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Looking at Lemon: Transforming Life through Literature Series Begins Oct. 24

Lemon Andersen visits the University at Albany Nov. 6 at the University Art Museum. (Photo by Matthew Akers)

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 21, 2014) -- The UAlbany Foundation, in coordination with the UAlbany Performing Arts Center, NYS Writers Institute and the University Art Museum, is pleased to present Looking at Lemon: Transforming Life through Literature, a series of events focusing on the life and work of Lemon Andersen, a writer, performance artist, screen actor and Tony Award-winning poet. Andersen is also a three-time felon who grew up in Brooklyn, the child of heroin addicted parents who died of AIDS before he was 15, leaving Lemon an orphaned teenager fending for himself. A high school drop-out who spent years in jail and on probation, his attempts at rehabilitation faltered until he attended a poetry reading and found a sense of purpose in the art of words.  The series celebrates Lemon’s ability to find meaning in his life, discover healing in creative work and transform pain into art.

Michael Angel Viera as Lemon Andersen in County of Kings (Photo by Manauvaskar Kublall)

Michael Angel Viera as Lemon Andersen in County of Kings at UAlbany on Nov. 13. (Photo by Manauvaskar Kublall)

All events take place at the University at Albany uptown campus at 1400 Washington Avenue, unless otherwise noted. The schedule includes:

1) Screenings of Lemon: The Movie on Friday, Oct. 24, at 7:30 p.m. at Page Hall on the downtown campus and Saturday, Nov. 1, at 9 p.m. in the UAlbany Performing Arts Center

2) An Evening with Lemon Andersen on Thursday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. in the University Art Museum

3) A performance of Lemon Andersen’s County of Kings on Thursday, Nov. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the UAlbany Performing Arts Center

Lemon: The Movie is an intricately crafted documentary following Andersen's struggle to free his family from poverty and pain by embarking on a journey to bring his life story to the stage. Featuring a surprise turn by Spike Lee and music by hip-hop phenoms Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Aloe Blacc, it follows his desperate battle to keep the past where it belongs and move into a brighter future.  With the power of a cliffhanger, the film asks the larger question: Can any of us really escape the past? In 2012, it was the winner of the International Feature Documentary category at the Edmonton International Film Festival and Best Documentary at the Tacoma Film Festival.  It also won the Special Jury Prize at the 2011 DOC NYC Festival.  Admission is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

An Evening with Lemon Andersen will feature Andersen addressing the audience about his life and work, focusing on what nurtures him as an artist and how that has been the salvation in his life. An original cast member of the Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway (2002-2003), he shared the 2003 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event. A veteran of major spoken word performance venues, including the Nuyorican Poets Café and the Apollo Theater, Lemon is also the author of two poetry collections, Ready Made Real (2004) and County of Kings (2009), which earned the Grand Prize at the 2010 New York Book Festival. As an actor, he has appeared in four films directed by Spike Lee, including Sucker Free City (2004), She Hate Me (2004), Inside Man (2006), and Miracle at St. Anna (2008).  Lemon also appeared in The Soloist (2009) starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx. Admission to Andersen’s presentation is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

American Place Theatre took Lemon’s life story and adapted it into a solo play, County of Kings. Weaving hard-edged drama with urban poetry and gritty prose, the work follows Lemon’s coming-of-age memoir of the same name touching on young love, the birth of hip hop, slinging crack, ballet, stealing car parts, prison and poetry in an astonishing journey toward self-discovery.  Lemon’s tough, yet poignant story is told with honesty, compassion and humor with the work eloquently capturing his quest to find passion and purpose in life against all odds.  This show is a Literature to Life stage presentation of Young Audiences New York and features actor Michael Angel Viera. There will be a pre-show discussion beginning at 7 p.m. for ticketholders who would like to attend.

The history of American Place Theatre (APT) is rich and varied with a consistent commitment to nurturing the talents of American authors, playwrights and actors. Having received over 30 Obies and 16 Audelcos, it is critically acclaimed as a birthing place for artistic endeavors at the crossroad of literature and live performance for over 50 years.  Its Literature to Life series offers professionally staged theatrical adaptations of significant American literary works.

Advance tickets for the performance of County of Kings are $15 for the general public and $10 for students, seniors and UAlbany faculty-staff.  Tickets purchased on the day of the show are $20 for the general public and $15 for students, seniors and UAlbany faculty-staff.  For reservations and further information, contact the UAlbany Performing Arts Center Box Office at (518) 442-3997 or visit the Performing Arts Center website .

In addition to the public events, there will also be a special morning matinee performance of County of Kings for high school groups on Friday, Nov. 14, at 10 a.m. Limited seating is available.  High school educators wishing to receive information and/or make reservations for this matinee should call the Performing Arts Center office at (518) 442-5738.

Additional support for the series has been provided by the Alumni Association, Office of Intercultural Student Engagement, University Auxiliary Services, Diversity Transformation Fund administered through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and Holiday Inn Express. Promotional assistance provided by the Campus Programming Board.

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