WASHINGTON (AP) — A new play exploring the life of artist and civil rights activist Paul Robeson is opening at Washington’s Arena Stage.

Playwright and performer Daniel Beaty created the one-man show “The Tallest Tree in the Forest.” The production from Tectonic Theatre Project had its world premiere at Kansas City Repertory Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse near San Diego. It runs through Feb. 16 at Arena Stage.

The play explores Robeson’s role in history with 14 songs and an onstage band. Robeson was the son of a slave who went on to college, law school and became a famous actor and singer on stage and screen. He starred in “The Emperor Jones,” “Show Boat” and other productions.

Robeson also spoke out against racial injustice around the world and became a controversial figure targeted by the FBI. He was blacklisted in the 1950s McCarthy era amid questions over his Communist leanings.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended the opening Thursday night, along with some members of Congress.

Arena Stage also presented actress Kathleen Turner with its American Artist Award on Thursday night, and the theater awarded Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio with its American Voice Award for supporting the arts and arts education in Congress.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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