Tony, Grammy and Emmy winner André De Shields (The Wiz, Hadestown, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Play On!, The Full Monty) is part of the exciting, innovative Keeping Live Theatre Alive! initiative, the brainchild of actor Dan Lauria (“The Wonder Years,” Lombardi). Lauria called upon dozens of popular stage and screen stars to help save regional theater by creating short videos of themselves reading their works, including monologues, stories, reminiscences, and poems – that they’ve written and posted.
NJ Rep has made special performances featuring De Shields, Shuler Hensley, John Larroquette, Carolyn McCormack, Barbara Niven and Tony Todd on NJ Rep’s website. FREE of charge. Of course, donations are welcome, particularly in this crisis period. Click here to donate. More than 1.5 million dollars has been raised to date.
“Every sector in society has been impacted negatively by COVID-19, including theatres,” Dan Lauria said. “I wanted to raise awareness of the plight of these organizations while celebrating how actors are keeping their creative juices flowing.”
The lineup also includes includes Tony winners Judith Light, Laurie Metcalf, Bryan Cranston, Priscilla Lopez, John Lithgow, Judd Hirsch, Hal Linden, Joe Mantegna, and Tony Shalhoub. Additional performers include Kim Brockington, Bruce Davidson, Stacy Keach, Dan Lauria, Jodi Long, Wendie Malick, Patty McCormack, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill, Lou Diamond Phillips, James Pickens Jr, Stephen Root, Charles Shaughnessy, Peter Scolari, Joe Spano, Chris Sullivan, Reno Wilson, Henry Winkler, and Robert Wuhl.
The alliance is comprised of Berkshire Playwrights LAB, Durango PlayFest, Seven Angels Theater, LaGuna Playhouse, New Jersey Rep, Penquin Rep. Like similar groups nationwide, each of these organizations canceled their summer performances due to the coronavirus pandemic.
André De Shields is the triple-crown winner of the 2019 awards season, having won the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Tony Awards for best featured actor in a musical for his critically acclaimed performance as Hermes in Hadestown. The Actors’ Equity Foundation followed suit with the Richard Seff Award, honoring veteran stage actors’ best supporting performances of the year. In 2020, Mr. De Shields received the 2020 Grammy Award for Musical Theater Album for Hadestown, the 2020 AUDELCO for Lifetime Achievement, and an honorary Doctor of Arts Degree from Boston Conservatory at Berklee. In 2019, he received the 2019 Project1Voice Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2019 SAGE Joyce Warshow Lifetime Achievement Award, The York Theatre Company’s 2019 Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre, and was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. He received the Key to the City of Baltimore from Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young in August, 2019. Prior to his Tony Award win, Mr. De Shields was best known for his show-stopping performances in four legendary Broadway productions: The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Emmy Award), Play On! (Tony Nomination), and The Full Monty (Tony Nomination). In a career spanning fifty one years, he has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director, and educator, receiving in 2018 the 8th Annual Off Broadway Alliance Legend Award, and the 33rd Annual Bob Harrington Life Achievement Bistro Award. Among his other accolades are the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award and the 2007 Village Voice Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance. His film and TV projects include Anton Ego in Ratatouille: The TikTok Tok Musical, the Algebra Tutor in “John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch” on Netflix, Chubby in “Katy Keene” on the CW, and as Wyndham on “Almost Family.” He can next be seen as Gavin Plimsoll in Charles Busch’s new film, The Sixth Reel. De Shields is a proud member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and SDC. andredeshields.com
Hensley’s stage career began in the early 1990s with roles such as Pitkin in On the Town, Joe in The Most Happy Fella, and Gloriosus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, In 1998, he was cast as Jud Fry for London’s National Theatre Production of Oklahoma! then continued to play the role when the show transferred to the West End (1999), and then to Broadway (2002–2003), where he won a Tony, a Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award. Hensley also starred on Broadway in Young Frankenstein as the Monster and was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical. In 2011 he portrayed American Yiddish theatre great Boris Thomashefsky in The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater that later aired on the PBS series Great Performances.
John Larroquette is best known for his starring roles in the NBC military drama series “Baa Baa Black Sheep”(1976–1978), the NBC sitcom “Night Court” (1984–1992) (for which he received four consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series), the NBC sitcom “The John Larroquette Show” (1993–1996), the ABC legal comedy-drama series “Boston Legal” (2007–2008), and the TNT fantasy adventure series “The Librarians” (2014–2018). He made his film debut by providing the opening narration of the horror film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), following which he appeared in films such as Stripes (1981), Meatballs Part II (1984), Richie Rich (1994), and the Hallmark Channel mystery television film series McBride (2005–2008).
In film, Carolyn’s breakthrough role was in Enemy Mine with Dennis Quaid. Other credits include Woody Allen’s Whatever Works, You Know My Name with Sam Elliott, and A Simple Twist of Fate with Steve Martin. On TV she played district attorney Rita Fiore in “Spenser: For Hire” and appeared as the holodeck simulation Minuet in “11001001”, a first-season episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and later as Minuet Riker in a fantasy-alternate universe during the fourth-season episode “Future Imperfect”. A role she would become known for is that of Dr. Elizabeth Olivet on NBC’s “Law & Order”. She has also been a guest star on “Madam Secretary,” “Elementary,” “Blue Bloods,” “Judging Amy,” “The Practice,” “Body of Proof,” ‘Cold Case,” “Homicide: Life on the Street,” and “LA Law”. Stage credits include Off-Broadway and regional productions: Eve-olution, Dinner with Friends, Oedipus, Ancestral Voices, The Donahue Sisters, Family Furniture,Vanya, Sonya, Masha and Spike, What I Did Last Summer, and Will Eno’s The Open House (Lucille Lortel nomination, Drama Desk Award).
Barbara Niven is an actor, writer and producer, best known for her performances in Hallmark Hall of Fame and Lifetime movies (including Stranger in My Bed, The Perfect Neighbor, Double Cross, Murder in My House, The Rival, A Valentine Carol, Black Widow, Heat Wave, My Mother’s Secret, Home Invasion, The Wife He Met Online, Fame’s Promise, Wedding Daze, and Back to You and Me). TV credits include roles in “Pensacola: Wings of Gold,” “Cedar Cove,” and “Chesapeake Shores” with Treat Williams and Diane Ladd. She is also known for her roles on the soap operas “The Bold and the Beautiful” and” One Life to Live” as well as guest roles in “ER,” “Cold Case,” “Las Vegas,” “NCIS,” “Charmed,” “Eli Stone,” and “Parks and Recreation”.. On HBO she played Marilyn Monroe in The Rat Pack and has appeared in films such as Under Lock and Key, Forest Warrior, Foxfire, Breast Men, Chasing Ghosts, Redline, Summer’s Blood, and A Perfect Ending. She is also a motivational speaker, media trainer, and animal rights activist and spokesperson, as a National Ambassador for American Humane.
Tony Todd is an actor, film producer, and voice actor, best known for portraying Sergeant Warren in Platoon (1986), Kurn in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1990–1991) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1996), Ben in Night of the Living Dead (1990), the titular character in the Candyman horror franchise (1992–2021), William Bludworth in the Final Destination franchise (2000–2011), Dan in The Man from Earth (2007), and as the voice of The Fallen in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009).
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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