Carl Hancock Rux

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Carl Hancock Rux
Carl hancock rux self portrait.jpg
Carl Hancock Rux, Harlem Stage Gala, May, 2012
BornCarl Stephen Hancock
New York City, United States
  • Poet
  • playwright
  • novelist
  • essayist
  • recording artist
  • actor
  • director
Literary movementAfro-Futurism, speculative and dystopian fiction
Notable works Asphalt , Rux Revue , Talk , Pagan Operetta
Notable awards Alpert Award in the Arts, NYFA Prize, Village Voice Literary prize, Obie Award, Bessie Award, (BAX) Arts & Artists in Progress Award

Carl Hancock Rux is an American poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, recording artist, actor, theater director, radio journalist, as well as a frequent collaborator in the fields of film, modern dance, and contemporary art. He is the author of several books including the Village Voice Literary Prize-winning collection of poetry, Pagan Operetta , the novel, Asphalt , and the Obie Award-winning play, Talk. His music has been released internationally on several labels including Sony/550, Thirsty Ear, and Giant Step. Mr. Rux is also co-Artistic Director of Mabou Mines, an experimental theatre company founded in 1970 and based in New York City. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Doris Duke Award for New Works, the Doris Duke Charitable Fund, the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Prize, the Bessie Award and the Alpert Award in the Arts, and a 2019 Global Change Maker award by WeMakeChange.Org. [1] Mr. Rux's archives are housed at the Billy Rose Theater Division of the New York Public Library, the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution as well as the Film and Video/Theater and Dance Library of the California Institute of the Arts.


Early life

Rux was born in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem Lenox 123 rowhouses jeh.jpg
Rux was born in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem

Rux was born Carl Stephen Hancock in Harlem, New York. [2] His biological mother, Carol Jean Hancock, suffered from chronic mental illness, diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, and was institutionalized shortly after the birth of his older brother. Rux was born the result of an illegitimate pregnancy (while his mother was under the care of a New York City psychiatric institution). The identity of Rux's biological father is unknown. Rux was placed under the guardianship of his maternal grandmother, Geneva Hancock (née Rux), until her death of cirrhosis of the liver due to alcoholism. [3] At four years of age he entered the New York City foster care system where he remained until he was eventually placed under the legal guardianship of his great uncle (grandmother's brother) James Henry Rux and his wife Arsula (née Cottrell) and raised on a step street in the Highbridge section of the Bronx, later used as the filming location for the stairway dance scene in the 2019 film Joker . [4]

Rux attended PS 73, Roberto Clemente Junior High School and received a scholarship to the Horace Mann School, an independent Ivy college preparatory school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx before transferring to the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts [5] where he studied visual art. Exposed to jazz music by his legal guardians, including the work of Oscar Brown Jr., John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, Rux eventually double-majored in music/voice, [5] and sang with the Boys Choir of Harlem. He also became a member of the Harlem Writers Workshop, a summer journalism training program for inner-city youth founded by African-American journalists, sponsored by Columbia University and The Xerox Corporation. At the age of 15, Rux was legally adopted by his guardians and his surname changed to Rux. Upon graduation from high school he entered Columbia College where he studied in the Creative Writing Program; took private acting classes at both HB studios; and trained with Gertrude Jeanette's Hadley Players as well as actor Robert Earl Jones (father of actor James Earl Jones). Rux continued his studies at Columbia University, American University of Paris, as well as the University of Ghana at Legon. [6]



Working as a Social Work Trainer while moonlighting as a freelance art and music critic, Rux became a founding member of Hezekiah Walker's Love Fellowship gospel choir and later found himself influenced by the Lower East Side poetry and experimental theater scene, collaborating with poets Miguel Algarin, Bob Holman, Jayne Cortez, Sekou Sundiata, Ntozake Shange; experimental musicians David Murray, Mal Waldron, Butch Morris, Craig Harris, Jeanne Lee, Leroy Jenkins, Odetta, Steve Earle, Jim Carroll as well as experimental theater artists Laurie Carlos, Robbie McCauley, Ruth Maleczech, Lee Breuer, Reza Abdoh and others.

