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Tony Award-Winning Musical Writer to Headline MCLA's Annual Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship Concert

10/13/2011

NORTH ADAMS, MA - Tony Award-winning musical writer STEW, of the Broadway hit jazz-rock musical "Passing Strange," and his artistic partner Heidi Rodewald of "Stew and The Negro Problem," will headline this year's Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship Concert at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA). They will be joined by Broadway veteran Jon Spurney.

The concert will take place on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m., in the MCLA Church Street Center Auditorium as part of the College's MCLA Presents! performance series, with all proceeds to benefit the Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship.

Stew and Rodewald will perform hits from their Broadway Musical "Passing Strange," which combines jazz, rock and rap in a coming-of-age tale of a young, African-American man, as well as some of the seminal work of Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht.

According to NPR's Bob Lord, "Stew's concert performances are coveted for their literate precision, sly humor and deep emotional resonance, hovering between the divergent world of rock and theater."

The New Yorker wrote, "Singer/raconteur Stew combines elements of cabaret, soul and subversive pop to create a unique style he's dubbed, 'Afro-baroque.'"

Stew's works include "Passing Strange," for which he received the 2008 Tony award for "Best Book of a Musical." He wrote the lyrics and co-composed music for the same. In addition, he is a two-time Obie winner for "Best New Theater Piece" and "Best Ensemble."

Stew also composed "Gary Come Home" for the television show "SpongeBob SquarePants." A four-time Tony nominee, Stew leads - along with Rodewald - two critically acclaimed bands: The Negro Problem and Stew.

Rodewald has spent more than a decade as a performer, arranger, producer and composer for both "The Negro Problem" and the multi-disciplinary ensemble known as Stew. Her credits include "Passing Strange," Berkeley Repertory Theatre/the Public Theater/the Belasco Theater (2006/2007/2008); composer, Karen Kandel's "Portraits: Night and Day" (2004); and co-writer with Stew of the screenplay "We Can See Today," Sundance Screenwriters Lab/Directors Lab (2005). She also wrote and performed with the seminal female punk band Wednesday Week.

Spurney played keyboards on David Byrne's latest album, "Looking Backward," and played guitar and sang on John Cale's recent release "Hobo Sapiens." He has performed with artists as diverse as Jewel, Natalie Merchant, Stew and Amy Rigby, and has made numerous television appearances including NBC's "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno and "CBS This Morning." He performed in Sarah McClachlan's Lilith Fair Festival in 1999, and most recently appeared at the HBO Comedy Fest in Aspen with TastiSkank.

Spurney most recently composed and performed music for the new sketch comedy show "Short Circuitz," on MTV. He also composed and performed incidental music for "The Colbert Report" and "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. He has composed jingles for television commercials for over 19 years and was awarded a Bronze Lion at the Cannes film festival for his commercial scoring work. He provides live piano accompaniment for silent films at New York City's Museum of Modern Art, The American Museum of the Moving Image, and for the Film Studies Department of Yale University.

Each year, a scholarship is awarded in Hart's name to one or more ALANA (African, Latino, Asian and Native American) student leaders. A life-long resident of Berkshire County, she attended both grade and high schools in Williamstown. Hart was one of the first students of color to graduate from State Teachers College at North Adams in 1935, now known as MCLA. She received a master's degree at Columbia University and an honorary doctorate from MCLA in 1996. She taught for three decades in the Pittsfield public schools, where she was the first African American to hold such a post. 

This concert is sponsored by the MCLA Multicultural Resource Center and clubs, as well as the Hart Scholarship Committee.

MCLA Presents! is a program of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC), a collaborative project with Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and the City of North Adams. The BCRC provides professional development training, resources and support to the artists, art managers and creative workers of Berkshire County. Through its multiple programs and presentations, BCRC brings the best of performance and art to the Berkshires and showcases the best of the Berkshires to the world. 

Tickets to "Stew and The Negro Problem" are $10 for general admission. Tickets for MCLA alumni are $8, $5 for staff and faculty, and members and students are free. For tickets, call 413-662-5204. For information, call 413-664-8718, or go to www.mcla.edu/presents .