ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL Named Best Political Documentary at Second Annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards Ceremony

Steve James’ compelling film, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail was named Best Political Documentary at the second annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards tonight at a gala event, hosted by Penn Jillette at BRIC in Brooklyn.

Jillette lead the celebrations for this year’s Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary honorees — The Cats of Istanbul (Kedi), Etty Ausch (One of Us), Al Gore (An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power), Laird Hamilton (Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton), Dolores Huerta (Dolores), Gigi Lazzarato (This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous), The Sung Family (Abacus: Small Enough to Jail).

Thomas Sung, Hwei Lin Sung, Heather Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Vera Sung and Jill Sung. Photo by Lia Chang
Thomas Sung, Hwei Lin Sung, Heather Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Vera Sung and Jill Sung. Photo by Lia Chang

One of the past year’s most critically acclaimed documentaries during its robust international film festival run and a national theatrical release, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail tells the saga of the Sungs — a Chinese-American family who own and operate Abacus Federal Savings in New York’s Chinatown.

But in 2009, the Sung’s fired a loan officer after they discovered fraud. They reported the fraud to law enforcement, but soon found themselves and the bank under scrutiny. Two-and-a-half-years later, Abacus Federal Savings and two senior officers were accused of mortgage fraud by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, becoming the only U.S. bank prosecuted after the 2008 financial crash and the first bank indicted in New York since 1991.

With riveting detail, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail follows how the indictment and subsequent trial forces the Sung family to defend themselves — and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community — over the course of a five-year legal battle.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail examines the case against the bank, hearing from prosecutors, jurors, defense lawyers, and Mr. and Mrs. Sung and their four daughters — whom James filmed for more than a year as they fought to clear their names.

Credits
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is a Mitten Media, Motto Pictures and Kartemquin Films Production for WGBH/FRONTLINE and Independent Television Service (ITVS). It is co-presented with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). The director is Steve James. The producers are Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman. The co-producers are Fenell Doremus and Nick Verbitsky. The executive producers are Gordon Quinn, Christopher Clements, Betsy Steinberg and Justine Nagan. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. The executive producer of ITVS is Sally Jo Fifer.

The second annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards honor the finest achievement in documentary features and nonfiction television. The awards were determined by Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA)  members with expertise in the documentary field. The Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards was produced by Bob Bain Productions.

Click here for a full list of the winners.

About BFCA/BTJA
The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) is the largest film critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 300 television, radio and online critics. The Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) is a partner organization to the BFCA and includes TV, radio and Internet journalists who cover television on a regular basis. For more information, visit: www.CriticsChoice.com
FRONTLINE to Premiere ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL on September 12; Photos from Asia Society Screening

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits

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 is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. 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 and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

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Emory University’s Rose Library to Honor 50th Anniversary of the Negro Ensemble Company with Screening of Legacy Leaders of Color Video Project (LLCVP) Featuring Douglas Turner Ward on October 24

Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and Project1VOICE (P1V) in association with The Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (Rose Library) at Emory University and Theater Emory are proud to announce a screening for the #LegacyLeaders video of Douglas Turner Ward in Atlanta.  The event will be held on October 24th from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., in White Hall 208, Emory University.  This event is FREE and open to the public.  

This is the conclusion of a three-city tour that celebrates the half-century legacy of the famed classic Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) and its three visionary co-founders Robert Hooks, Gerald Krone, and Douglas Turner Ward.

The three-city video screening tour kicked off in Los Angeles at Ebony Repertory Theatre—the resident theater company of the Nate Holden Performing Arts Centeron September 23rd; continued in New York City at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and now closes in Atlanta at Emory University on October 24th.  This event at Emory University will  include:  a 50th anniversary reunion of NEC alums who were involved with the NEC during Douglas Turner Ward’s artistic leadership; excerpts from the NEC’s award-winning and critically acclaimed canon of plays; a moderated panel discussion about the innovative legacy and initiation of NEC with the company’s three co-founders; and a special tribute to honor the many NEC talents we have lost over the years, the lives they touched and the art they made or made possible.  Award-winning Classic NEC alumni scheduled to appear include:  Thomas Jefferson Byrd (actor)  Pearl Cleage (playwright), Walter Dallas (director), Carlton Mollette (playwright), Ruben Santiago-Hudson (actor/director), Oz Scott (director), Michael Schultz (director) and Wynn Thomas (production designer).

TCG created the Legacy Leaders of Color Video Project (LLCVP) over a two-year period. With support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to work with video production company MOPED, TCG filmed a series of interviews chronicling the stories of founding leaders of theatre of color, including Douglas Turner Ward. Screening events will be held in the leaders’ communities to further celebrate their legacies and galvanize support for their enduring impact.

Notable Negro Ensemble Company alums include: Mary Alice, Debbie Allen, Angela Bassett, Rosalind Cash, Judyann Elder, Charles Fuller, Adolph Caesar, David Alan Grier, Bebe Drake, Giancarlo Esposito, Lawrence Fishburne, Louis Gossett, Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, S. Epatha Merkerson, Barbara Montgomery, Denise Nicholas, James Pickens, Jr., Phylicia Rashad, Esther Rolle, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Michael Schultz, Wynn Thomas, Glynn Turman, Denzel Washington,  Lynn Whitfield, and Hattie Winston

“Douglas Turner Ward played a tremendous role in developing the actors and directors that came through the Negro Ensemble Company,” says Pellom McDaniels III, curator of African American collections at the Rose Library. “We’re fortunate to have an extensive collection of his papers that includes scripts, correspondence, Negro Ensemble Company records, photographs, and printed material.”

“This event celebrates the robust future of the American theater by honoring, celebrating and acknowledging its richly diverse past,” said Erich McMillan-McCall, CEO/Founder of Project1VOICE. “The classic Negro Ensemble–under the firm artistic guidance of co-founder Douglas Turner Ward–nurtured, cultivated, and inspired generations of talented professionals from all backgrounds in all aspects of the entertainment industry and beyond. A legacy of this magnitude has no expiration date and continues to blaze trails because it was built by a visionary triumvirate who fully understood the gravitas of pride, tradition and above all excellence.”

“Our theatre field and broader culture owe an enormous debt to the artistry and activism of these extraordinary leaders,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director, TCG. “We hope these videos and screening events not only honor these nine leaders, but raise awareness more broadly of the essential role played by theatres of color in our field. As more and more theatres make equity, diversity, and inclusion central to their work, we must remember the theatres that have been working with artists and communities of color for generations.”

The nine leaders featured in the videos are: Lou Bellamy, Penumbra Theatre, St Paul, MN; Tisa Chang, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, New York, NY; Frank Chin, Asian American Theater Company, San Francisco, CA; Miriam Colón, Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, New York, NY; Woodie King, Jr., New Federal Theatre, New York, NY; Muriel Miguel, Spiderwoman Theater, New York, NY; Jackie Taylor, Black Ensemble Theater, Chicago, IL; Luis Valdez, El Teatro Campesino, San Juan Baptista, CA; and Douglas Turner Ward, Negro Ensemble Company, New York, NY.

The Legacy Leaders of Color Video Project is one of the key elements of TCG’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Initiative’s “Establishing a Baseline” programming, which also includes REPRESENT, a demographic survey that thinks outside the checkbox, and The Well, a hub of EDI-related resources.“Establishing a Baseline” programming received Phase I and Phase II support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s (DDCF’s) Fund for National Projects.

