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New Play Features Paul Robeson’s Legacy – An Update

August 3, 2019

Robeson still inspires us to recall the Cold War

African-American singer-actor-activist Paul Robeson continues to inspire and raise awareness of the controversial politics that surrounded the man, as the new play 8 Hotels attests.

Early reviews of the play, playing on the London stage August 1-24, 2019, do not indicate that playwright Nicholas Wright’s script includes Robeson’s famed Peace Arch concerts in the early 1950s on the Canada-United States border at Blaine, WA. However, a BBC article by Vincent Dowd does share views about Robeson’s political fight to regain his passport and his undying battle for racial justice.

Canadian Emma Paetz stars as Uta Hagen, wife of actor Jose Ferrer and Robeson’s love interest in the play partly based on Robeson’s 1943 America tour of Othello. “There are huge things talked about such as inter-racial relationships and racism and the political persecution in America in the McCarthy era,” Paetz told Dowd. “Lots of those themes find an echo today. But what I really love is that it’s all filtered through intimate, very personal conversations with just a small cast. It’s very passionate.”

See my article “Mine-Mill’s Peace Arch Concerts: How a ‘Red’ Union and a Famous Singer-Activist Fought for Peace and Social Justice During the Cold War,” BC Studies 174, Summer 2012. See Vincent Dowd, “Paul Robeson’s Othello: How Stage Passion Spilled Into Real Life, BBC News, August 3, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-49176524

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