Laughin' to Keep From Cryin': Oh! Those Blues of Langston Hughes

By Quanda Johnson

Directed by Quanda Johnson

Very few poets had the pulse of their community like Langston Hughes. A young lion of the Harlem Renaissance, he was descendant to a long line of "race" men and women. Born in poverty on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri, Hughes' life was destined to be steeped in Black excellence, activism, and the Blues. The grandmother who raised him was the widow of Sheridan Leary, one of a handful of Black men who died in John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry. As a baby, Hughes had been wrapped in Leary's bullet-riddled shawl, and his soul must have been stamped with the poetic irony of that defining gesture.

LAUGHIN' TO KEEP FROM CRYIN': Oh! Those Blues of Langston Hughes, conceived and curated by Quanda Johnson, is a multilayered tribute to Langston Hughes in his own words. Woven together with his poetry and passion for the Blues, it features dance, a four-piece band, and artists of the spoken word. LAUGHIN' TO KEEP FROM CRYIN' celebrates Hughes, not only as the poet laureate of Harlem, but as a literary genius who wrote in every literary form from poems to plays to editorials. His voice was saturated with humor and joy, but also with pathos and a keen awareness of what it means to be Black in the Atlantic world.

Quanda Johnson is a Fulbright Scholar and doctoral candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She seeks ways to utilize performance to disrupt, and consequently alter, entrenched, cyclical assumptions about Blackness and the African Diaspora. Quanda presented her original works, In Search of Negroland: a different study of the negro race and The Ballad of Anthony Crawford: a love letter to america at the Gallatin Arts Festival, New York University, in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Both are part of her upcoming dissertation artistic performance and gallery exhibition, Trauerspiel: Subject into Nonbeing (spring 2022). This November, she will be featured in the world premiere of T.J. Elliott and Joe Queenan's new play, Genealogy, at Madison's Broom Street Theater.

Produced by Fermat's Last Theater Company at The Crucible, 3116 Commercial Ave, Madison

Performances: September 30, 2021

Performance Times:
Thursday, September 30, at 8 PM

Free admission

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