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Hip-hop festival features team behind ‘Passing Strange’

April 1, 2010

In a convergence of film, music and powerhouse performance arts, this year’s fourth annual Line Breaks festival will offer the opportunity to view the film “Passing Strange” on Monday, April 12, then hear the inside story on the creative process behind the Broadway production in a special cast and creator panel on Tuesday, April 20.

Line Breaks is an annual hip-hop theater festival sponsored by the University of Wisconsin–Madison Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives and includes a variety of performances from professionals and UW–Madison students. All festival events from April 12-23 are free and open to the public, but tickets are required for some events.

“Passing Strange” takes musical theater on a daring new musical journey across boundaries of place, identity and theatrical convention. Stew, a popular performer at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan, was commissioned by the Public Theater of New York to develop this story of a young bohemian who charts a course for “the real” through sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

The panel discussion at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20, in the Wisconsin Historical Society Auditorium will feature three key cast members and creators from “Passing Strange.” Stew received the 2008 Tony Award for “Best Book of a Musical” for “Passing Strange” and co-wrote the music with his collaborator, Heidi Rodewald. The show won two Obies — awards for Off-Broadway theater — for best new theater piece and best ensemble east.

Also joining the April 20 panel will be Colman Domingo, who plays everything from a church choir director to a German performance artist in the film.

At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 21, in the Wisconsin Historical Society Auditorium, Domingo will bring his autobiographical solo show “A Boy and His Soul” to Madison for its Midwest premiere. The show garnered critical acclaim from the New York Times, Variety, the Village Voice and other publications. The critically acclaimed actor, director and writer stars on the Rosie O’Donnell produced LOGO/MTV Networks series “The Big Gay Sketch Show.”

The Line Breaks festival will also mark the debut performance venue for the UW–Madison First Wave Hip-Hop Theater Ensemble. On Thursday and Friday, April 15 and 16, the Freshman Ensemble will perform at 7 p.m. in the Wisconsin Historical Society Auditorium. Taking the stage in special solo appearances at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20, in the Wisconsin Historical Society Auditorium are First Wave junior Danez Smith, sophomore Camea Osborn and freshman Jessica Diaz-Hurtado. At 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 22, is the First Wave Sophomore Showcase.

On Friday, April 23, Janelle Monae will perform at 8 p.m. on the Union Terrace in a performance presented by in partnership with UW–Madison’s Multicultural Student Coalition. A 2009 Grammy nominee in the Best Urban/Alternative Performance category for her single “Many Moons,” Monae has had festival appearances and opening slots for the indie pop band Of Montreal.

Wrapping up the week at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 24, at the Union Theater is Marc Bamuthi Joseph, who helped kick off the Line Breaks series four years ago. An internationally renowned spoken-word artist, Joseph is one of an emerging class of hip-hop theater artists who combines a variety of art forms in his work.

Tickets for Joseph’s show are available at the Union Theater box office.

For more information about all the events, visit