WMU News

Luminary actor to perform at WMU

Sept. 3, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- A celebrated stage, screen and television actor is coming to town to perform as an artist-in-residence at Western Michigan University.

Tony Award-winning actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson will star in his critically acclaimed, one-man play "Lackawanna Blues" Sept. 19-22. He has received rave reviews for his production, earning an OBIE Award and Drama Desk nomination.

Santiago-Hudson has a long list of credits to go with those awards. He recently co-starred with John Travolta in Paramount Pictures' "Domestic Disturbance" and in RS Production's and Showtime Entertainment's "The Red Sneakers" opposite Gregory Hines. He also recently completed the independent feature "Winning Girls Through Psychic Mind Control" starring Bronson Pinchot and directed by Oscar-nominee Barry Alexander Brown.

Among Santiago-Hudson's many television credits are the CBS miniseries "American Tragedy" in which he played Christopher Darden opposite Ron Silver as Robert Shapiro; NBC's "Hunt for the Unicorn Killer" with Tom Skerritt; and ABC's production of "Rear Window" with Christopher Reeve. He has appeared on "Law and Order," "NYPD Blue," "New York Undercover" and "Murphy Brown," while his series roles include Captain Billy Cooper on the daytime drama "Another World" and Curtis on "Dear John," both on NBC. His other film credits include starring with Al Pacino in "Devil's Advocate" as the attorney who recruits Keanau Reeves and co-starring in "Shaft" with Samuel L. Jackson.

A star both on and off Broadway, Santiago-Hudson won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Featured Performer in August Wilson's acclaimed "Seven Guitars." He made his Broadway debut as Buddy Bolden opposite Hines in "Jelly's Last Jam."

Critics have warmly praised "Lackawanna Blues," which marks Santiago-Hudson's first foray into playwriting. The production tells the story of Santiago-Hudson's childhood in the 1960s in the town of Lackawanna, N.Y., on the shores of Lake Erie outside Buffalo. Then a prosperous mill town and shipping port, Lackawanna boasted its share of good-times entertainment, both legal and illegal, from restaurants and night clubs to after-hours drinking and gambling establishments. Born to young, unsettled parents, young Ruben was left in the care of Rachel Crosby, owner of two boarding houses, a shuttle service and after-hours drinking and gambling den.

The show is a tribute to Miss Rachel or "Nanny," as young Ruben calls her. Many of the speakers in the play are boarders in Miss Rachel's establishment, which served as a safe haven for various ne'er-do-wells and the down-and-out searching for a port in the storm. All are treated to Miss Rachel's big heart and her clean rooms.

The production has won high praise for Santiago-Hudson for both acting and writing.

"Santiago-Hudson, a skilled actor, slips into the skins of more than a dozen characters in the course of the evening, and he makes each distinct and pungent with life," wrote a reviewer in Variety. "If his acting gifts were previously known, his knack for writing is a happy surprise... The humor, ease and vividness of his writing are continually impressive."

A reviewer for Newsday wrote, " 'Lackawanna Blues' is an acting lesson in the best sense. Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the one man in this one-man show, demonstrates a series of impressive physical transformations in portraying the 23 speaking characters in 'Blues.' "

Even The New York Times weighed in with enthusiastic approval, saying " 'Lackawanna Blues' is an unashamed work of thanks, and it is so humble and warm that the honesty of its spirit is never in question... Mr. Santiago-Hudson does a virtuoso turn as a performer." Another Times article put Santiago-Hudson on a par with such stars as Glenn Close, Billy Crudup, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Kenneth Branagh, Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep.

The University Theatre will serve as host of four performances of the play. Shows are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 19-21, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22. A post-show discussion with Santiago-Hudson will follow the Sunday performance. An opening night reception is on Thursday with the University Theatre Guild acting as host.

Patrons are cautioned that the production contains adult situations and language and may not be suitable for younger viewers.

Tickets are $16 for adults; $12 for seniors age 62 and above and WMU faculty and staff; and $7 for students. Rush tickets for students only will be available two hours prior to each performance, subject to availability for those with student ID. For more information, call the Gilmore Theatre Complex Ticket Office at (269) 387-6222.

Santiago-Hudson's residency is sponsored in part by the Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College Guest Artist Series, which is supported by the Dorothy U. Dalton Enrichment Fund; the Plaza Arts Circle; and WMU's Women's Studies Program, Division of Multicultural Affairs, King/Chavez/Parks Program, and Cultural Events Committee.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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