Carl Hancock Rux

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Carl Hancock Rux
Carl hancock rux self portrait.jpg
Carl Hancock Rux, Harlem Stage Gala, May, 2012
Born Carl Stephen Hancock
New York, New York, U.S.
Occupation Poet, Playwright, Novelist, Essayist, Recording Artist, Actor
Language English
Ethnicity African American
Period 1990–present
Literary movement Afro Futurism, Speculative Fiction
Notable work(s) Asphalt, Rux Revue, Talk, Pagan Operetta
Notable award(s) Alpert Award in the Arts, NYFA Prize, Village Voice Literary prize, Obie Award, Bessie Award, (BAX) Arts & Artists in Progress Award

Carl Hancock Rux (born March 24, Harlem, New York) is an American writer, performer, recording artist and theater director. He is the former head of the MFA Writing for Performance Program at Calarts, the California Institute of the Arts (2006–09) and has been a visiting professor/faculty lecturer at various universities including Brown University, Hollins University, and the University of Iowa, among others. Rux is the author of three books, including the OBIE award winning play Talk and has been a contributing writer for Interview magazine, American Theater magazine, aRude magazine, Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art, among others. Rux was named by the The New York Times Magazine (along with Pulitzer prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, Tony award winner Audra McDonald, actor Gwyneth Paltrow, choreographer Ronald K. Brown, comedian Dave Attell and authors Edwidge Danticat and Daniel Pinchbeck, among others) as one of "Thirty Artists Under Thirty" predicted to make an impact on American culture. Rux also appeared on the cover of the New York Times Magazine with actress Paz de la Huerta, as well as the cover of "American Theater" Magazine with playwright Tony Kushner. His essay on the rapper Eminem and race in America is featured in The Best American Music Writing. He is the subject of the "Voices of America" television documentary, Carl Hancock Rux, Coming of Age, recipient of the CINE Golden Eagle Award; and co-wrote and narrated the radio documentary, Walt Whitman; Songs of Myself, awarded the New York Press Club Journalism Award for Entertainment News and is an occasional guest host/ /writer for WNYC/WQXR's Jerome L. Greene Performance Space. Rux has worked as a writer and frequent guest performer in dance, collaborating with Marlies Yearby (choreographer of the Broadway musical Rent); the Urban Bush Women; Jane Comfort & Co.; Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company; Robert Moses' Kin; the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ronald K. Brown's "Evidence". His plays have been produced internationally at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Humana Festival of New American Plays, Harlem Stage, National Black Theater Festival and throughout Europe. Rux received a BESSIE award for his direction of the Lisa Jones/Alva Rogers dance musical, Stained, and donated his archives to the Billy Rose Theater Division of the New York Public Library as well as to the Film and Video/Theater and Dance Library Archives of the California Institute of the Arts.

Early life and influences[edit]

Born Carl Stephen Hancock in Harlem, New York,[1] Rux's biological mother (Carol Jean Hancock) suffered from schizophrenia and was institutionalized shortly after his birth. The identity of his biological father is unknown.[2] When he was four years old his maternal grandmother died (due to alcoholism).[3] He entered the New York City foster care system and eventually, lived under the guardianship of his great uncle, James Henry Rux (a WWII veteran) and his wife Arsula (née Cottrell). Legally adopted by the couple at the age of fifteen, his surname was changed to Rux, though his U.S. passport identifies him as Carl Stephen Hancock Rux. As a teenager, Carl Rux was exposed to jazz music by his adoptive parents, including the work of Oscar Brown Jr., John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln. While heavily influenced by jazz music traditions, 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. Unable to decide between music, literature, and theater he entered the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts[4] where he studied visual art and eventually double majored in voice,[4] during which time he sang with the Boys Choir of Harlem and Hezekiah Walker's Love Fellowship gospel choir. Upon graduation from high school he took private acting classes at both HB studios, Gertrude Jeanette's Hadley Players as well as privately with actor Robert Earl Jones (father of actor James Earl Jones). He is a graduate of Columbia University, and also studied at the American University of Paris as well as the University of Ghana at Legon.[5] After graduating college, Rux wrote theater, film and music criticism for several magazines and publications including Essence magazine, Interview magazine (and later) American Theater magazine. During this time Rux also became influenced by the Lower East Side poetry scene and exposed to the work of poets Miguel Algarin, Bob Holman, Jayne Cortez, Sekou Sundiata, Ntozake Shange; experimental musicians David Murray, Mal Waldron, Butch Morris, Craig Harris, singer Jeanne Lee; experimental theater artists Laurie Carlos, Robbie McCauley, Ruth Maleczech & Lee Breuer.