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Program Director for the Arts Maurine Knighton said, “Each of the nine leaders whom TCG has interviewed has made tremendous contributions to the American theatrical canon. We are confident that by capturing their firsthand accounts and addressing the under-documentation of their work, this project can greatly encourage current and future theater-makers creating pioneering work that expands the community of theater.”

Project1VOICE, Inc. is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit performing arts service organization based in New York City. Its mission is to support and promote the American theater specifically the narrative of and by people of African descent. P1V was formed after the economic downturn in 2008 to create awareness and support for the many community-building African American theaters whose doors were closing with no hope of re-opening. P1V’s core activity is the coordination of an international, same-day staged reading series that revives and re-introduces forgotten seminal works by playwrights from the African Diaspora, a critical thread in the tapestry of the American theater. This annual event is called Project1VOICE One Play One Day and takes place on the third Monday in June. The success of One Play One Day has resulted in full productions—Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress (2011), The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe (2016) and Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith (2017)—and other programs in African American and LORT theaters across the nation. Other P1V programs include P1V 2.0—an Online Book Club, P1V Conversations with Pioneers, P1V Workshops—networking and knowledge-building opportunities and P1V Honors—recognizing outstanding contributions in the arts. P1V has expanded its reach and influence by partnering with nationally and internationally recognized organizations like Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Howard University, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA), Temple University, Theatre Communications Group (TCG), and Theatre for Young Audiences/USA (TYA/USA). To date other United States organizations, include League of Resident Theatres (LORT) members, African American theater companies including Billie Holiday Theatre, Ebony Repertory Theatre, Congo Square Theatre and Ensemble Theatre—Houston as well as, other diverse educational, artistic and social institutions. P1V’s network also includes theater companies in Nigeria and South Africa. Through its robust programs and innovative partnerships, P1V works to provide significant support, accessibility and adequate representation for African American theater, an integral sector of the English-speaking theater.

The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The Arts Program of DDCF focuses its support on contemporary dance, jazz and theater artists, and the organizations that nurture, present and produce them. For more information, please visit www.ddcf.org

 

MOPED is a full-service digital media and video production company that intersects stories that matter with technology — to catalyze conversation, mobilize audiences and drive impact both on and offline. We help you achieve heightened visibility, audience understanding and greater success, by developing your story as a vehicle, and then leveraging the platforms you’ll use to share it with the world.http://mopedproductions.tv/

 

For over 50 years, Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for U.S. theatre, has existed to strengthen, nurture, and promote the professional not-for-profit theatre. TCG’s constituency has grown from a handful of groundbreaking theatres to over 700 member theatres and affiliate organizations and more than 12,000 individuals nationwide. TCG offers its members networking and knowledge-building opportunities through conferences, events, research, and communications; awards grants, approximately $2 million per year, to theatre companies and individual artists; advocates on the federal level; and through the Global Theater Initiative, TCG’s partnership with the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, serves as the U.S. Center of the International Theatre Institute. TCG is North America’s largest independent publisher of dramatic literature, with 15 Pulitzer Prizes for Best Play on the TCG booklist. It also publishes the award-winning American Theatre magazine and ARTSEARCH®, the essential source for a career in the arts. In all of its endeavors, TCG seeks to increase the organizational efficiency of its Member Theatres, cultivate and celebrate the artistic talent and achievements of the field, and promote a larger public understanding of, and appreciation for, the theatre. www.tcg.org.

The Rose Library event represents an ongoing effort to connect the archives more deeply to the community and to engage more artists with the collections. Brent Glenn, artistic director of Theater Emory, calls the collections a goldmine in our backyard.

The African American collection has given us the tools and materials to build something, and were having conversations now about how to engage our faculty and the greater Atlanta community more deeply with these theater resources,” says Glenn.

This NEC event is partially funded at Emory by the Richard Long Fund in support of African American collections. Long, who died in 2013, joined the Emory faculty in 1987 as Atticus Haygood Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts. Known for his wide-ranging interests and scholarly pursuits, Long chaired the African American Collections Advisory Board at the Rose Library. He was known for both his erudition and generosity, according to Randall Burkett, research curator for African American Collections.

M. BUTTERFLY’s Broadway Revival: A Conversation with David Henry Hwang at China Institute on September 26

Tonight, China Institute is presenting M. Butterfly’s Broadway Revival: A Conversation with David Henry Hwang, moderated by NY1’s Frank DiLella at 40 Rector Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10006, from 6:30PM- 8:00PM. Tickets are $10 for Members and $20 for Non-members. Click here for more information.

This fall, visionary director Julie Taymor presents a Broadway revival of David Henry Hwang’s Tony Award-winning play M. Butterfly, starring Clive Owen. Inspired by the true scandal that captivated the world, this is a story about an illicit affair between a French diplomat and a Chinese opera diva whose secrets lie deep beneath the surface. At this conversation between Mr. Hwang and NY1’s Frank DiLella we will delve into the story behind M. Butterfly, explore its themes, and discuss the artistic approach behind this new production.

David Henry Hwang is a Tony Award® winner and three-time nominee, a three-time Obie Award® winner, and a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. In addition to M. Butterfly, his works include ChinglishYellow FaceGolden ChildKung FuThe Dance and the Railroad, and FOB, as well as the Broadway musicals Aida (co-author) and Disney’s Tarzan. He also updated the libretto for the 2002 revival of Flower Drum Song. America’s most-produced living opera librettist, Hwang premiered his new opera, Dream of the Red Chamber (co-authored with Bright Sheng), at San Francisco Opera last fall. Hwang has been honored with the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels Award for a Master American Dramatist, the 2012 Inge Award, the 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright “Mimi” Award, a 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award, and the 2015 IPSA Distinguished Artist Award. He has also been a long-time board member of the Young Playwrights Inc. and the Lark Play Development Center. Hwang was recently the Residency One Playwrigt at New York’s Signature Theatre, and currently serves as Head of Playwriting at Columbia University School of the Arts. He is currently a writer/producer for the Gold Globe-winning TV series, The Affair, and was recently named Chair of the American Theatre Wing.

Frank DiLella is a theater reporter and producer for NY1 and host of the weekly program On Stage and the Time Warner Cable spin-off program On Stage Across America, where he has interviewed legendary artists including Bette Midler, August Wilson, Tom Stoppard, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. In addition to his work at NY1, DiLella is a contributing correspondent for Playbill and MANHATTAN Magazine and has given lectures on theater and journalism at Hofstra University and The American Theatre Wing. In the fall of 2009, DiLella and the On Stage team were honored by the New York Musical Theater Festival for their weekly coverage of NYC theater.

Register Online. For questions email Aaron Nicholson at: anicholson@chinainstitute.org or call 212-744-8181 ext. 138

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BLACK MIRROR Star Denise Burse and Peter Jay Fernandez Attend 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

Peter Jay Fernandez and his wife Denise Burse attend the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Peter Jay Fernandez and his wife Denise Burse attend the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Peter Jay Fernandez and his wife Denise Burse attend the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Before Denise Burse begins rehearsal for John Henry Redwood’s The Old Settler at The Billie Holiday Theatre (The Billie), she is attending the 69th Annual Emmy Awards with her husband Peter Jay Fernandez (“Luke Cage”)  at the Microsoft Theater in LA tonight for the “San Junipero” episode of Netflix’s sci-fi anthology series  “Black Mirror,” where she played Elder Kelly, the elder version of Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character, shot on location in London and Capetown.

