It’s Thursday July 10th and actor/poet Saul Williams is still navigating that ever changing distance between rock and stardom. It’s about an hour before the veteran poet dons an orange jumpsuit and takes his place levitating above the stage in a cage in Kenny Leon’s Tupac inspired musical “Holler If You Hear Me.” His character John, an ex-convict trying to reacclimate to civilian life, is not Tupac but they have a few things in common, namely a tenuous relationship with their fathers, women and the American penal system.
However, right now there is none of that angst present. Williams smiles in his dressing room at the Palace Theater on Broadway with a homemade portrait of the late Shakur flanking his lanky frame. He patiently skims newspaper headlines chastising right-leaning politicians for their narrow world view, but pivots when the cameras turn on to speak passionately and clearly about his work and why this play inspired by the words of Tupac Shakur is unique and necessary.
“To hear women rapping and singing Tupac lyrics as if they wrote it says a lot about Tupac,” Williams tells TheUrbanDaily.com. “He identified strongly with single mothers, disenfranchised youth, ex-cons, prisoners and people of color in all walks of life. He had his eye and heart on the injustices happening in this society.”
Unfortunately, less than a week after this interview the producers announced that the production would be shutting down. Poor ticket sales plagued the musical almost from the start and the demands of Broadway simply could not be sustained. One of the lead producers, Eric L. Gold, stated that “I was unable to sustain this production longer in order to give it time to bloom on Broadway.”
“Broadway seems to be run by the politics of Disney,” Williams told TheUrbanDaily.com in a statement after finding out the production would end on Sunday August 20th. “We have animated our souls for this production. The response sheds light on how much of a struggle is still before us. If politics have no place in theater then theater will lose its place in society.”
But just as Tupac’s words still resonate almost twenty years after his death, Saul’s discussion of Tupac and his relationship to theater will be relevant long after the curtain closes on this production.
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