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it was on pbs…

if you’d have asked the 17 year old me whether working with the public theater, berkeley rep, the sundance institute, being on broadway or winning a tony would be a dream come true i would have said no.

but if you’d have asked me if any work of art i had anything to do with being broadcast on pbs woulda been a dream come true i would have said without a doubt, yes.

pbs played such a crucial role in my artistic upbringing that it would take an essay to even begin to address it. after the music i was listening to, pbs was the single biggest influence on my brain. mostly
because, like the music i was listening to, it made being an artist seem like the coolest job in the world.

so tonight, jaded as i am, i was quite blown away.

thanks to all who did what they did to make it all happen.



  1. Tim wrote:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! I’m so inspired by your incredibly gifted songwriting and story-telling. Your rocking music and knock me out timing blew me away.

    There’s so much to say, but what struck me watching the credits roll was how you managed to hold it together at the end of the show. I’m no softy, but after experiencing Passing Strange with you and the incredible cast, I found myself totally weepy, watching you move to each of your awesome musicians for the last time on that stage. Your investment in your performance and your work was total, and it showed in every way.

    All the best to you in your next ventures. I’ll be there to support you.

    Your newest fan,
    Tim Campisi
    San Jose, CA

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 12:29 am | Permalink
  2. James wrote:

    I work for PBS. I am at the actual network that airs the show nationally for the stations and over Direct TV. I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed you play and it reminds me of the things I use to see as a child growing up in Brooklyn watching a show called “Soul” produced by Ellis Hazlip that use to air on WNET in New York in the late 60’s and 70’s when I was growing up. I mean that in the sense that it showed the truth in black life from all aspects. Infact as great as it is that it was on Broadway (and I truly wish I had seen it there) the greatest compliment I could pay you is that it looked like something Ellis Hazlip would have loved. Not that I knew him but I have immense respect for his taste and he definitely increased my appreciation of what is good and great. I applaud you and Hedi for your work. It was perfect.

    Looking forward to much more,
    James Mattis
    Burke, Virginia

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 12:38 am | Permalink
  3. Nik wrote:

    I have to say thank you so much for blessing the world with your work! I’ve been wanting to see this forever but seeing as I live in nowheresville,Texas I never had a chance to see it live.Thank goodness for PBS for giving the musicians such as myself things to inspire us when we think no one else understands.I have so much respect and awe for you and your work and I am so happy that I finally got to experience the musical and was floored by it. Maybe one day I will have the honor of being in one of your other shows.Cheers!

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 1:30 am | Permalink
  4. Niambi wrote:

    Stew! I saw the PBS special last nite and I was blown away! I have not been moved like that since I first saw Sly & the Family Stone in the 70s… then Chaka, Labelle, et al those people who don’t tour the gritty life anymore where we were all waiting to be lifted out of the grit into the real only to find out that we really were made of that grit we were trying to escape. Some of us went on a tour of our own and followed acts all over the country until entourage became respectable and we didn’t want to be that …

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink
  5. Dollar Bill wrote:

    Brace yourself for more traffic here.

    I have spent the morning in research mode, after only catching the final number/credit roll on PBS last night.

    I was merely, mindlessly surfing during commercials, but became locked, tranfixed as to what I saw and heard.

    I’ll try to locate the DVD when I pop into NYC, from Canada on Sunday.
    I’d love to see Makin’It in Feb. as well.

    Respect to you and yours,

    “Dollar” Bill(Canada)

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink
  6. Anita wrote:

    Hey, Dollar Bill, I’m Canadian, too :-).

    Thank God for late night channel surfing, or I would have missed this masterful piece of music and art. Stew, your story moved me to laughter and tears. I stayed up all night just thinking about the play, and how it relates to my own story of youth. You created something I never thought I’d see- an independent voice, gently conversing with its youthful self, in the most honest and understated, yet rockin’ way. Bless you. You are my new favorite artist. I’ll be looking into purchasing your movie and music, as soon as I do something about sending money to Haiti (’twas the crisis there that had me anxious enough to decide to stay awake for a late night, two hour musical. Strange blessing, that).

    Do people ever send you long letters explaining the parallels between their stories and Passing Strange? If so, how do you react to them?

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink
  7. Alain wrote:

    All I can say is…wow! I too caught this movie by accident last night. Stew, I am totally blown away. The actors, the musicians, the arrangements, the whole production was just amazing. I just wish I could have seen this show live on Broadway. You can be sure I’ll be exploring your other projects in the near future because you’re on my radar now. 🙂

    Alain (transplanted Canadian living in Texas)

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  8. Sharon wrote:

    Watching the program was completely unplanned last night; in retrospect, perhaps kismet. The film and your production made me realize that art still exists. You, Heidi, the cast and Spike Lee created someting that is worth using as a life reference and as a standard of achievement. Bravo, again and again. I’ll be talking about you and Passing Strange for a long time. I’m a fan for life.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
  9. arn wrote:

    Hadn’t watched any PBS for about 10 years (not available from the old dish provider), I kinda stumbled onto Passing Strange last night and was utterly blown away. It WAS “more than real”. Man, you f-wording ROCK! Not only that, but the sincerity and the humanity I witnessed were so fresh and inspiring that, unable to fall asleep, I ended up e-mailing my mom in the middle of the night just to ask her if it was alright (I’m an old expat myself). Please keep up the good work, although how in hell you’re going to top something like THAT is what I can’t fathom. Peace.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Permalink
  10. Dw Dunphy wrote:

    Three times I was told I needed to see Passing Strange live.

