaimed actor and singer, he was an athlete, scholar, and aspiring attorney. Considered a radical, he protested racial discrimination in the 1920s and '30s, supported the Communist party in the '40s, and was called a traitor in the 1950s.

A tragic figure of Shakespearean proportions. Robeson broke through the color barrier in theater and film playing Othello and Emperor Jones, and he is perhaps best remembered for his role as Joe in Showboat. His skyrocketing musical career included gospel, American standards, and traditional folksongs. Liverpudlian actor Tayo Aluko performs Robeson's speeches and songs, highlighted by his signature tune, "Ol' Man River" from Showboat.

An American story. Aluko's entertaining portrayal of Robeson illustrates the dichotomy of American culture and politics. The son of an escaped slaved turned minister and a Philadelphia socialite, Robeson conquered adversity to achieve artistic heights. In the fallout from racism, Robeson was denied a career in law, which allowed him to travel the world as an entertainer, but it also set the foundation for his political activism and persecution in the midst of the Red Scare and McCarthyism.

— Duffy Lewis

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