February 19, 2008

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LEWISBURG, Pa. — The Weis Center at Bucknell University will host Sekou Sundiata's "the 51st (dream) state" Friday, Feb. 29, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

African-American poet and performer Sekou Sundiata, whose works combine poetry, music and drama, was born in Harlem and taught at New York City's New School where he was writer-in-residence until his death in July 2007.

Responses to 9/11
Sundiata's last work, "the 51st (dream) state," is a cycle of songs, poems and monologues performed by an all-star ensemble of singers and instrumental musicians, supported by still and moving projected images.

"The show was born from responses to the September 11, 2001, attacks, but evolved into a deeper and thoughtful meditation on what it means to be an American and what it America is, was, will be, aspires to be …," said Bill Boswell, executive director for the Weis Center.

"The work, a not-easily-defined performance art piece outwardly resembling more than anything else (at least to me) a jazz festival or pop-rock concert, hones in on a wide range of issues including language, violence, compassion, power, love, destiny, beauty, and human solidarity," he added.

"That 'the 51st (dream) state' is touring in spite of the obstacles thrown up by Sundiata's untimely passing this past summer is evidence of how directly it speaks to United States citizens about the country’s most pressing issues," continued Boswell. "It is moving, joyful, disturbing, and thought-provoking. It doesn’t give answers to the questions it raises."

In "Poem #1 from the 51st (dream) state," Sundiata reflects on how, when a child, he enjoyed studying geography and how he felt proud when Alaska and Hawaii became states. Then he wonders what the 51st state will be, saying "Some said the Philippines and some said Puerto Rico." Sundiata ends his poem with, "But nobody, in those days, dreamed the next state would be war ... not until now."

Sekou Sundiata
Sundiata was a Columbia University Revson Fellow, a Lambent Arts Fellow, and a Master Artist-in-Residence at Florida's Atlantic Center for the Arts. He earned a Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellowship for his acclaimed theater work, "The Circle Unbroken is a Hard Bop."

A leading light of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Sundiata was featured as part of HBO's "Def Poetry Jam" and in Bill Moyers' PBS poetry series, "The Language of Life." Moyers said, "His music comes from so many places it is impossible to name them all. But I will wager that if we could trace their common origin, we'd arrive at the headwaters of the soul. Listen carefully and he'll take you there."

In conjunction with this event, Bucknell hosted a weeklong artists residency, "Citizenship: A Week of Arts & Ideas," early in February with company members who had worked with Sundiata in creating the show. They held a variety of events including poetry readings, a community sing, performances and discussions.

Tickets for this performance are available in person from the Campus Box Office in the Weis Center on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., or at the Bucknell University Bookstore, located on the ground floor of the Elaine Langone Center, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Advance tickets also are available online at www.bucknell.edu/Boxoffice or by calling 570-577-1000. The box office in the Weis Center lobby opens one hour prior to performances.

The 2007-08 season of Weis Center Events is generously supported by grants from the Bucknell University Association for the Arts and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Additional support for the series is provided by numerous and generous private donors including members of the Weis Center Green Room Circle and Green Room Board.

Contact: Office of Communications

Posted Feb. 19, 2008