Fighting Hate With Music, Comedy and Awareness

Fighting Hate With Music, Comedy and Awareness

A benefit concert at the Ferst Center aims to raise money and bring relief from upsetting times.

Kevin C. Madigan

Kevin Madigan is a senior reporter for the Atlanta Jewish Times.

James Wesley and Seth Rudetsky are the creative minds behind Concert for America.
James Wesley and Seth Rudetsky are the creative minds behind Concert for America.

A show to raise money for human rights organizations is coming to Atlanta on Monday, Aug. 28.

Concert for America: Stand Up, Sing Out at the Ferst Center for the Arts will feature the likes of singer Melissa Manchester, YouTube star Randy Rainbow and actress Sharon Gless. Atlanta-based students from the Broadway Dreams Foundation, including Audrey Kaye and Hannah Zeldin, also will perform.

Concert for America was created by radio host Seth Rudetsky and writer and producer James Wesley. Rudetsky spoke to the AJT from Germany while on a tour stop.

AJT: What’s your goal with this show?
Rudetsky: First and foremost, we want to cheer people up. There is a lot of darkness out there, and James and I want to put everyone in a great mood and give them energy and joy to go out and continue to be active citizens. We make the show really entertaining. For your Jewish readers who know the olden days, my uncle was Ukie Sherin, who was a big Jewish comic back in the day and worked with Mel Brooks. So I have entertainment in my DNA. Alongside the entertainment is awareness. We’re benefiting five organizations that people know the names of but don’t necessarily know the details, so we have someone representing each one onstage, and we talk to them. It’s very casual, but it really shines a light on what each group does. It’s a passionate discussion that really inspires the audience to get involved.

Concert for America is coming to Midtown on Monday, Aug. 28.

AJT: This concert is very timely, considering recent events. Comments?
Rudetsky: The show is bipartisan, so it’s not specifically about what’s happening on either side. It’s more about what we can do to keep our American values like openness, acceptance and the courage to make positive changes. As a Jew, there’s basically nothing more scary than Nazis, and it’s not something I never thought I’d have to fear in my own country. We’re very proud to have Richard Cohen, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, speaking at our concert. They are at the forefront of fighting hate groups, and they used our April concert that featured Barry Manilow to announce their latest lawsuit against a major neo-Nazi. Cohen inspired everyone and made them feel protected.

AJT: What are you hearing from audiences after the show?
Rudetsky: It’s so wonderful to get feedback. We hear over-the-top praise comments from people who are there to see a concert of amazing music and comedy. For instance, people flipped out over Jessie Mueller from the Broadway show “Beautiful,” who sang a Carole King song at our first concert. Naturally, we decided to bring her down to Atlanta. Then we hear comments from people about how they really needed to be at the concert, how it lifted their bleak outlook. Because we live-stream on Facebook and our website, we get comments from everywhere. A woman wrote me from South Dakota, a teacher at a low-income school. She was so sad on Inauguration Day, fearing for her students who really depend so much on government assistance. She then watched our concert on and was so thankful because it reminded her that are so many people in America who believe in good and will work together to keep this country loving and supportive of everyone.

AJT: Is it tightly scripted? What can the Atlanta folks expect?
Rudetsky: Ha! We do not believe in scripts. If you listen to my SiriusXM show, you’d know that I love a very loose atmosphere. Atlanta is going to get an amazing mix of Broadway stars and pop stars, and we’re so thrilled to have the comic genius of Randy Rainbow. He has suddenly taken off and has hundreds of thousands watching his hilarious videos. I still don’t know what he’s going to do at the concert, but I’m sure it will be brilliant.

What: Concert for America
Where: Ferst Center for the Arts, 350 Ferst Drive, Midtown
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 28
Tickets: $25 and up;

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