Critically-acclaimed and a fan favorite, “San Junipero” is up for two Emmy nominations: the first is for Charlie Brooker, for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special, and the second is in the Outstanding TV Movie category.

Denise Burse as Elder Kelly in the "San Junipero" episode of "Black Mirror".
Denise Burse as Elder Kelly in the “San Junipero” episode of “Black Mirror

Ms. Burse shared, “I was very proud of the “Black Mirror” episode “San Junipero”. Our episode was written and produced by Charlie Brooker the creator of the “Black Mirror” series. It was very exciting to be on the set with the mastermind behind a show that has been so well received from fans across the country, but this episode has been submitted in film festivals around the globe and received critical acclaim as a stand alone story. It was an honor to be a member of such stellar cast and crew. We owe a great deal of the positive outcome of the episode to our director Owen Harris.”

Collider.com: ‘Black Mirror’: Charlie Brooker and Gugu Mbatha-Raw Talk “San Junipero” in Our Spoiler Interview

Emmys 2017: why San Junipero’s heartbreaking vision of Heaven will live forever

Black Mirror wins Outstanding Television Movie Emmy

Updated: 9/17/17

“Black Mirror” won in both categories -Charlie Brooker, for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special, and for Outstanding TV Movie. Below are the acceptance speeches.

Ms. Burse had a blast working on one of her favorite shows, the very popular “Greenleaf” on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, appearing as Kevin’s mother, Ethlin Satterlee, in the season 2, episode 3 entitled, “A Mother’s Love.”

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THE OLD SETTLER at The Billie, October 20 – November 19

Maechi Aharanwa, Pauletta Washington Denise Burse and Warner Joseph Miller.
Maechi Aharanwa, Pauletta Washington Denise Burse and Warner Joseph Miller.

Helmed by Tony Award nominee Michele Shay, The Billie is launching its 46th season in the newly renovated theater with The Old Settler, October 20 – November 19, 2017.  In addition to Ms. Burse (Brownsville Song: b side for Trey, “House of Payne”), the cast also features Pauletta Pearson Washington (Two Trains Running, Autumn), Warner Miller (“Luke Cage”), as well as newcomer and Juilliard graduate Maechi Aharanwa (An Octoroon).

Set in 1943 Harlem, The Old Settler focuses on two sisters’ struggle to afford their rising rent. Faced with a choice between giving up their apartment and renting out their extra room to a stranger, they decide to take a chance on a boarder, newly arrived from the South. In equal measures funny and poignant, The Old Settler is a glimpse into the heart of an American City.

The Old Settler will be stage managed by Carolyn Reich. The design team includes lighting design by David Moodey, sound design by Kevin Novinsky, costume design by Niiamar Felder, and scenic design and props by Frank Oliva.

Tickets are available at TheBillieHoliday.org. Subscriptions to the 2017-2018 season are on sale by calling 718-636-6995 or by visiting the website.

Ms. Burse can be seen in Tim Blake Nelson’s Anesthesia and Bruce Beresford’s Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding opposite Jane Fonda. Her favorite film roles include her co-starring turns as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mother opposite Howard Rollins in The Boy King (WSB); as Buster Marshall, Thurgood Marshall’s wife in Simple Justice (PBS American Experience); as Sister Marcie in Preaching to the Choir, directed by Charles Randolph Wright, as Sergeant Martin in A Time to Triumph (CBS) starring Patty Duke; and as Eleanor Clark in Resting Place (CBS, Hallmark Hall of Fame), starring John Lithgow and Morgan Freeman. Other film and TV credits include the BET/STARZ movie Funny Valentines, with Alfre Woodard and Loretta Devine, Angel, Basquiat, The Juror, Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Third Watch, 100 Centre Street, The Sopranos, The Cosby Show, New York Undercover and One Life to Live.

Ms. Burse appeared on Broadway in Wendy Wasserstein’s An American Daughter, directed by Daniel Sullivan. Her Off-Broadway credits include Eisa Davis’ Angela’s Mixtape (Ohio Theatre), Don Juan of Seville (Classical Stage Company), Ground People (American Place Theatre), Harriet’s Return (Cherry Lane Theatre), Hannah Davis (Negro Ensemble Company) and Bill Harris’ Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil (New Federal Theatre). Her regional credits include Marcus Gardley’s dance of the holy ghosts with Michael Genet (CENTERSTAGE); Pearl Cleage’s Flyin’ West with Ruby Dee at The Kennedy Center; Charles Randolph Wright’s Blue (Cincinnati Playhouse, Geva); Miss Evers’ Boys (Illusion Theater); African Company Presents Richard III (Cleveland Playhouse); Fences (CENTERSTAGE); A Raisin in the SunThe Piano Lesson (Seattle Repertory Theatre, director Lloyd Richards) and James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner (True Colors Theatre Company/Alliance Theatre). Helmer Kenny Leon has directed her in August Wilson’s Fences (Alliance Theatre), Radio Golf (CENTERSTAGE, Mark Taper Forum, Seattle Repertory Theatre), The Piano Lesson and Seven Guitars (Alliance Theatre). Ms. Burse garnered a Theatre World Award for her Off-Broadway debut in Ground People and an AUDELCO Award for Robert Johnson: Trick The Devil.

Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako (Beneatha Younger), Mia Ellis (Ruth Younger), Denise Burse (Lena Younger), Catalino Manalang (Travis Younger), Richard Prioleau (Walter Lee) in A Raisin in the Sun at Seattle Repertory Theatre. Photo credit: Alan Alabastro
Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako (Beneatha Younger), Mia Ellis (Ruth Younger), Denise Burse (Lena Younger), Catalino Manalang (Travis Younger), Richard Prioleau (Walter Lee) in A Raisin in the Sun at Seattle Repertory Theatre. Photo credit: Alan Alabastro

A native of Atlanta, Ms. Burse honed her craft performing at the Just Us Theatre, The Alliance Theatre and The Atlanta Children’s Theater.

Ms. Burse is repped by Brett Adams Ltd. Artists’ Agency.

BWW Review: Classic RAISIN IN THE SUN at Rep Spotlights How Far We Haven’t Come

Q & A: Denise Burse talks ‘Anesthesia’, Netflix’s ‘Black Mirror’, and ‘Brownsville Song (B-Side for Tray)’

Denise Burse as Claretha Jenkins in House of Payne’s “Payneful Visit” 

MR ROBOT’S BD Wong Talks Emmy Nomination, MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS, JURASSIC WORLD, Academy Invite, #OscarsSoWhite and More

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits

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 is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. 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 and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com

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SAG-AFTRA Mourns the Passing of New York Local President Mike Hodge

Courtesy of SAG/AFTRA
Courtesy of SAG/AFTRA
Courtesy of SAG/AFTRA

Source: www.sagaftra.org

SAG-AFTRA mourns the passing of Mike Hodge, an accomplished actor, stalwart unionist and New York president of SAG-AFTRA, who passed away on September 9. He was 70.
Hodge had a long career as a Broadway, TV, film and commercial actor.
Oso Tayri Casel, Peter Kwong, SAG-Aftra New York local President Mike Hodge, Lia Chang and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson at the Cinemax® VIP Welcome Red Carpet Reception and UAS IAFF Awards at HBO in New York on November 11, 2016.
Oso Tayri Casel, Peter Kwong, SAG-Aftra New York local President Mike Hodge, Lia Chang and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson at the Cinemax® VIP Welcome Red Carpet Reception and UAS IAFF Awards at HBO in New York on November 11, 2016.