He is one of several poets (including Paul Beatty, Tracie Morris, Dael Orlandersmith, Willie Perdomo, Kevin Powell, Maggie Estep, Reg E. Gaines, Edwin Torres and Saul Williams) to emerge from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, most of whom were included in the poetry anthology Aloud, Voices From the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, winner of the 1994 American Book Award. [7] His first book of poetry, Pagan Operetta , received the Village Voice Literary prize and was featured on the weekly's cover story: "Eight Writers on the Verge of (Impacting) the Literary Landscape". Rux is the author of the novel Asphalt and the author of several plays. His first play, Song of Sad Young Men [8] (written in response to his older brother's death from AIDS), [9] was directed by Trazana Beverly [10] and starred actor Isaiah Washington. [11] The play received eleven AUDELCO nominations. His most notable play is the OBIE Award-winning Talk , first produced at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in 2002. Directed by Marion McClinton [12] and starring actor Anthony Mackie, the play won seven OBIE awards. [13]

Recording Artist/Performing Artist

Rux is also a recording artist, first featured on Reg E. Gaines CD Sweeper Don't Clean My Streets (Polygram). As a musician, his work is known to encompass an eclectic mixture of blues, rock, vintage R&B, classical music, futuristic pop, soul, poetry, folk, psychedelic music and jazz. His debut CD, Cornbread, Cognac & Collard Green Revolution (unreleased) was produced by Nona Hendryx and Mark Batson, featuring musicians Craig Harris, Ronnie Drayton and Lonnie Plaxico. His CD Rux Revue was recorded and produced in Los Angeles by the Dust Brothers, Tom Rothrock, and Rob Schnapf. Rux recorded a follow up album, Apothecary Rx , (selected by French writer Phillippe Robert for his 2008 publication "Great Black Music": an exhaustive tribute of 110 albums including 1954's "Lady Sings The Blues" by Billie Holiday, the work of Jazz artists Oliver Nelson, Max Roach, John Coltrane, rhythm and blues artists Otis Redding, Ike & Tina Turner, Curtis Mayfield, George Clinton; as well as individual impressions of Fela Kuti, Jimi Hendrix, and Mos Def.) His fourth studio CD, Good Bread Alley , was released by Thirsty Ear Records, and his fifth "Homeostasis" (CD Baby) was released in May 2013. Rux has written and performed (or contributed music) to a proportionate number of dance companies including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company; Jane Comfort & Co. and Ronald K. Brown's "Evidence" among others.


Books by author

Literary fiction

Selected plays

Selected essays

There is something called black in America, and there is something called white in America, and I know them when I see them, but I will forever be unable to explain the meaning of them, because they are not real, even though they have a very real place in my daily way of seeing, a fundamental relationship to my ever-evolving understanding of history and a critical place in my relationship to humanity.

—Carl Hancock Rux

Selected anthologies


Rux has been published as a contributing writer in numerous journals, catalogs, anthologies, and magazines including Interview magazine, Essence magazine, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, aRude Magazine, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art (founded by fellow art critics Okwui Enwezor, Chika Okeke-Agulu and Salah Hassan) and American Theater Magazine.



Solo albums


12-inch singles




Contemporary Dance (text & music)

Movin' Spirits Dance Co.

Anita Gonzalez

Jane Comfort & Co.

Urban Bush Women

Jubilation! Dance Co.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble (Ailey II)

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Theater

Roberta Garrison Co.

M'Zawa Dance Co.

Robert Moses Kin

Topaz Arts Dance



Rux studied acting at the Hagen Institute (under Uta Hagen); the Luleå National Theatre School (Luleå, Sweden) and at the National Theater of Ghana (Accra). Rux has appeared in several theater projects, most notably originating the title role in the folk opera production of The Temptation of St. Anthony , based on the Gustave Flaubert novel, directed by Robert Wilson with book, libretto and music by Bernice Johnson Reagon and costumes by Geoffrey Holder. The production debuted as part of the Ruhr Triennale festival in Duisburg Germany with subsequent performances at the Greek Theater in Siracusa, Italy; the Festival di Peralada in Peralada, Spain; the Palacio de Festivales de Cantabria in Santander, Spain; Sadler's Wells in London, Great Britain; the Teatro Piccinni in Bari, Italy; the Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam, Netherlands; the Teatro Arriaga in Bilbao and the Teatro Espanol in Madrid, Spain. The opera made its American premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music / BAM Next Wave Festival in October 2004 and official "world premiere" at the Paris Opera, becoming the first all-African-American opera to perform on its stage since the inauguration of the Académie Nationale de Musique - Théâtre de l'Opéra. Combining both his dramatic training and dance movement into his performance, Rux's performance was described by the American press as having "phenomenal charisma and supreme physical expressiveness...(achieving) a near-iconic power, equally evoking El Greco's saints in extremis and images of civil rights protesters besieged by fire hoses." [21] Rux has also appeared in several plays and performance works for theater, as well as in his own work.