Rux 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.[6] 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 OBIE Award winning play Talk.[7]


  • Elmina Blues (Poetry) 1995
  • Pagan Operetta (Poetry/Short Fiction/SemioText) 1998

Literary fiction[edit]

  • Asphalt (Novel/Atria, Simon & Schuster) 2004
  • The Exalted (Novel) forthcoming


Rux is the author of several stage plays. His first, 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 Isaiah Washington[11] and received eleven AUDELCO nominations. Rux's most notable play is Talk, first produced at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in 2002 and directed by Marion McClinton.[12] The play won seven OBIE awards.

Selected Plays[edit]

  • Song of Sad Young Men
  • Talk
  • Geneva Cottrell, Waiting for the Dog to Die
  • Smoke, Lilies and Jade
  • Song of Sad Young Men
  • Chapter & Verse
  • Pipe
  • Pork Dream in the American House of Image
  • Not the Flesh of Others
  • Singing In the Womb of Angels
  • Better Dayz Jones
  • The (No) Black Male Show
  • Mycenaean
  • Asphalt
  • Etudes (for the Sleep of Other Sleepers
  • "Steel Hammer" (co-written by Will Power, Kia Corthran and Regina Taylor for the SITI company, directed by Anne Bogart).


  • Makandal (Music by Yosvaney Terry, set design by Edouard Duval Carrie, directed by Lars Jan) Harlem Stage
  • "Blackamoor Angel" (Music by Deidre Murray. Directed by Karin Coonrod) Bard Spiegeltent.

Select Text & Music for Dance[edit]

  • "Fast Forward Dreaming In a Two Step" (chor: Marlies Yearby; music: Jing Jing Luo) Performance Space 122, American Dance Festival at Jacob’s Pillow, Dance Theater Workshop, Judson Church, Tribeca Performing Arts Center)
  • "Kick The Boot, Raise the Dust An' Fly; A Recipe for Buckin" (chor: Marlies Yearby, chor., Sekou Sundiata, Laurie Carlos,co-authors, music: Craig Harris composer) Performance Space 122, Maison des arts de Créteil (France)
  • "Totin' Business & Carryin' Bones" (chor. Marlies Yearby), Performance Space 122, Maison des arts de Créteil (France)
  • "The Beautiful" (chor: Marlies Yearby, co-author:Laurie Carlos), Judson Church, Tribeca Performing Arts Center*"Yanga", (chor: Anita Gonzalez, music: Cooper-Moore, composer), Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Montclair State College
  • "Asphalt" (dir/chor:Jane Comfort; vocal score: Toshi Reagon, music: DJ Spooky, David Pleasant, Foosh, dramaturgy:Morgan Jenness, costumes: Liz Prince, lighting design: David Ferri ), Joyce Theater, National Tour
  • "Soul Deep" (chor: Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, composer: David Murray), Walker Arts Center, National Tour
  • "Of Urban Intimacies" (chor: Marlies Yearby), Lincoln Center Serious Fun!, Central Park Summerstage, National Tour
  • "That Was Like This/ This Was Like That" (chor: Marlies Yearby, music: Grisha Coleman), Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Central Park Summerstage, National Tour
  • "Shelter" (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater/chor: Jawole Willo Jo Zollar, music: Junior Gabbu Wedderburn)City Center, International Tour
  • "Sweet In The Morning" (chor: Kevin Iega Jeff; Jubilation! Dance Co)
  • "Hair Stories"(chor: Jawole Willa jo Zollar) BAM Theater/Esplanade Theater (Singapore) Hong Kong Arts Festival
  • "Uptown" (chor: Matthew Rushing) Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
  • "Four Corners" (chor: Ronald K. Brown) Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
  • "Seeds" (Ailey II; chor: Kevin Iega Jeff) Aaron Davis Hall, Apollo Theater, National Tour
  • "The Artificial Nigger" (chor: Bill T. Jones) Arnie Zane Bill T. Jones Dance Co; music: Daniel Bernard Roumain) National Tour
  • "Certo!" (chor: Roberta Garrison, music: Mathew Garrison) Scuola di Danza Mimma Testa in Trastevere (Rome, Italy) Teatro de natal infantil Raffaelly Beligni (Naples, Italy)
  • "Seeking Pyramidic Balance/Flipmode" 2000 (chor: Maia Claire Garrison) 651 Arts
  • "Nevabawarldapece"; Robert Moses Kin/Yerba Buena Performing Arts Center 2012
  • "Helen"; Robert Moses Kin/Yerba Buena Performing Arts Center 2013


Rux recorded on Reg E. Gaines CD Sweeper Don't Clean My Streets (Polygram), and his debut CD, Cornbread, Cognac & Collard Green Revolution (unreleased) was produced by 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.




