Stew & Heidi/The Negro Problem: Notes of a Native Song

The Negro Problem/Stew & Heidi

Notes of a Native Song

Inspired by James Baldwin

"I was blown away by what I saw."  - Spike Lee on Passing Strange

"A tour-de-force of the why-didn't-anyone-think-of-this-before? variety.” The Village Voice

“A celebration of Baldwin’s legacy as an inspiration for artists to create their own work that, like his, defies genres and expectations.” – The New York Times

LISTEN TO STEW on WNYC talk about James Baldwin's influence.

WATCH Spike Lee's new joint BRAVE, featuring Stew & The Negro Problem and Heidi Rodewald's song from "Total Bent."

Tony and Obie Award-winning writer and composer Stew delves into the rich legacy of activist writer James Baldwin in his new music and theater event Notes of a Native Song, created with long-time collaborator and co-composer Heidi Rodewald and an all-star band. Stew’s uniquely incisive lyrics are wrapped in an irresistible mix of rock, rhythm and blues, and jazz in this powerful homage to the inspiring writer, who famously confronted issues of gender, race, and class distinction with wisdom and fire. Stew won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Book for his Broadway hit Passing Strange, which also received 6 other Tony nominations, won an Obie Award, and won three Drama Desk Awards. It was documented in a film by Spike Lee, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Stew and his band, The Negro Problem, have deep Los Angeles roots, but a multi-performance engagement here is a rare and special treat.


STEW: Composer/writer/guitar/vocals

Passing Strange (2008 Tony—Best Book, 2-time 2007 Obie (Best New Theater Piece and Best Ensemble ); Family Album,  Notes of a Native Song (Spring 2015 Harlem Stage), Wagner, Max! Wagner! (Fall 2015 Kennedy Center) The Total Bent (Public Theater 2016), Making It (Spring 2010 St. Anne’s Warehouse), Brooklyn Omnibus (Fall 2010 Brooklyn Academy of Music), Resurrection City (2016 Studio Theatre), Chicago Omnibus (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago 2012). Film work includes Spike Lee’s Passing Strange.

Stew and The Negro Problem albums: Post Minstrel SyndromeJoys and ConcernsGuest Host and The Naked Dutch Painter (both named Album of the Year by Entertainment Weekly), Welcome BlackSomething Deeper than These ChangesMaking It and the cast album of Passing Strange. 

Television includes “Gary Come Home,” for SpongeBob SquarePants. (Co-composer (w/ Heidi Rodewald) ; Guest Host and Album of the Year by Entertainment Weekly. Other appearances include Lincoln Center, United Nations, Symphony Space. 

Stew has received a Doctor of Humane Letters from Oshkosh University, Wisconsin; CALARTS; New School; Stanford; University of Wisconsin, Madison; University of the Arts, Philly. Stew is also a Sundance Institute Alum. 

HEIDI RODEWALD: Bass/Guitars/Moog/Co-Composer

Heidi Rodewald is the Tony Award-nominated, Obie Award-winning co-composer of the musical Passing Strange. She has also composed music for Karen Kandel’s Portraits: Night and Day (2004); Brides of the Moon by The Five Lesbian Brothers (2010); and co-composed music for Shakespeare’s OthelloMuch Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet (2010–12). Rodewald joined the band The Negro Problem in 1997, where she began a longtime collaboration with Stew — as a co-composer, producer, arranger and performer. She is the co- composer of the musical Family Album; Notes of a Native Song, the musical, The Total Bent, and Wagner, Max! Wagner!Another Kind of LoveThe Good Swimmer and she has scored her first film, I Dream Too Much, (2015 SXSW).

MARTY BELLER: Percussion

Marty Beller has been drumming for Stew and Heidi for over 15 years. He has also been the drummer for They Might Be Giants. He received a 2009 Grammy Award for his work on Here Come the 123s by TMBG. Additional drum credits: Steve Earle, Jonathan Coulton, Mike Doughty and Ivy, among others. Composing Credits: Gracepoint (Fox), In Treatment (HBO), The Last Patrol (HBO), The Cruise (Artisan), Korengal, Emptying the Skies (Music Box), Biography of Groucho Marks (A&E), among many others.


Art Terry is a London based singer/songwriter, born and raised in Los Angeles, where he studied music with teachers from the African-American folk and classical disciplines. He first met and worked with Stew in 1976 in LA and the two lived and performed together in Holland and Germany from 1986–1987, which partly inspired Passing Strange. He has lived in London since 1988, where he composes and performs regularly in venues as diverse as underground punk clubs to the Royal Opera House. His 2009 album Anutha Kinda Brotha is available on Frizz records. He has hosted the weekly radio show Is Black Music on the award-winning London radio station Resonance FM.

MIKE MCGINNIS: Assorted Woodwinds

Mike McGinnis is a musical explorer whose curiosity and imagination have taken him beyond the limits of stylistic barriers as a clarinetist and saxophonist. Equally at home as a soloist and arranger for funk, rock and other popular music worlds, his open-minded and determinedly individual approach has led to work with jazz innovators like Anthony Braxton, Alice and Ravi Coltrane, Steve Coleman and Lonnie Plaxico; Parliament/Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell; indie rock mainstays Yo La Tengo; as soloist for the Tony-winning Broadway hit Fela!; and as co-leader of the inventive ensemble The Four Bags. The prolific McGinnis’ latest releases, Road*Trip and The Ängsudden Song Cycle, showcasing his skills as both composer and improviser.

K.J. HARDY: Lighting Design 

K.J. Hardy served as the Resident Lighting Designer for 54 Below and Joe’s Pub. Recent design credits include: Reefer Madness, New World stages; The Orion Experience at XL Night Club; the last Our Hit Parade at Joe’s Pub; Andrew Bird’s Gezelligheid at Riverside Church; The Orion Experience at Dixon Place; 35MM: A Musical Exhibition at Galapagos Arts Space; Silence: The Musical at PS122; At Least It’s Pink, with Bridget Everett at Ars Nova; and numerous productions for N.Y.M.F., NYC-Fringe, the York Theater and The Public Theater.


Joan Grossman is a filmmaker and media artist based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has won numerous awards, with screenings in more than 20 countries, and projects in China, Russia, Africa and throughout Europe. Her video designs for theatre include The Three Feathers, and Neil LaBute’s adaptation of Woyzeck, directed by Bob McGrath. She has been a visiting artist and professor of film and media arts at universities throughout the country. Her book, BLACKOUT: On Memory and Catstrophe, was published by Atropros Press. 

Associated Images: 

WED 12/14
8:30 pm
$30 $24$15
THU 12/15
8:30 pm
$30 $24$15
FRI 12/16
8:30 pm
$35 $28$18
SAT 12/17
3:00 pm
SAT 12/17
8:30 pm
$35 $28$18

G - General Audience

M - REDCAT Members

ST - Students

CA - CalArts Students/Faculty/Staff