Actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson has hundreds of creative accomplishments under his belt. From award winning plays to television, Santiago-Hudson has cemented his place as one of Hollywood’s most hardworking artist. He is now bringing one of those plays back after almost two decades after its original debut.
“Lackawanna Blues,” the award winning one-man play montage sharing Hudson’s life experiences, debuted in Los Angeles on March 13 and will run through April 21 at the Mark Taper Forum. The play is performed, directed, and written by Santiago-Hudson with live music by blues guitarist Chris Thomas King.
Originally debuted in 2001 in New York, the play grew a wide audience and landed an HBO movie in 2005. Santiago-Hudson spoke to the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper about the overall creation of this heartwarming play.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL (LAS): What was the process of creating “Lackawanna Blues?” How did this all begin?
RUBEN SANTIAGO-HUDSON (RH): It started in 1999 in writing. I started writing the play on the prompt from George C. Wolfe.
He was a dear friend. George told me he was fascinated by my story and pushed me to write the play. The theater told me I could name it whatever I wanted so it became “Lackawanna Blues.”
LAS: What brought forth the revival of the play?
RH: The play has been dormant for almost eighteen years. Under the request of my collaborator Bill Simms, who made his transition in February, he told me that we have to do the play again. He said the world needs to hear it again especially with our society’s situation. We are living in a politically and racially charged division right now. I never intended coming this far to Los Angeles however the people have been great and totally embraced me.
LAS: Rachel “Nanny” Crosby is mentioned throughout the play. Can you speak about how she impacted your life and others?
RH: Well she was a savior. She saved as many people who needed her as possible. I’m one of the dozens of children she took in. Not only did she take in children, but also the homeless, abused women, drifters, or anyone who needed a place to land. These women exist all over the country but rarely are they celebrated. I wanted to make a universal celebration of the black women in our country who have been our rocks.
LAS: It’s great that you are using your art to tell a bigger story. How important is art to move our society forward?
RH: Art reflects society. It reflects your emotional, psychological, intellectual, and political influence. When times are hard, art gets hard. When times need love, art brings love. Our art always reflects the need to the community. Sometimes it may just be a wake up call. Now, I’m not saying every art brings the truth. Some artists just want to make money but don’t bring enlightenment. If I’m entertaining you, I should also enlighten you too.
LAS: With the success of “Lackawanna Blues,” what advice would you give to aspiring artists?
RH: Well first, you have to be true to yourself. Second part is not to be afraid to step out of the lines that have already drawn. No one can define you but you. Also, be true to your community. Great amounts of people begin chasing that dollar and forget about integrity.
I personally have sacrificed a lot of dollars for integrity. We have to stop being bought. We must sustain our art and trust each other.
The one thing that I do maintain is my freedom. I’m truly blessed that I spend the majority of the year doing exactly what I want.
Tickets for “Lackawanna Blues” are available at CenterTheatreGroup.org. You can also purchase in person at the Center Theatre Group Box Office at the Ahmanson Theater at the Music Center in Downtown Los Angeles.