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The Works of Langston Hughes

Tuesday, April 23, 2024 @ 7:00pm



Grunin Center - Black Box Theater
1 College Drive, Toms River, NJ 08754

Actor and writer David Mills’ performance takes the audience on an odyssey spanning five decades—from the 1920s-through the 1960s– of Hughes’ writings, where Mr. Mills portrays Hughes’ notable characters, such as Madam Alberta K. Johnson and Jessie B. Simple. Mr. Mills enacts excerpts of Hughes’ iconic, poetry collection “Montage of A Dream Deferred,” too. Hughes’ work lends itself to dramatic interpretation because Langston frequently wrote persona poems (poems in the first-person voices of people such as the aforementioned Alberta K.)

Mr. Mills brings to life Hughes’ African-American characters–individuals who migrated to Harlem during the early 20th century. Mr. Mills’ performance highlights Hughes’ unending love for Harlem–with its foibles and fantasies, its beauty and brutality. Mr. Mills plays both white and black Americans, young and old, and male and female characters whom Langston created.

The show explores Hughes’ penchant for both humor and pathos. And Mr. Mills dramatically interprets Langston Hughes’ contribution to modernist poetry–the blues poem. Hughes’ classic pieces such as “I’ve Known Rivers,” “Mother to Son,” “Theme for English B” and “I, Too” are enacted alongside lesser-known, but equally powerful Hughes poems such as Merry Go Round, and Advice, giving the audience a nuanced look at Langston. Mr. Mills also performs short-stories such as Hughes’ “Thank You Ma’am” and the hilarious, ironic and little known “Rock, Church” is one of the evening’s centerpieces.

About David Mills

Mr. Mills lived in Langston Hughes’ landmark Harlem home for three years and has been performing a show of his works for two decades. he has performed for the Mayor of Washington D.C., Yale University, James Madison University and many other venues. Mr. Mills has also published four collections: Boneyarn—the first book of poems about slavery in New York City, 2022 winner of the Poetry Society of Virginia North American Book Award and finalist for the Housatonic Book Award—The Sudden Country, The Dream Detective and After Mistic. His poems have appeared in Callaloo, Ploughshares, Colorado Review, Crab Orchard Review, Jubilat, The Common, Worcester Review, Fence, Rattapallax, The Literary Review. He has received fellowships from the Schomburg Center, the New York Foundation for the Arts, Breadloaf, The American Antiquarian Society, The Queens Council on the Arts and Flushing Town Hall and Washington College. He has been a recipient of the Langston Hughes Society Award and the Brooklyn Non-Fiction Prize.  He wrote the audio script for Macarthur-Genius-Award Winner Deborah Willis’ curated exhibition: Reflections in Black:100 Years of Black Photography. The Juilliard School of Drama commissioned and produced a play by Mr. Mills.

This event is sponsored by the Ocean County College Foundation.

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