A SAG-AFTRA National Board member since 2001, Hodge was first elected New York president in 2009 and continued in that role until his death. He was instrumental in jumpstarting the effort that ultimately led to the merging of Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in 2012. In 2013 and again in 2015, he was elected at the SAG-AFTRA National Convention to two-year terms as the union’s National Vice President representing New York.

“Mike’s spirit shone brightly, and he was greatly admired by those he worked with, whether in the union’s boardroom or on set. He will be remembered for his professionalism, conviction and remarkable strength of purpose,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “His perseverance and ability to rally members helped make merger possible, and in that regard, SAG-AFTRA stands as a memorial to his accomplishments, leadership of the New York Local and everything he believed in.”
Hodge attended West Virginia University where he was part of the integrating class at the School of Journalism. After earning a B.A. in journalism with a minor in theater, he went to work for The Washington Post. Later, he continued his theater studies at the DC Black Repertory Theater. After he earned his Equity, SAG and AFTRA cards while working in Washington, D.C., he decided to make a move to New York.
That opened the doors to commercial work, while also allowing him to pursue theater roles. With that foundation in place, Hodge began appearing on nighttime and daytime TV series. Soon his career expanded to include work in film. Among his credits, he appeared on Broadway in Fences and A Few Good Men; the film To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar; and often appeared on television as a doctor, lawyer or judge on shows such as “Law & Order”. He was also an award-winning audiobook narrator, having narrated books by Steve Harvey, Mitch Albom and others.
Everything changed with the commercials strike in 2000. Friends encouraged Hodge to run for SAG’s national board. Inspired by his union-member father, Hodge launched his campaign and in 2001 won a seat. Eight years later, Hodge was again asked to run – this time for the SAG New York Local presidency. In 2009, he was elected president, now moving to co-chair several negotiating committees on which he had previously been serving. He served on the union’s G1 committee that created the framework for the 2012 merger of SAG and AFTRA, helping lead the campaign in New York.
Urban Action Showcase IAFF Awards at HBO in New York on November 11, 2016.
Urban Action Showcase IAFF Awards at HBO in New York on November 11, 2016.

During his many years of union leadership, Hodge was also active in several union committees: National and New York Executive; Professional Representatives; TV/Theatrical Negotiating; Basic Cable Negotiating; Network Code Negotiating; Corporate/Educational and Non-Broadcast Negotiating; Organizing; Government Review; and Communications.

Hodge also served as a member of the New York State AFL-CIO Executive Council, the City Labor Council and as a trustee to the Industry Advancement Cooperative Fund. He was instrumental in establishing and extending the N.Y. film production tax incentive through 2022, and he worked to strengthen the N.Y. Right of Publicity law for all members. He also worked with New York’s elected officials to create the city’s entertainment industry internship program, which has helped improve diversity behind the camera.
Hodge was born February 24, 1947 in McComas, West Virginia. He graduated from Gary District High School as valedictorian of the class of 1965.
Countless relatives, friends, professional colleagues and the N.Y. Local staff will miss his warm smile, hearty laughter, generosity and big personality. He loved life and spending time with his family. Together, they enjoyed Thanksgiving and Christmas, with rare exceptions. Memorable family vacations with mom, siblings, nieces and nephews included trips to Hawaii, New Zealand, New Orleans, the Caribbean Islands, and family reunions in Ohio and Virginia.
Hodge was predeceased by his father, Rev. Ulysses G. Hodge and is survived by his mother, Roberta Hodge Johnson of Mint Hill, N.C.; brother, Joseph Hodge (Jacqueline) of Dayton, Ohio; sisters, Karen Hodge Thomas (Chester) of Mint Hill, N.C. and Vicki Hodge Lynch of Waxhaw, N.C.; two nephews, Justin Thomas (Julie) of Mint Hill, N.C. and Jordan Lynch of Waxhaw, N.C.; two nieces, Courtney Thomas Evans (Gabriel) and Dayna Hodge Lynch of Waxhaw, N.C.; a great niece, Zoey Thomas and a great nephew, Gabriel Thomas Evans, Jr., whose arrival on Sept. 8 provided great joy to him.

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Negro Ensemble Company Gala Benefit on September 11; A SOLDIER’S PLAY Revival Set for 50th Season, September 27 – October 8

Original cast of "A Soldier's Play" by Charles Fuller, presented by Negro Ensemble Company at Theatre Four, 1981. Brent Jennings, Steven Jones, Eugene Lee, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jame Pickens and Reyno Shine. Photo by Bert Andrews

For its 50th season, The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. (NEC) has been presenting a retrospective of some of the troupe’s signature works.

The culminating event of this landmark season will be NEC’s most famous and successful production, “A Soldier’s Play” by Charles Fuller, which NEC first presented in 1981 at Theatre Four. That production ran for two years, earned unanimous praise and launched the careers of many current stars, but has never again had a major production in New York.

Original cast of "A Soldier's Play" by Charles Fuller, presented by Negro Ensemble Company at Theatre Four, 1981. Brent Jennings, Steven Jones, Eugene Lee, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jame Pickens and Reyno Shine. Photo by Bert Andrews
Original cast of “A Soldier’s Play” by Charles Fuller, presented by Negro Ensemble Company at Theatre Four, 1981. Brent Jennings, Steven Jones, Eugene Lee, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jame Pickens and Reyno Shine. Photo by Bert Andrews

NEC will revive the play September 27 to October 8 at Theatre 80 St. Marks, directed by Charles Weldon, the troupe’s current Artistic Director.

The play uses a murder mystery in a segregated U.S. Army base during World War II to expose angers and resentments among African Americans that curiously mimic white racist attitudes. A black Captain is sent to investigate the murder of a black Sergeant. The setting is a segregated Army base in Louisiana where a black officer wielding authority is unprecedented and bitterly resented. The Sargent is revealed as tyrannical in nature and disgusted with his fellow black soldiers, particularly those from the rural South. The unit is comprised of former Negro Leagues players who were grouped as a unit in order to provide entertainment. Their success playing against white soldiers makes them so popular that it generates talk of them playing against the Yankees in an exhibition game. Nevertheless, they are assigned to menial jobs. The Sargent’s murder at first seems attributable to the local KKK. But when the true murderers are found, surprising and unsettling divisions among the black troops will be revealed. Social forces that might be unveiled, however, will be swept under the rug of history, since the platoon is about to deploy to Europe for the honor of participating in the great Allied invasion. The play won the Pulitzer Prize, an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play, a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play and three Obie Awards.

“A Soldier’s Play” ran for two years Off-Broadway and became the most acclaimed production in NEC’s body of work. It gave birth, so to speak, to the careers of Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Adolph Caesar and James Pickens, Jr. NEC’s co-founder Douglas Turner Ward, who was the play’s original director, has written that he was certain of the play’s success from the very beginning, not least because he was so certain of its casting, most of the actors having already appeared at the NEC.

In 1984, a faithful adaptation of the play was filmed Columbia Pictures as “A Soldier’s Story,” directed by Norman Jewison, adapted by Fuller from his Pulitzer Prize-winning script. It won prestigious festival prizes and was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Adolph Caesar), and Screenplay Adaptation (Fuller).

