You might catch Summer Hill Seven bobbing his head to some hip-hop track one second and reciting a Shakespearean monologue the next. He keeps his urban sensibilities intact while expanding his mind and his repertoire. "All those plays that we lovingly refer to as the 'dead white men plays -- Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov, Sheridan, etc. -- that was my literary diet for three years. It was an acquired taste, I promise you, and yet it is an undeniable influence on my daily life."
Summer Hill Seven will mix a little Shaw and a lil Wayne to tell the story of Ruben Stacy, a black man lynched in Ft. Lauderdale on July 19, 1935. The details of the case are mostly unknown, but his story still needed telling. "I feel like Rubin Stacy has led me here to tell his story and I intend to continue to tell his story because his story is my story and his story is my history. Rubin Stacy's story is a uniquely South Florida story." The actor/writer/director brings Ruben Stacy: Seven Moves to life for the Miami Made Weekend series at the Arsht Center. Follow the jump for our Q&A with Mr. Seven.
New Times: First, tell us about poemedy. What is it?
Summer Hill Seven: Poemedy is often articulated as poetry mixed with comedy, tragedy, mystery, and poverty and spoken to a rhythm and a beat. That definition is the beginning of a conversation that has the aim of leading a literary revolution that touches every aspect of human communication.
Poemedy recognizes that every syllable uttered by humans is in fact a poem. Why? You may go to any open mike venue or location where people gather to hear poetic words spoken - stand before them and utter any syllable, sit down and wait only moments before the room will fill with wild applause for your utterance. Why? Why not?
A description of the play states how you use blues "with hip-hop and fusing comedy, poetry, memoir, movement & tragedy to artfully explore race in America and the human condition." Why do you feel that such a technique is the best way to tell Rubin Stacy's story?
Yes, while some people think of me as a part of the hip-hop theatre genre - and I am proud to be associated with any facet of hip-hop culture because that is the aesthetic that I most closely identify with - I also admit many other influences. Not the least of which is studying in an acting conservatory devoted to performing the great plays of the western cannon.
I especially identify with George Bernard Shaw. So when David Lamb and I worked on his first two plays together, Platanos and Auction Block, we both agreed that Shaw was right that you could tell people the truth but you have to make them laugh first. It would take one minute to tell that story [of Ruben Stacy]. I eventually want to take 70 minutes to tell the story to a Broadway audience.
What inspired you to tell Stacy's story?
Obama and I were in law school at the same time and we were both national law student leaders at the same time. So when Katrina hit and when Obama won, I asked myself, "what are you going to do about it?" We talk about being moved by something... And so the piece is currently called Rubin Stacy: Seven Moves because the evidence of how moved I was by Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath is what led me to write and publish my second book: Hang Time: A Poetic Memoir and this adaptation is about how moved we all are by Rubin Stacy's story.
How do you feel that the election of a self-identified black president has changed race relations in this country?
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I think it has had a peculiar and unexpected polarizing effect. We are now talking a lot more about this nebulous group called "bi-racial" or "multi-racial" and I say nebulous not as an insult rather to conjure the fog in my own mind about what the idea of race means anyway.
I mean everyone in my family is a different skin tone or complexion and my own mother would often say that she was not black. I have always focused more on the tastes and cultural practices and values of a group of people rather than the skin color of the person or their parents.
Miami Made Weekend starts Friday and runs through Sunday. Admission is free to all shows, but a VIP All-Access Pass can be purchased for $35 to guarantee seating. Rubin Stacey: Seven Moves premieres Sunday at 5:15 p.m. at the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater (1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami). Visit arshtcenter.org.