1996Naked Acts(Restaurant Patron)
1997Shattering the Silences: The Case for Minority Faculty(Himself)Winner - CINE Golden Eagle AwardFinalist - The New York Festivals
1999Carl Hancock Rux: Coming of Age (Voices of America TV Documentary)(Himself)Winner (CINE Golden Eagle Award™ [22]
2004Originals: The Story Of Gil Scott-Heron (BBC documentary)(Himself)
2007The Grand InquisitorThe One
2007Absolute WilsonSaint AnthonyWinner- Art Basel ART FILM OF THE YEAR award.
2007BratzMr. Whitman/DJ WaxNominated-Golden Raspberry Awards Worst PictureNominated- Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Actress (Logan Browning, Janel Parrish, Nathalia Ramos, Skyler Shaye)Nominated- Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Supporting Actor (Jon Voight)Nominated- Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Screen CoupleNominated- Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Remake or Rip-off
2012Brooklyn Boheme (Documentary)(Himself)Official Selection- Pan African Film FestivalOfficial Selection - 2nd Annual DocNYC Film FestivalOpening Night Film- 15th Annual Urban World Film FestivalOfficial Selection- BAM Cinema Tek
2017 Tell Them We Are Rising (Documentary)(Himself)


Carl Hancock Rux was the host and artistic programming director of the WBAI radio show, Live from The Nuyorican Poets Cafe; contributing correspondent for XM radio's The Bob Edwards Show and frequent guest host on WNYC [6] as well as NPR and co-wrote and performed in the national touring production of NPR Presents Water±, directed by Kenny Leon.

Performance Art Exhibitions/Curator

Selected Directorial Credits


Rux is formally the Head of the MFA Writing for Performance Program at the California Institute of Arts and has taught and or been an artist in residence at Brown University, Hollins University, UMass Amherst, Duke University, Stanford University, University of Iowa, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Eugene Lang New School for Drama, among others.

He has mentored award-winning writers including recipients of the Yale Drama Prize, Whiting Writers Award, Princess Grace Award, and BBC African Performance Playwriting Award.[ citation needed ]

Personal life

Rux's great uncle, Rev. Marcellus Carlyle Rux (January 8, 1882 - January 5, 1948) was a graduate of Virginia Union University, and principal of The Keysville Mission Industrial School (later changed to The Bluestone Harmony Academic and Industrial School), a private school founded in 1898 by several African-American Baptist churches in Keysville Virginia at a time when education for African-Americans was scarce to non-existent. For about 50 years the school had the largest enrollment of any black boarding school in the east and sent a large number of graduates on to college. For the first five years, Marcellus Carlyle Rux was a teacher in the institution. Such was the record he made that he was promoted to the principalship in 1917. Under his administration, the school reached its highest enrollment and had its greatest period of prosperity. The post-Civil war school was one of the first of its kind in the nation and was permanently closed in 1950. The school's still existent structure once featured a girl's and boy's dormitory and President's dwelling and is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. [23] Marcellus Carlyle Rux is listed in History of the American Negro and his Institutions. [24]

Rux's younger brother is a New York City Public School Teacher and his cousin a New York City middle school principal. [25] Rux's older brother died of AIDS-related complications. [26]

Rux's home, a Victorian Brownstone in the Fort Greene Brooklyn section of New York City, has been photographed by Stefani Georgani and frequently featured in home decor magazines and coffee table books internationally, including Elle Decor UK. [27]


Rux joined New Yorkers Against Fracking, organized by singer Natalie Merchant, calling for a fracking ban on natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing. A concert featuring Rux, Merchant, actors Mark Ruffalo and Melissa Leo and musicians Joan Osborne, Tracy Bonham, Toshi Reagon, Citizen Cope, Meshell Ndegeocello and numerous others was held in Albany, N.Y., [28] and resulted in public protests.[ citation needed ]

Rux was a co-producer (through a partnership between MAPP International and Harlem Stage) and curator of WeDaPeoples Cabaret, an annual event regarding citizens without borders in a globally interdependent world. A longtime resident and homeowner in Fort Greene Brooklyn, [29] Carl Rux worked with the Fort Greene Association and New York philanthropist Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel to erect a cultural medallion at the Carlton Avenue home where novelist Richard Wright lived and penned his seminal work, Native Son .<ref>Villarosa, Linda (March 20, 2012). "Group Helps You Find Mr. Wright". The Local. Fort Green/Clinton Hill. Archived from the original on March 22, 2012. (/ref)