This 50th Season production will be directed by Charles Weldon, who acted in “A Soldier’s Story” in 1983 at the Mark Taper Forum. His cast-mates also included Robert Hooks, Denny Holiday, Earl Billings, Adolph Caesar, Denzel Washington and Larry Riley. In revisiting the play, Weldon has cast actors who are similar in their effect to those who played the original characters in 1981. The 2017 cast is: Gilbert Tucker, Layon Gray, P.J. Max, Horace Glasper, Buck Hinkle, Derek Dean, Jay Ward, Arron Lloyd, Adrain Washington, Fulton Hodges, Aaron Sparks and Jimmy Gary, Jr. Their 1981 counterparts were: Adolph Caesar, CharLes Brown, Brent Jennings, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Friedman, Cotter Smith, Eugene Lee, James Pickens, Jr., Denzel Washington, Steven A. Jones, Stephen Zettler and Larry Riley.

Set design is by Chris Cumberbatch. Lighting Design is by Melody A. Beal. Costume Design is by Ali Turns. Sound Design is by Jacqui Anscombe.

Presented by Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. (www.necinc.org)
Performance Schedule: Wednesdays through Fridays at 7:00 PM, Saturdays and Sundays at 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM. Tickets: $25 General Admission; $20 Students, Seniors and Groups of 10 or more. Previews September 27 & 28, opens September 29. Opening night celebration $20 additional.
Box office: 866-811-4111, www.necinc.org. Group sales 212-582-5860.

NEC GALA SEPTEMBER 11

Director/actor Michelle Shay and actor Brandon Dirden, joined by comedian Rhonda Hansome and jazz musicians Pam Hamilton/Rob Dors Duo, will host Negro Ensemble Company’s Golden Celebration September 11 from 6:00 to 10:00 PM at Dwyer Cultural Center: 258 St Nicholas Avenue (enter 123rd Street between St. Nicholas Ave & Fredrick Douglas Blvd.). There will be a photo exhibit by Carmen de Jesus curated by Debra Vanderberg Spencer and a screening of “A Soldier’s Play and Beyond,” produced and directed by Susan Watson-Turner. Lighting designer Shirley Prendergast will be honored. Tickets are $150 – $50 and can be purchased on the NEC website, necinc.org, or by calling Ovation Tix at 866-811-4111.

Playwright Charles Fuller has been a prominent contributor to the repertory of the NEC, beginning with “In the Deepest Part of Sleep,” a four-character domestic drama, and a succession of larger, more historical plays with themes of justice, including “The Brownsville Raid” and “Zooman and the Sign.” Other productions with NEC include two epic cycles, “In My Many Names and Days” and “We.” He has written about twenty major theatrical works. Although in recent years, he has concentrated mostly on writing for the screen, he tackled the searing subject of sexual assault in the armed forces with a new play, “One Night …,” which was produced at the Cherry Lane Theater in 2013. He was born and raised in Philadelphia and served in the U.S. Army from 1959 to 1962, after which he studied at La Salle University (1965-1967), earning a DFA. He has received a Guggenheim Award and NEA fellowship for playwriting, taught playwriting at Temple University and co-founded the Afro-American Arts Theatre Philadelphia.

Director Charles Weldon has been Artistic Director of Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. for twelve years. He has directed the company’s productions of “Colored People Time” by Leslie Lee, “The Waiting Room” by Samm-Art Williams, “Savanna Black and Blue” by Raymond Jones, “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men” by Lonnie Elder and “Hercules Didn’t Wade in the Water” by Michael A. Jones. He has also directed and acted prolifically in regional theaters. Weldon began his performance career in 1960 as lead singer with The Paradons, a Doo-Wop group from Bakersfield, CA, and co-wrote and recorded the smash hit “Diamonds and Pearls.” He performed in the original San Francisco production of “Hair” and the Broadway musical “Buck Time Buck White” with Mohammed Ali. He joined the Negro Ensemble Company in 1970 and acted in many of its classic plays including “A Soldier’s Play,” “The Great McDaddy,” “The Offering,” “The Brownsville Raid” and the Company’s Broadway production of “The River Niger.” His films include “Stir Crazy,” “Serpico,” “The River Niger,” “Malcolm X” and Showtime’s “The Wishing Tree.” He has won a “HENRY” (Excellence inRegional Theater) for Best Supporting Actor in “Gem of the Ocean” by August Wilson and an Audelco Award for Best Supporting Actor in “Seven Guitars” by August Wilson at Signature Theater. His TV credits include “Roots: The Next Generation” and many NYC-based police dramas. He co-founded the Alumni of the Negro Ensemble Company.

Theater 80 St. Marks became the home theater of The Negro Ensemble, Inc. (NEC) in 2016 and all of the company’s 50th Anniversary mainstage productions are being presented there. The season began December 4-11, 2016 with a revival of NEC’s very first production, “Day of Absence” (1966) by Douglas Turner Ward. The company returned May 24 to June 10 with “Daughters of the Mock” by Judi Ann Mason (original production March 3, 1976), directed by Denise Dowse.

NEC’s first plays were produced at St. Mark’s Playhouse, which was one flight up over a the old movie house at Second Avenue and St. Marks Place, a stone’s throw from Theatre 80 St. Marks. Today the old St. Marks Playhouse building at 133 Second Avenue has shops and restaurants on the ground floor and condominiums on the upper levels. Lorcan Otway, owner of Theater 80, beams that he is “proud and honored to host and welcome back the The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. to the street upon which they changed the face of New York Theater.”

NEC’s awards include a Pulitzer Prize (1982, “A Soldier’s Play”), two Tony Awards, eleven Obies and many more. Its legacy reads like a Who’s Who of America’s Black theater artists. In 2009, Signature Theatre presented a season of readings of various plays from the NEC canon, with Douglas Turner Ward as curator and Ruben Santiago-Hudson as associated artist.

Prior to the 1960s, there were virtually no outlets for the wealth of black theatrical talent in America. In 1965, Playwright Douglas Turner Ward, producer/actor Robert Hooks, and theater manager Gerald Krone founded The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. (NEC). The River Niger by Joe Walker, originally produced at, St. Marks Playhouse (NEC’s home theatre), moved to Broadway and was awarded 1973 Obie Awards for Distinguished Performance by Douglas Turner Ward; Best American Play, Joseph A. Walker, and Distinguished Performance by Roxie Roker. Other works include Peter Weiss’ “Song of the Lucitanian Bogey” (1967), Lonnie Elder’s “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men” (1969) and Charles Fuller’s “Zooman and the Sign” (1980). In 1981, NEC mounted “A Soldier’s Play” by Charles Fuller, which won the Pulitzer Prize. A film version, “A Soldier’s Story,” was released in 1984 and nominated for three Academy Awards. NEC has produced more than two hundred new plays and provided a theatrical home for more than four thousand cast and crew members. Among its ranks have been some of the best black actors in television and film, including Louis Gossett Jr., Sherman Hemsley, Denise Nichols, Esther Rolle, Adolph Caesar, Laurence Fishburne, Glynn Turman, Reuben Santiago-Hudson, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Phylicia Rashad; playwrights include Steve Carter (intentionally lower case), Samm-Art Williams, Leslie Lee. NEC continues to be a constant source and sustenance for black actors, directors, and writers as they have worked to break down walls of racial prejudice.

