Born in the Bahamas in 1874, Bert Williams was a stage sensation by the turn of the 20th century. As was the custom with Vaudeville, he performed in blackface even though he was himself black. Flash forward to 1981, the eve of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. African-American Broadway star Ben Vereen is a household name, thanks largely to his Emmy-nominated performance in the smash TV mini-series Roots. Vereen’s performance at the inaugural celebration consisted of three parts: a comedic number, performed in blackface as a tribute to Williams; a comedy skit, where he attempts to buy the whole audience a round of drinks but can’t get any service because of his skin color; and a second number, a ballad called “Nobody,” which Vereen performed in front of a makeup mirror while removing the blackface. Ron and Nancy watched the performance from the front row, but the live television broadcast was censored after the first number, leaving Americans at home either baffled or angry. Los Angeles artist Edgar Arceneaux’s performance piece re-creates the second half of that performance, and considers its implications for the audience.
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December 01 2018
|Date:||December 1, 2018|
|Event Categories:||Featured, Performance|
|Event Tags:||Art, Ben Vereen, Bert Williams, Brown University, Edgar Arceneaux, Granoff Center for the Arts, Performance, touring, video|
Granoff Center, Studio 1154 Angell Street
Providence, RI 02912 United States