Rux is a member of the Take Back the Night organization, a foundation seeking to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse, and all other forms of sexual violence.[ citation needed ] Rux was named both a "Global and National Changemaker" by the We Make Change movement: an international organization of social entrepreneurs, NGO leaders, activists, artists, professionals, and others from across the world, committed to connecting individuals with the people and charities fighting for the causes they care about via volunteer work, exchange of ideas and international developmental projects with a range of charities. Rux was commissioned by Lincoln Center to create a "poetic tribute" to the late Senator, John Lewis, an American politician, statesman, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966, and leader who served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia's 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death in 2020; and fellow civil rights activist, C.T. Vivian, an American minister, author, and close friend and lieutenant of Martin Luther King Jr.. Both men were members of the groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington; fulfilled many key roles in the civil rights movement and its actions to end legalized racial segregation in the United States; and in 1965, led the first of three Selma to Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in an incident which became known as Bloody Sunday. Rux turned his commissioned tribute to both men into a short film directed by artist Carrie Mae Weems with original music by Meshell Ndegeocello titled, "The Baptism". The film streams on social media networks and tours throughout galleries and museums nationally.

Related Research Articles

Spoken word Type of performance art

Spoken word refers to an oral poetic performance art that is based mainly on the poem as well as the performer's aesthetic qualities. It is a late 20th century continuation of an ancient oral artistic tradition that focuses on the aesthetics of recitation and word play, such as the performer's live intonation and voice inflection. Spoken word is a "catchall" term that includes any kind of poetry recited aloud, including poetry readings, poetry slams, jazz poetry, and hip hop music, and can include comedy routines and prose monologues. Unlike written poetry, the poetic text takes its quality less from the visual aesthetics on a page, but depends more on phonaesthetics, or the aesthetics of sound.

Guillermo E. Brown is a multi-disciplinary performer whose works include Soul at the Hands of the Machine, The Beat Kids' Open Rhythm System and Sound Magazine, Black Dreams 1.0,...Is Arturo Klauft, Handeheld, Shuffle Mode, WOOF TICKET EP, PwEP2, forthcoming full length album Dream&Destroy and performance piece Bee Boy. His one-man theater piece, Robeson In Space, premiered at Luna Stage (2005).

Nuyorican movement Cultural movement for Puerto Ricans living in or near New York City in the late 1960s / early 1970s

The Nuyorican movement is a cultural and intellectual movement involving poets, writers, musicians and artists who are Puerto Rican or of Puerto Rican descent, who live in or near New York City, and either call themselves or are known as Nuyoricans. It originated in the late 1960s and early 1970s in neighborhoods such as Loisaida, East Harlem, Williamsburg, and the South Bronx as a means to validate Puerto Rican experience in the United States, particularly for poor and working-class people who suffered from marginalization, ostracism, and discrimination.

Bob Holman

Bob Holman is an American poet and poetry activist, most closely identified with the oral tradition, the spoken word, and poetry slam. As a promoter of poetry in many media,Holman has spent the last four decades working variously as an author, editor, publisher, performer, emcee of live events, director of theatrical productions, producer of films and television programs, record label executive, university professor, and archivist. He was described by Henry Louis Gates Jr. in The New Yorker as "the postmodern promoter who has done more to bring poetry to cafes and bars than anyone since Ferlinghetti."

Thirsty Ear Recordings is an American independent record label. It was founded in the late 1970s as a marketing company for the then-unnamed alternative music field, and expanded to issue its own records in 1990.

Jeffrey McDaniel is an American poet. He has published five books of poetry, most recently Chapel of Inadvertent Joy. He is the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His writing has been included in Ploughshares, The Best American Poetry 1994, The Best American Poetry 2010, and The New Young American Poets, as well as on the National Endowment for the Arts website. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Nuyorican Poets Café Forum for Puerto Rican culture in the Lower East Side of Manhattan

The Nuyorican Poets Cafe is a nonprofit organization in Alphabet City, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It is a bastion of the Nuyorican art movement in New York City, and has become a forum for poetry, music, hip hop, video, visual arts, comedy, and theater. Several events during the PEN World Voices festival are hosted at the cafe.

The New York Dance and Performance Awards, also known as the Bessie Awards are awarded annually for exceptional achievement by independent dance artists presenting their work in New York City. The broad categories of the awards are: choreography, performance, music composition and visual design. The Bessie Awards were established in 1983.

<i>Pagan Operetta</i>

Pagan Operetta (1998) is a collection of poetry and experimental prose by Carl Hancock Rux, his first poetry collection. It won the 1999 Village Voice Literary Prize. Rux subsequently adapted one section for stage performance, initially also under the title Pagan Operetta, later as The No Black Male Show.