In July, the company presented the 2017 edition of its NEC Alumni Summer Showcase, “The Cost” by Aquaila Shene Barnes, directed by Barbara Montgomery, in Summer Shares at La MaMa. On July 31, the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC conferred an award on The Negro Ensemble Inc. for 50 years of excellence in theater. The honor was accepted for the company by its current Artistic Director, Charles Weldon.

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George Takei, Gedde Watanabe, Melody Butiu, Amy Hill, Hudson Yang, Krista Marie Yu, Beau Sia and More Set for ONE NIGHT ONLY: EWP MARKET Benefit on September 9

George Takei. Photo by Luke Fontana
George Takei. Photo by Luke Fontana
George Takei. Photo by Luke Fontana

East West Players (EWP), the nation’s longest-running professional theatre of color and the largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work, is pleased to announce its signature One Night Only season kick-off fundraising event, to be held on Saturday, September 9, 2017. The event is themed “EWP Night Market” and will include tasting stations hosted by local restaurants, followed by an evening of performances featuring Asian American Broadway stars George Takei (Allegiance and Pacific Overtures), Gedde Watanabe (Pacific Overtures), Melody Butiu (Here Lies Love), and more. Proceeds of One Night Only: EWP Night Market support EWP’s artistic and educational programs.

“This year’s One Night Only ushers in the start of our 52nd Anniversary Season, The Company We Keep,” says Snehal Desai. “In my second season as EWP’s Producing Artistic Director, I wanted to celebrate the vital artistic and community partnerships that have supported us over the past 52 years and also honor where we are today. One Night Only: EWP Night Market features a fusion of Asian cultures and traditions, and an amazing evening of songs, spoken word, and comedy performed by a stellar, multi-generational lineup of Asian American performers familiar to East West Players audiences.”

Additional performers include Amy Hill (CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), Krista Marie Yu (ABC’s “Dr. Ken”), Hudson Yang and Forrest Wheeler (ABC’s “Fresh Off The Boat”), Araceli Prasarttongosoth and MichAyla Brown (EWP’s The Who’s Tommy), Tony Award-winning poet Beau Sia (Broadway’s Def Poetry Jam), and performance artist Kristina Wong (Wong Street Journal). More performers will be announced soon.

One Night Only: EWP Night Market will be held on Saturday, September 9, 2017 at East West Players’ David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center of the Arts at 120 Judge John Aiso Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Cocktails and tasting stations will be available starting at 6:00PM. The evening continues with performances at 7:30PM. One Night Only: EWP Night Market is a benefit performance. Levels of sponsorships are available ranging from $1,000 to $3,500 with VIP tickets, reserved seating, and a program ad. Individual tickets for cocktails and the show are available for $200 VIP for reserved seating in the Preferred Orchestra section, $150 General for reserved seating in the Orchestra section, and $100 Balcony for reserved seating in the balcony. For information about sponsorship and ticket opportunities, please email Development Manager Monika Ramnath at mramnath@eastwestplayers.org.

Sponsorship packages and individual tickets may be purchased at http://www.eastwestplayers.org or please call (213) 625-7000. Dates, details, and ticket prices are subject to change.

For more information about East West Players or One Night Only: EWP Night Market, please visit www.eastwestplayers.org.

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‘Abacus’: One Immigrant Family’s Fight for Justice, Screens at Asia Society on September 6  

The Asia Society is presenting a screening of the latest documentary from celebrated filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, Life Itself), ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL on Wednesday, September 6, 2017 at 6:30 PM. The screening at the Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street) in New York, will be preceded by a reception at 5:30 PM. Tickets for Members $10; Students/Seniors $12; Nonmembers $15

ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL tells the incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Abacus becomes the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The indictment and subsequent trial forces Thomas Sung and his formidable daughters to defend themselves—and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community—over the course of a five-year legal battle. Tracking the many twists and turns of the case, Oscar-nominated James creates a moving portrait of a family, a community, and a way of life.

The documentary asks fundamental questions about what the purpose of a bank should be in a community — especially an immigrant community — and whether the prosecution of this small financial institution may have much larger implications for the role of banks in our society.

A Q & A will follow the reception and screening with director and producer Steve James and the Sung family, moderated by Asia Society Executive Vice President Tom Nagorski.

SPEAKERS
Steve James is an award-winning documentary film producer and director. His films include Hoop DreamsThe Interrupters, and Life Itself, among others.

Thomas Sung is a lawyer and real-estate investor. He is the founder of Abacus Federal Savings Bank in New York.

Tom Nagorski (moderator) is Executive Vice President of the Asia Society. He joined Asia Society following a three-decade career in journalism — having served most recently as Managing Editor for International Coverage at ABC News.

Program presented in partnership with the Committee of 100 and made possible by Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang.

Find out when Abacus comes to a theater near you at www.abacusmovie.com/events.

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

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 is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. 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 and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2017 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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Paul Nakauchi, Masi Oka, Willem Dafoe, Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley, LaKeith Stanfield Attend NY Premiere of “Death Note”

Paul Nakauchi attends the 'Death Note' New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on August 17, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang
Paul Nakauchi and Willem Dafoe attend the 'Death Note' New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on August 17, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang
Paul Nakauchi and Willem Dafoe attend the ‘Death Note’ New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on August 17, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang

Paul Nakauchi (The Great Raid), currently appearing in Guthrie’s production of Sunday in the Park with George through August 20th, attended the New York premiere of the NetFlix original film “Death Note” at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on August 17, 2017 in New York City.

LaKeith Stanfield, Willem Dafoe, Paul Nakauchi, director Adam Wingard, Shea Whigham, Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley attend the 'Death Note' New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on August 17, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang
LaKeith Stanfield, Willem Dafoe, Paul Nakauchi, director Adam Wingard, Shea Whigham, Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley attend the ‘Death Note’ New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on August 17, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang

Nakauchi, who plays Watari in the film, was joined on the black carpet by cast members Nat Wolff (Paper Towns) as Light Turner, Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers) as Mia Sutton, Scott Stuber, Shea Whigham (American Hustle) as James Turner, LaKeith Stanfield (Get Out) as L, Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man) as the voice of Ryuk, director Adam Wingard (Blair Witch, You’re Next);  producers Masi Oka, Roy Lee, Dan Lin and Jason Hoffs, and executive producers Miri Yoon and Jonathan Eirich.

Co-writer Charlie Parlapanides, actors Willem Dafoe, Paul Nakauchi, Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley, director Adam Wingard, actor Shea Whigham, producers Roy Lee, Jason Hoffs and Masi Oka, actor LaKeith Stanfield and co-writer Vlas Parlapanides attend the 'Death Note' New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on August 17, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang
Co-writer Charlie Parlapanides, actors Willem Dafoe, Paul Nakauchi, Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley, director Adam Wingard, actor Shea Whigham, producers Roy Lee, Jason Hoffs and Masi Oka, actor LaKeith Stanfield and co-writer Vlas Parlapanides attend the ‘Death Note’ New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on August 17, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang

Based on the famous Japanese manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Death Note follows a high school student who comes across a supernatural notebook, realizing it holds within it a great power; if the owner inscribes someone’s name into it while picturing their face, he or she will die. Intoxicated with his new godlike abilities, the young man begins to kill those he deems unworthy of life.

“Death Note” launches globally on NetFlix on August 25th and will screen in select theaters in New York and LA.

