Event Information

Passing Strange

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This spring Ujima Theatre Company will be inaugurating their new home with a floor-boards rattling raucous production of Passing Strange, the story of a young black man’s migration from
Los Angeles to Europe, and subsequent coming of age as an artist, that will stay in your bones long after you’ve left your seat.


Part rock, funk, and blues performance – part theatrical production – there’s very little on stage that can rival Passing Strange. In this soulful autobiography, our narrator Stew recounts his
youth growing up in middle class 1970s Los Angeles, and being rooted in the black church, before crossing the ocean to live in Berlin and Amsterdam where he discovers new perspectives on blackness, questions of responsibility, and figuring out how to become someone who was always just beyond his grasp. For Stew, and the audience, home must become a long distant memory before it can be unearthed and brought back into the light.


Permeating throughout is a love letter to the impact of black music that stretches from its gospel roots, to its forgotten history in punk and rock n’ roll, to the rhythms of our very beating hearts. Call it a concert, with its own story to tell.


Few are better suited to tell this story than Ujima Company. Lorna C. Hill, the founder and artistic director of Ujima, has made a name for herself by elevating the nuances and beauty of
black life, providing generations of Western New York audiences with stark and gripping portrayals of black humanity. Ms. Hill is joined by piano virtuoso Michelle Thomas as music
director and keyboardist, and Naila Ansari, who defines energy and edge, as choreographer. Together they lead a cast of Ujima veterans and newcomers – Brian Brown, Augustus Donaldson, Jacqueline Cherry, Preach Freedom, Zoë Scruggs, London Lee and Tianna Livingston – powerful black talent who generously leave their absolute everything on stage night after night. Their performances will provoke thunderous applause and sublimely quiet introspection when you least expect it.


Passing Strange made its Tony-nominated Broadway debut in 2008 and has spent the last decade weaving a tale of leaving your home, your country, the only life you’ve ever known in
order to find out who you really are. It’s a story of blackness that runs against the grain, as gut-wrenching as it is high energy. Buffalo has not seen anything like it. When Stew sings out, “Is it all right?” You’re going to find yourself leaping to your feet to call back in love and pain, “Yeah, it’s all right.” With Ujima at the helm, it’s all right and more.


The Grand Opening weekend of Ujima’s production of Passing Strange is May 3 - 5, which will also be the public opening of our new home, a freshly refurbished theater in the former School
77 at 429 Plymouth Street on Buffalo’s West Side. The theater is an integral part of PUSH Buffalo’s state-of-the-art renovation of the former school into its own offices as well as the Peace of the City after-school program and affordable senior housing. We invite you to join us as we celebrate our new home together.