Spike Lee to Adapt One-Man Stage Play Frederick Douglass Now
According to Variety, prolific director Spike Lee (BLacKkKlansman, Inside Man, Malcom X) has signed on to adapt the one-man stage play Frederick Douglass Now for the big screen. This will be the third of Roger Guenveur Smith’s one-man stage shows that Lee has adapted, after helming Rodney King and A Huey P. Newton Story.
For those unaware, Frederick Douglass was one of the nation’s most extraordinary figures, particularly for his work dealing with abolition and early feminism. The legendary orator and publisher made plans with the President for moving freed slaves to the North during the Civil War. Douglass lived from 1818 to 1895.
Smith (Dope, American Gangster) began work on the play when he was an undergraduate at Occidental College in Los Angeles 20 years ago, and has been consistently performing and updating it since. The show features Smith rapping comparisons to slavery and contemporary life in the U.S. from his own text, then transitions to Smith reciting extracts from Douglass’ essays and letters. The finale once again features Smith’s own writing, and he sings: “If there is no progress, Frederick Douglass is still alive.”
Frederick Douglass Now will be produced by Buffalo 8, with music by jazz great Branford Marsalis and Smith’s longtime collaborator, Marc Anthony Thompson, who composed the music for “Rodney King” and “A Huey P. Newton Story.”
Lee’s last film BlacKkKlansman was a critical success with a current 96% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. It made over $87 million worldwide at the box office and $48 million in the US, making it his second-highest domestic grosser.