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 RuhrTriennale 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; 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 / 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. He also appeared in "Blessing The Boats" by Sekou Sundiata, directed by Rhodessa Jones (River to River Festival, Under The Radar Festival, Joseph Papp Public Theater, Segrestrom Center for the Performing Arts)


The Grand Inquisitor (as The One) directed by Tony Torn, screenplay by Ruth Margraff; the documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: a Film About Gil Scott-Heron (as "Carl Hancock Rux"); The Bratz (as music teacher Mr. Whitman); the documentary "Brooklyn Boheme" (as “Carl Hancock Rux”)co-directed by Diane Paragas and Nelson George; and "Migrations", a feature film directed by Nelson George.


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.[5]


  • The Whitney Museum
  • The Nuyorican Poets Café
  • Thread Waxing Space
  • The Foundry Theater
  • The Kitchen
  • Harlem Stage


Rux joined New Yorkers Against Fracking, a new coalition of organizations calling for a fracking ban on natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing, lead by actors Mark Ruffalo and Melissa Leo and musicians Natalie Merchant, Joan Osborne, Tracy Bonham, and numerous others.

Rux was co-producer and curator of WeDaPeoples Cabaret, an annual event through a partnership between MAPP and Harlem Stage inviting the audience to imagine themselves as part of a larger social organism as citizens without borders in a globally interdependent world.

A longtime resident of Fort Greene Brooklyn,[13] 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 between May and October, 1938, and penned his seminal work, Native Son.[14]

Rux is a member of Take Back the Night, a foundation seeking to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence.


Rux is formally the Head of the 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 at Amhurst, Duke University, Stanford University, University of Iowa, and University of Wisconsin at Madison, among others.


  • MNSWA Urban Griot Award Finalist 2009
  • Rockefeller Multi-Arts Production Fund 2007
  • Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX) 10 Arts & Artists in Progress Award 2007
  • New York Press Club Journalism Award for Entertainment News
  • Rockefeller Multi Arts Production Fund 2006
  • Kitchen Theater Artist Award 2005
  • Alpert Award in the Arts 2004
  • OBIE Award 2004
  • National Endowment for the Arts Playwright in Residence Fellow 2004
  • Rockefeller Multi-Arts Production Fund 2004
  • New York Foundation for the Arts Gregory Millard Fellow 2004
  • New York Foundation for the Arts Prize 2004
  • Rockefeller Map Grant 2004
  • Time Out Top 10 Plays Theater Citation 2004
  • DeCapo’s Best Music Writing 2004: Essay: "Eminem; the New White Negro"
  • Creative Capital Multi-Arts Production Fund 2003
  • Creative Capital Artists Initiative Grant 2003
  • National Endowment for the Arts 2002
  • New York State Council on the Arts 2002
  • Creative Capital Fund 2002
  • Mary Flagler Cary Foundation
  • CINE Golden Eagle Film & Video Award 2001
  • New York Times Best Alternative Music 2000
  • Vibe Magazine "Ones to Watch" 1999
  • Village Voice Literary Prize 1999
  • Interview Magazine Artists Award 1998
  • New York Times "Thirty Artists under Thirty Most Likely to Influence Culture" 1998
  • Bessie Schonburg Award 1995
  • Fresh Poet Prize 1994
  • United States Artist Fellowship 2007 (shortlist)


  1. ^ "Carl Hancock Rux". eMusic. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  2. ^ Lewis, John (June 6, 2001). From birth to age four he lived with his maternal grandmother, Geneva Hancock (née Rux), great uncle and extended family members in an apartment they had occupied since the early 20th century great migration of African Americans to Harlem Baltimore City Paper "Skin Deep: Carl Hancock Rux's Tales of Black Male". City Paper.
  3. ^ Stapleton, Lara (January 21, 2009). "Carl Hancock Rux With Lara Stapleton". The Brooklyn Rail.
  4. ^ a b "Forward And Back". The New York Times. October 5, 2003. 
  5. ^ a b "Carl Hancock Rux". National Book Foundation. Archived from the original on September 7, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Bookstore". Nuyorican Poet's Bookstore. Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Carl Hancock Rux, Renaissance Man". Weekend Edition Sunday. NPR. June 27, 2004. 
  8. ^ Hill, Anthony D.; Barnett, Douglas Q. (2008). Historical Dictionary of African American Theater. Scarecrow Press. p. 428. ISBN 9780810862760. 
  9. ^ Wishna, Victor (2006). In Their Company: Portraits of American Playwrights. Consortium Book Sales & Dist. ISBN 9781884167546. 
  10. ^ "Off-Broadway". New York Magazine (New York Media) 23 (32): 145. August 20, 1990. 
  11. ^ "Isaiah Washington Biography (1963-)". Film Reference. Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
  12. ^ Rux, Carl Hancock (2004). Talk. Theatre Communications Gr. ISBN 9781559362269. 
  13. ^ Brooklyn Boheme. FilmBuff. January 1, 2011.
  14. ^ Villarosa, Linda (March 20, 2012). "Group Helps You Find Mr. Wright". The Local. Fort Green/Clinton Hill. 

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