Urban Bush Women (UBW), founded in 1984 by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, is a Brooklyn, New York-based non-profit dance company and the only professional African-American women's dance company in existence. The ensemble performs choreography by Zollar and other choreographers, often with a focus on the experiences of women of African descent.

Rux Revue is the debut album by Carl Hancock Rux, released by Sony 550 Music which operated through Sony Music's Epic Records division. The album was produced in Los Angeles by the Dust Brothers, featuring drummers Joey Waronker and James Gadson, bassists Atom Ellis and Carol Kaye, keyboardist James Hall, bass guitarist Wah-Wah Watson and additional keyboard, Keyboard, Piano and Melodica by Money Mark. The album mixes soul, gospel, blues, rock, classical and hip-hop into a collage of machine samples, drum machines, live instrumentation and sound effects, incorporating a gospel influenced Sprechgesang and Vocalese style reliant upon African American alliteration, consonance and assonance while abstaining from the common techniques of poetic monologue popular in spoken word and slam poetry.

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar is an American dancer, teacher and choreographer of modern dance. She is the founder of the Urban Bush Women dance company.

Stephanie McKay is an American soul singer and songwriter from the Bronx in New York, whose music includes elements of soul, funk, rock and hip hop. McKay's career has spanned over 20 years, during which time she has collaborated with artists including Anthony Hamilton, DJ Spinna Toshi Reagon and Big lovely, Roy Hargrove, Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Katalyst, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Tricky, Carl Hancock Rux and Amp Fiddler and numerous others. She has released two solo albums, McKay (2003) and Tell it Like it Is (2008), a self-titled EP Stephanie McKay (2006) and has toured internationally as a solo artist. She formerly played guitar in Kelis' band and recorded with the Brooklyn Funk Essentials.

DuEwa Frazier is an American writer, performer, and educator.

Jane Comfort of Oak Ridge, Tennessee is an American choreographer, director, and dancer. She is the founder and artistic director of Jane Comfort and Company based in New York, NY.

The Temptation of St. Anthony is an opera rooted in the gospel tradition based on the novel The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Gustave Flaubert, directed by Robert Wilson with book, libretto and music by Bernice Johnson Reagon and costumes by Geoffrey Holder. The production debuted in June 2003 as part of the RuhrTriennale festival in Duisburg Germany with Carl Hancock Rux as Saint Anthony and Helga Davis as Helarion. Subsequent performances included the Greek Theater in Siracusa, Italy; the Festival di Peralada in Peralada, Spain; the Palacio de Festivales de Cantabria in Santander, Spain; and Sadler's Wells in London, Great Britain; the Teatro Piccinni in Bari, Italy; the Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam, Netherlands; the Teatro Arriaga in Bilbao and the Teatro Espanol in Madrid, Spain. The opera made its American premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's BAM Next Wave Festival in October 2004. The official "world premiere" was held at the Paris Opera Garnier becoming the first all African American opera to perform on its stage since the inauguration of the Académie Nationale de Musique - Théâtre de l'Opéra in 1875.

<i>Good Bread Alley</i> 2006 studio album by Carl Hancock Rux

Good Bread Alley is the third studio album of Carl Hancock Rux. Titled after a close-knit historically African American district of shotgun houses that once occupied a segregated neighborhood in Miami, Florida, the cd was released by Thirsty Ear Music, produced by Carl Hancock Rux with songwriting and co-songwriting credits from Geoff Barrow, Vinicius Cantuária, David Holmes, Rob Hyman, Stewart Lerman, Darren Morris, Phil Mossman, Vernon Reid, Tim Saul, Jaco Van Schalkwyk, and Bill Withers. The cd tackles religion, sexual politics, war and media overload, in the tradition of Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway, employing supersaturated, open-ended soul music with bluesy vamps, touches of minimalism, and slide-guitar licks providing a rich backdrop for Rux's sardonic baritone, achieving a pop-gospel synthesis.

Laurie Carlos

Laurie Dorothea Carlos was an American actress and avant-garde performance artist, playwright and theater director. She was also known for her work mentoring emerging artists in the theater.

Jesús Papoleto Meléndez, also known as "Papo", or "Papoleto", is a New York-born Puerto Rican poet, playwright, teacher, and activist. He is a member of the Nuyorican Movement. He grew up during the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power movement, and the emergence of the Nuyorican Movement in East Harlem. His titles include the play The Junkies Stole the Clock (1974), and Hey Yo/Yo Soy! 40 Years of Nuyorican Street Poetry.


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