    Three times I said, “Nah, I can’t afford a New York play. I’m living on a freelancer’s wages.”

    Saw the show on PBS last night and realized I screwed myself out of a pretty incredible live experience… But I will buy the DVD. Thanks Stew, Heidi and Spike.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink
  11. sistuh ina redstate wrote:

    I don’t think I’ve taken a full breath since watching. Talk about “freight train” and healing! Thank you, thank you. I can’t wait to discover more of your work.

    Friday, January 15, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink
  12. Brian Crouse wrote:

    Thank you Stew……..that’s all I can say brother Thank You Brian

    Friday, January 15, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Permalink
  13. Tim wrote:

    I want you to make enough money so you can afford a nice place in Berkeley, maybe near Shattuck and Vine.

    So…do you make more money when I buy your music through iTunes or on a CD? I promise to buy only full albums either way.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 1:14 am | Permalink
  14. ArtfulD wrote:

    Your play was one of the best things to hit Broadway in a very long time. And when I saw Spike’s film at the IFC, I was amazed at how his camera angle selections mirrored my live experience. He seemed to intuitively focus on the same things I was watching at any given moment. Rather phenomenal and wonderful.

    This film completely captures the emotional energy and personal experience of your work, which I’d previously thought was an impossible task. So very pleased to see it broadcast on PBS (at least one more rebroadcast tomorrow – lurkers, check your local listings!), and can’t wait to own the DVD now that it has been released.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink
  15. J-Doh wrote:

    loved what you said about PBS. I’m the same age, and PBS is where I found out about Fellini, Antonioni, Soul Train back in the 1970’s. Course you can’t find that shit anymore on PBS, but Passing Strange was a blessings. It was pretentious, indulgent, corny, and wonderful. Thanks,Stew. Appreciated you ever since you’ve been a problem and look forward to what you bring in the future.

    Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  16. Fijiiw wrote:

    Stew, Heidi, Spike and the Passing Strange Family (and also PBS)….THANK YOU! I just watched for the 3rd time and cried harder each time. But It’s Alright! May you continue to be blessed to do your thang! I vow to purchase the DVD…donate to PBS in your honor…and make another donation to Haitian relief! Thank you for the freedom. Stay healthy and be blessed!

    Monday, January 18, 2010 at 3:06 am | Permalink
  17. Randy wrote:

    Kathy and I loved PS. It hits you like a whisper and a scream. Thanks for all the music you’ve sent our way – can’t wait for more.

    Monday, January 18, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink
  18. hsmittyk wrote:

    Like some others who commented previously, last night I had just suffered thru watching the Golden Globes with my 16-year old daughter, when I channel-surfed my way to PBS and the second act of your musical. I was mesmerized. Tonight, I went out and bought your DVD and just finished seeing, hearing, and feeling it. Dankeschön dude, dankeschön.

    Monday, January 18, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Permalink
  19. Scott wrote:

    i call it “the pure.” you call it “the real.” i can’t tell you how many years you have saved me from understanding that love is more than real, though it does take unfortunately long. thank god you have shortened that time for me. thank you. first time i ever saw this production on pbs and i was mesmerized.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Permalink
  20. Eric wrote:

    Hey Stew, I am 26, and a hip hop artist. While lying in a hotel room in Dayton, Oh, the tv ended up on PBS with the remote on the other side of the room..Thank God Passing Strange was on. Well that was on Jan. is the 21st and ive already bought the DVD watched it about 30 times and I have memorized nearly the entire show. THANK YOU STEW. Oh and tell Naomi Jones i wana marry her. lol

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 2:27 am | Permalink
  21. Jim wrote:

    I just watched Passing Strange on PBS and I could not take my eyes off of it. It really was like nothing I have ever seen before. I do not really enjoy broadway musicals so I was very happy that this really wasn’t one. The whole band rocks and Stew is a great front man and he knows how to work those glasses. Wish I could have seen it at the Belasco!

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink
  22. Spencer wrote:

    A 14 year old black girl from NC saw your show on PBS and it changed her life. She wanted to thank you.

    Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Permalink
  23. Butch wrote:

    One of my best friends gave me ‘Passing Strange’on DVD as a gift the other night and it has got to be one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Thank you…that’s all I can say…thank’re all amazing…

    Monday, January 25, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

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