Satchmo at the Waldorf

Working at The Louis Armstrong House Museum you never know who you are going to run into.  I encounter a wide variety of visitors from across the globe from places such as Kenya, Australia, and even the United Kingdom. Students, educators, musicians, playwrights, and actors all see Louis’s home as a haven to gain knowledge regarding the jazz legend.

Recently, an actor, Jerome Preston Bates found his way into the Welcome Center of the museum.  He is going to be starring in a one man show, entitled “Satchmo at the Waldorf,” a fictional play written by Terry Teachout.  The work is focused on Louis’s career. In preparation for his upcoming role, Bates saw it fit to visit the house museum and gather more information regarding Louis’s life.

Even though most of the content in “Satchmo at the Waldorf” is very true, it highlights a fictional plot twist. The setting of the play is backstage following Louis’s final performance months prior to his untimely death. Armstrong is in frail health, very reliant upon an oxygen machine. Louis reminisces about his journey to fame including his big break playing with King Oliver’s band. He recounts the trust he put into Glaser only to be fooled and left penniless. The portrait painted of Glaser, is that of a self centered white manager who capitalized on African American talent.

I appreciate Teachout’s creativity and his initiative to create a new narrative. However, personally I do not enjoy how Armstrong is portrayed. It is interesting how Louis is presented as a clueless subordinate. He is depicted as a feeble and oblivious man, which tarnishes how most people, including myself view the jazz great. When remembering Louis, I prefer to think of him in his prime, not his close to his fatal death.

Joseph G.”Joe” Glaser began managing Louis in May of 1935.  The two had a dynamic relationship which spanned over the course of more than 30 years until Glaser’s death in 1969. Louis entrusted Glaser to handle all of his finances so that he could divert his attention to his music. In reality, at the end of their relationship, they were on good terms and Armstrong died a wealthy man.

Satchmo at the Waldorf will be on show at the Houston Theater District in Houston, TX. It will run from February 23, 2018-March 18, 2018.

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