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CONTACT: Kim Fowler, program and development coordinator, Committee on Black Performing Arts: (650) 725-6739,
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Natural Man opens Feb. 13 at Pigott Theater

John Henry, the protagonist of Theodore Browne's 1937 folk opera Natural Man, finds himself trapped in a physical stereotype that is both revered and reviled.

The character is based on the real-life John Henry, a freed slave who went to work as a steel-driver on West Virginia's Big Bend Tunnel in 1870. Drilling holes for dynamite, he wielded a sledgehammer with strength and stamina that became legendary. Around this time, however, steam-powered drills were being introduced. The story goes that Henry challenged the new technology in a classic contest of man versus machine. According to a balladic recounting of the tale, Henry won, but died as a result of his efforts.

A Stanford production of Natural Man, sponsored by the Drama Department and the Committee on Black Performing Arts, opens next week in Pigott Theater. Directed by drama Professor Harry Elam, performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Feb. 13-15 and 20-22.

A symposium that looks at two of the play's themes -- the stereotyping of black masculinity and African Americans' struggle for access to technology -- in a contemporary context is set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Humanities Center. The symposium, which is free and open to the public, will feature Newsweek contributing editor and author Ellis Cose and Omar Wasow, executive director of

In addition, a conversation with the play's cast, director and dramaturge will take place immediately following the Feb. 20 performance. That conversation also is free and open to the public.

Admission to the play is $12 general, $10 faculty/staff and $8 student. Tickets are available at the door or through the Ticket Office in Tresidder Union (725-2787).



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