Woodie King Jr., Producing Director of New Federal Theatre (NFT), has appointed actress, director and producer Elizabeth Van Dyke as Artistic Director. King has admired Van Dyke’s producing acumen since she co-founded “Going to the River” in 1999 at Ensemble Studio Theatre with the late Curt Dempster, an organization to develop, produce and provide a New York City ‘home base’ for a community of female playwrights of color. He was similarly impressed by her work as Artist Director of Gala presentations for The Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts & Humanities.
Ms. Van Dyke, a stalwart of New Federal Theatre, last appeared there in its production of “Zora Neale Hurston” by Laurence Holder, directed by Mr. King (Castillo Theatre, 2016), for which she received an AUDELCO Award for Best Actress. Previously, she had appeared in NFT’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Anna Lucasta” by Phillip Yordan, and “Daddy” by Ed Bullins. She directed NFT’s productions of “Games” by Joyce Walker-Joseph, “Sweet Mama Stringbean” by Beth Turner, “Remembering WeSelves; The Black Renaissance” by Amiri Baraka, “Zora” featuring Phylicia Rashad, and her own play, “Great Men of Gospel, Spirit Into Sound.”
Woodie King, Jr’s New Federal Theatre was founded in 1970 specializing in minority drama and became a launching place for many artists, playwrights, directors and women. Many are well-known today, including Denzel Washington, Debbie Allen, Phylicia Rashad, S. Epatha Merkerson, Issa Rae, La Tanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Chadwick Boseman, Morgan Freeman, Robert Downey Jr., David Henry Hwang, Ed Bullins, J. E. Franklin, Ron Milner, Amiri Baraka and hundreds more.
New Federal has offered Off-Broadway productions at Castillo Theatre, 543 West 42nd Street, since 2015. Castillo was locked down when New York City went into quarantine in March, 2020, forcing the premature closing there of New Federal’s production of “Two Can Play” by Trevor Rhone.
Ms. Van Dyke’s directing credits also include Paula Vogel’s “A Civil War Christmas” (Conn Rep Theatre), “Blood” at NBT, “The Talk” and “Learning To Swim” at EST and “Sophisticated Ladies” at Kuntu Repertory Theatre in Pittsburgh, for which she received the Onyx Award for Best Director and Best Musical Production of the Year. She won an Ace Gold Award for “Love To All, Lorraine,” a play based on the life of Lorraine Hansberry that she wrote, co-directed and acted at The American Place Theatre and EST. It became a TV movie directed by Woodie King, Jr. She originated the roles of Fannie Mae Dove in “Flyin’ West” by Pearl Cleage, Mattie in “No N…, No Jews, & No Dogs by the late John Henry Redwood, and Annie in “The Dance On Widow’s Row” by Samm Art Williams. Her awards also include the Roy Acuff Chair of Excellence in Theatre at Austin Peavy State University (nominated by the late Howard Stein), The Board of Directors Award from AUDELCO, The President’s Award from the Black Theatre Network, a Fox Foundation Grant and a Rockefeller Grant to study the elements of Japanese Theatre.
Ms. Van Dyke says her short-term creative goals as Artistic Director include “ensuring New Federal Theatre is involved in dialogues, initiatives, and coverage, locally, nationally, and that New Federal Theatre is recognized and valued for its artistry and longevity.” She says it’s “a great privilege and an honor to be groomed by such a master as Woodie King, Jr.,” praising his knowledge of literature, theater and Black Theater, history, show business, and both nonprofit and commercial theater. “It’s exciting and humbling to be trusted with a 50 year-old institution by its founder.”
Ms. Van Dyke will oversee all of the company’s programming and continue to uphold New Federal Theatre’s mission “to integrate artists of color and women into the mainstream of American theater by training artists for the profession, and by presenting plays by writers of color and women to integrated, multicultural audiences – plays which evoke the truth through beautiful and artistic re-creations of ourselves.”
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.
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