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‘Raisin’ Cane’ features work from African-American artists during the 1920s

Jasmine Guy stars in the one-woman show “Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey,” which is coming to Popejoy Hall. (Courtesy of David Polston Freelance LLC/Virginia Arts Festival)

Jasmine Guy stars in the one-woman show “Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey,” which is coming to Popejoy Hall. (Courtesy of David Polston Freelance LLC/Virginia Arts Festival)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jasmine Guy does it all – sings, dances, acts.

And it takes a lot of work.

The single mother to a 16-year-old daughter has been a staple in film, TV and theater for more than 30 years.

Her latest endeavor is the traveling play, “Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey.”

The production is set in the 1920s in Harlem, N.Y., when the American African-American community was leading up to the Harlem Renaissance, which was a time of poets, novelists, musicians, artists and actors all coming together to be a solid voice for change. It will make a stop at Popejoy Hall on Friday, Feb. 28.

“This is a dream show for me in that I get to play so many roles and to interpret what is some of this country’s greatest poets and writers’ works,” Guy says. “My longtime friend and colleague, the great jazz musician Avery Sharpe, wrote all the original music for the show and introduced me to the piece. I quickly fell in love with the show’s ability to provide a look into this vibrant period for African-American artists, most of whom could be found in Harlem in the 1920s. I love the wardrobe from that time, too; it was a time when people were really taking their place in society and strutting their stuff.”

In the production, Guy gets to transform by reading the words of greats such as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, W.E.B. Du Bois and others.

She grew up with the awareness of the period and writers and artists like Hughes, Hurston and Du Bois.

“I love how these artists were taking risks with their art, stepping out of the shadows and saying ‘we are here,'” she says. “Plus, I get to reunite with Avery Sharpe, who wrote the original score for ‘Raisin’ Cane,’ and who I first met when I was performing in the European tour of ‘Bubblin’ Brown Sugar’ in 1983, so we have great history together. I love interpreting and performing this powerful material, keeping the work of these artists alive for people to experience, with all original music by Avery.”

Guy says the 1920s was a great time period for American culture, especially for African Americans.

“It was a period of tremendous artistic achievement for black people in this country, and what was happening in Harlem at the time influenced people all over this country,” she says. “People of all races came to recognize the creativity and artistry of African-Americans.”

Aside from the touring show, Guy continues to travel the country speaking and will be part of the Ultimate Women’s Expo, which brings women together to share ideas, concepts and support for one another.

“I recently reunited with Kadeem Hardison on his Disney Channel show, ‘K.C. Undercover,’ which was tremendous fun,” she says. “I am working on my second book, and I direct both for stage and television.”

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