Paul Nakauchi attends the 'Death Note' New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on August 17, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang
Paul Nakauchi attends the ‘Death Note’ New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on August 17, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang

Nakauchi’s film credits include The Great Raid and Dark Metropolis. He has been seen on television in “Deadbeat,” “ER,” “The Young and the Restless,” “General Hospital,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and “Knots Landing.” He is a sought after veteran voice over artist and his voice inhabits characters in the animated features The Invincible Iron ManDoctor Strange, Legend of Korra, Star Wars the Clone Wars and Alpha and Omega; the television cartoons “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” as well as numerous video games including Cars 2, Call of Duty: World at War and Lost Planet 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, to name a few.  Click here for clips of Nakauchi’s voice work.

Nakauchi played the Kralahome and understudied The King in Lincoln Center Theater’s Tony Award- winning production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I  at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, directed by Bartlett Sher.

Ken Watanabe as The King, Paul Nakauchi as the Kralahome and company. Photo by Paul Kolnik
Ken Watanabe as The King, Paul Nakauchi as the Kralahome and company. Photo by Paul Kolnik

In 2012, Nakauchi performed the role of Tatsuo Kimura in the world premiere production of Allegiance at The Old Globe in San Diego, opposite George Takei, Telly Leung, Lea Salonga and Michael K. Lee.

Lea Salonga as Kei Kimura, Telly Leung as Sammy Kimura, George Takei as Ojii-san, and Paul Nakauchi as Tatsuo Kimura in the premiere of Allegiance – A New American Musical at the Old Globe Theatre, before its Broadway run. Photo by Henry DiRocco
Lea Salonga as Kei Kimura, Telly Leung as Sammy Kimura, George Takei as Ojii-san, and Paul Nakauchi as Tatsuo Kimura in the premiere of Allegiance – A New American Musical at the Old Globe Theatre, before its Broadway run. Photo by Henry DiRocco

Nakauchi began his theater career in the National Tour of The King and I with Yul Brynner. He understudied and performed the role of The King of Siam on Broadway in the 1996 revival opposite Donna Murphy. He also played The King on London’s West End with Elaine Paige, and has toured Asia in the Broadway Asia production of The King and I, recreating the same role. He toured the U.S. in the First National Tour of Miss Saigon understudying and playing the role of The Engineer. Other Broadway credits include Chu Chem.

Paul Nakauchi and husband David Mateo attend the 'Death Note' New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on August 17, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang
Paul Nakauchi and husband David Mateo attend the ‘Death Note’ New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on August 17, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang

I caught up with Paul and his husband David Mateo over lunch at La Bonne Soupe. The interview below is edited for clarity.

Lia: Who is Watari?
Paul: I would describe him as a character similar to Alfred in Batman, he’s a bit enigmatic, a fatherly caretaker, but with a mysterious edge. Adam had given me a book to read which was about several people who claimed they had been subjects of government sponsored mind control, and the techniques that were used to turn them into Manchurian Candidates of a sort for various covert activities. Often these subjects were trained from a very early age, and familiar childhood tunes were used in the process as a trigger to place them into a hypnotic state, so they would then carry out their assigned task. That’s how the Wizard of Oz song I sing to L plays into the story, and then when I’m in a trance like state, driving in the car, going to look for L’s actual name in the orphanage, I sing the same tune.

Paul Nakauchi as Watari and LaKeith Stanfield as L in NetFlix's
Paul Nakauchi as Watari and LaKeith Stanfield as L in NetFlix’s “Death Note”.

Lia: Where did you shoot the film?
Paul: I was in Vancouver for a month. I shot about 5 weeks. I had a nice trailer with a fireplace.

Lia: How did you land the job?
Paul: I auditioned for it when I was in The King and I in New York. I put myself on tape and did a Skype session with Adam the director. In the audition they wanted me to sing a song. I sang the Sounds of Silence. I thought it fit with the theme.

Lia: Were you familiar with “Death Note” before? 
Paul: No, but Anime is so interesting. Prior to our film, the versions of “Death Note” included Manga, a cartoon, a live action-tv show, a musical and several films.

Lia: You are finishing your run in a non-traditionally cast production of Sunday in the Park with George at the Guthrie. What has it been like?
Paul: All of the theater that I have done has always been Asian musicals- The King and I, Miss Saigon, Allegiance. I never thought I would play a 19th century French artist. Joe Haj the new artistic director at the Guthrie is a big champion of diversity and the plays he chooses and as well as the casts and creative staff he hires reflect that vision. With the huge success of Hamilton, I think theaters across the country are realizing that diversity onstage can bring into the theater a whole new audience and be profitable as well. In our production we have four people of color, Christine Toy Johnson, Mychael T Rambo, Justin Lee Miller and myself, and the audiences have been very enthusiastic!

Randy Harrison, Emily Gunyou Halaas, Christine Toy Johnson, Paul Nakauchi, Ann Michels, Sasha Andreev and Erin Mackey. Photo by T Charles Erickson.
Randy Harrison, Emily Gunyou Halaas, Christine Toy Johnson, Paul Nakauchi, Ann Michels, Sasha Andreev and Erin Mackey. Photo by T Charles Erickson.

The Guthrie is one of the best theater complexes in the country and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work there. It’s a lovely community of extremely talented artists, truly the jewel of the Midwest. Next year’s musical is West Side Story, and under Joe Haj’s direction it is sure to be wonderfully innovative. He plans to use a more modern dance vocabulary so it should be exciting.

Guthrie’s SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE Featuring Randy Harrison, Erin Mackey, Christine Toy Johnson, Paul Nakauchi and More, Ends Run on August 20 

Paul Nakauchi backstage at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York on Mar. 5, 2016. Photo by Lia Chang
Paul Nakauchi backstage at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York on Mar. 5, 2016. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: What was your experience at Lincoln Center in The King and I?
Paul: Every actor dreams of working at Lincoln Center, and doing the The King & I there was a dream come true. Bartlett Sher is a brilliant director, who does everything from straight plays, musicals and opera, and everyone and everything there is top notch, as well as having the best dressing rooms of any theater I’ve ever worked in!

Paul Nakauchi as The King in Lincoln Center Theater’s Tony Award- winning production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I 

Lia: In 2012, you appeared in the world premiere of George Takei’s legacy project Allegiance at The Old Globe. What are your remembrances of working with George?
Paul: George Takei is an amazing man. I had a wonderful time working with on Allegiance. He’s been involved in Civil Rights activism for a long time. He actually ran for City Council is LA. He’s been a tireless advocate for LGTB rights. I admire him greatly. The Legacy project of Allegiance is something he is still doing, in fact he is going to do it in Los Angeles (2018). I feel fortunate to have worked with and to have met him. He’s the last generation of interment camp survivors. He’s really keeping that remembrance alive in terms of how it references today.

Paul Nakauchi and George Takei at the opening night party of Broadway's ALLEGIANCE at Bryant Park Grill on November 8, 2017 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang
Paul Nakauchi and George Takei at the opening night party of Broadway’s ALLEGIANCE at Bryant Park Grill on November 8, 2017 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: How long have you been doing voice work for animation?
Paul: I’m the voice of Hanzo in the Blizzard Overwatch Games and recently attended Bliz Con- the Comic Con for Blizzard. It amazed me what a huge audience it has. It’s enormous. They had people from all over the world coming to that Bliz Con event in Anaheim. Gamers playing the games, panels, talking about new characters. Blizzard is a huge game and Overwatch recently won the 2017 Young People’s Choice Award for Favorite Game. I started doing that about 10 years ago.

