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"I wanted to tap people on the shoulder and remind them of black women's contribution to American music," says Calvin Mason, writer/director of Raisin' the Rent, a musical that opened last Friday at Caesar Café downtown. The show features a live band and the Ira Aldridge Repertory Players.

"Ira Aldridge was a black actor in the mid-1800s, born in the U.S., who went to Europe and became one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of his time. He became a 'master Othello.' When people used to speak of Othello, they referred to him. When he played the role in Russian, he was so convincing that someone from the balcony jumped onto the stage and tried to stop him from killing Desdemona."

Raisin' the Rent plays through May 22, $40 with dinner, $25 without; call 619-283-4574 for reservations.

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