I started doing voiceover for animation beginning with Marvel with Ironman and Dr. Strange. I actually did the animated version for Dr. Strange. I’m also doing a new NetFlix animated series – “Carmen Sandiego”. I play Shadowsan who is one of Carmen Sandiego’s teachers at the Spy Academy. That will be coming out in 2018. I’ve recorded about 6 episodes for that.

Gaming and “Death Note” tie in really well because it is a similar audience and similar age range.

Lia: What are the challenges of doing voice work?
Paul: It takes an enormous amount of imagination, because you record the voice first and they design the animation around your VO tracks, plus keeping the scripts secret is big priority, so you only see the dialogue when you get to the studio on the day of your session, so you have to have the character fully emotionally realized in a cold reading. It’s daunting, challenging, fun and rewarding all at the same time!

Celebrating with Jose Llana, Ruthie Ann Miles, Kelli O’Hara and Company after THE KING AND I’s Special Performance for The Actors Fund 

George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and More celebrate opening night of ALLEGIANCE 

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. 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 and Hide and Seek, which will screen at Asians on Film on March 10th, The Women’s Film Festival in Philadelphia on March 13th and the Disorient Film Festival in Eugene Oregon in April. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2017 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at lia@liachangphotography.com

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Chatting with 2017 National Black Theatre Festival Living Legend Honoree Ed Wheeler

2017 National Black Theatre Festival Living Legend honoree Ed Wheeler and his wife Messeret Stroman at the 2017 NBTF Gala in Winston Salem, NC on July 31, 2017. (Courtesy of Messeret Stroman)
2017 National Black Theatre Festival Living Legend honoree Ed Wheeler and his wife Messeret Stroman at the 2017 NBTF Gala in Winston Salem, NC on July 31, 2017. (Courtesy of Messeret Stroman)
2017 National Black Theatre Festival Living Legend honoree Ed Wheeler and his wife Messeret Stroman at the 2017 NBTF Gala in Winston Salem, NC on July 31, 2017. (Courtesy of Messeret Stroman)

Updated 8/1/17

Congrats to my pal film, television and theater veteran Ed Wheeler who is receiving the “Living Legend” award at the opening gala for the 2017 National Black Theatre Festival in the Salem Ballroom – The Benton Convention Center 301 West Fifth Street, Winston Salem, NC. tonight. 

Wheeler, a native Brooklynite, has been a New York City character actor ever since appearing in the Henry Street Settlement’s theatre production of Imamu Baraka’s A Recent Killing in 1973.  His theater credits include Stops and Nat Turner (Billie Holiday Theatre), Melody in Search of a Base Note (a Brooklyn Production) Charles Fuller’s WE series of plays (The Negro Ensemble Company), The Little Tommy Parker’s Celebrated Colored Minstrel Show (Negro Ensemble Company),  Gang on the Roof (Kennedy Center & Capitol Rep), East Texas Hot Links (The Public Theater), The Death of Papa (Hartford Stage), Zooman and the Sign (Second Stage), Dance on Widow’s Row (New Federal Theatre), Cuttin’ Up (Arena Stage), The Waiting Room (Negro Ensemble Company), Two Trains Running (Signature Theatre).

These productions allowed him to work with wonderful actors, directors and playwrights like Adolph Caesar, Samuel L Jackson, Anna Marie Horsford, Denzel Washington, Hattie Winston, Obba Babatunde, Ruben Santiago Hudson, Barbara Montgomery, Arthur French, Eugene Lee, Steve McKinley Henderson, Ebony Jo-Ann, Elain Graham, Charles Weldon, Loretta Devine, Earle Hyman, Roger Robinson, Graham Brown, Peggy Alston, Adam Wade, Joyce Sylvester, Carl Gordon, Sandra McClain, OL Duke, Michelle Shay, Marcella Lowry, Curtis McClarin, Helmar Augustus Cooper, Bea Richards, Jean Stapleton, Frankie Muniz, Andrew McCarthy, Tony Todd, Oni Faida Lampley, Lawrence Gilliard Jr, Peter Jay Fernandez, Marva Hicks, Ron Cephas Jones, Frankie Faison, Douglass Turner Ward, Charles Fuller, Samm-Art Williams, Seret Scott, Carlyle Brown, Charles Randolph Wright, Dan Owens, Horton Foote, Messeret Stroman,Lee Kenneth Richardson and Judy Tate.

A Playwright & 3 Actors: Adolph Caesar, Carl Gordon, Ed Wheeler and Charles Fuller. (Courtesy of Ed Wheeler)
A Playwright & 3 Actors: Adolph Caesar, Carl Gordon, Ed Wheeler and Charles Fuller. (Courtesy of Ed Wheeler)
Ed Wheeler
Ed Wheeler

Wheeler was one of the first black men used by Madison Avenue to have started the trend towards mustache acceptance in the Commercial Ad world in the 70s. His success opened possibilities for more black men to be employed in commercials.  He has appeared in the films Mickey Blue Eyes, Broadcast News, Head Of State, The Good Heart, Thinner, Presumed Innocent, Uncertainty, Godzilla, and on television in “The Cosby Show,” “Soul Food” and “Law and Order.”

I can’t be at the party tonight to celebrate Ed and all of the other honorees, but I caught up with him via email prior to the big night.

Ed Wheeler on the cover of TIME Magazine in 1989. (courtesy of Ed Wheeler)
Ed Wheeler on the cover of TIME Magazine in 1989. (courtesy of Ed Wheeler)

Lia: Set the scene for the kind of jobs that you booked then and now in print.
Ed: I had the distinction of being on the cover of TIME magazine in 1989. However, my earlier bookings were primarily theatre and commercial work right up until films like Broadcast News, Presumed Innocent, Head of State, Salt and The Good Heart.

TWO TRAINS RUNNING at The Signature Theatre. (Courtesy of Ed Wheeler)
TWO TRAINS RUNNING at The Signature Theatre. (Courtesy of Ed Wheeler)

Lia: You have been working as character actor since appearing in the Henry Street Settlement’s theatre production of Imamu Baraka’s A Recent Killing in 1973. How did you navigate your career path in New York at that time?
Ed: After my job ended at United Airlines I was fortunate enough to begin booking national tv commercials which allowed me to save for a rainy day and pursue work in the theatre which was not as lucrative.

Lia: What does it mean to you be honored with a Living Legend Award by The National Black Theatre Festival?
Ed: When I first heard that I was to be given a Living Legend Award, I said to myself “Who me? What have I done in this life that would make someone think of me as a Living Legend? Maybe it’s when my mother used to tell me back in the early 80s how proud the entire congregation at Zion Baptist Church in Brooklyn was of me…they used to come up to her and say Wheeler, I saw your son on tv!” Does that count? I am truly grateful that this historic black theatre festival would remember me from the times that I’ve performed there and to make me part of their history. To be thought of as a Living Legend is a tremendous honor.

Lia: Have you every performed at NBTF?
Ed: Yes, twice. I performed Last Night at Ace High with NEC and Samm-Art Williams’ play The Dance on Widow’s Row.

Lia: When was the last time you attended the festival?
Ed:
2001

Lia: What drew you to have a life in the performing arts?
Ed:
I started off as an athlete (baseball, basketball, track) at the YMCA and the entertainment came straight from the playing field.

Andrew Lauren and Ed Wheeler on the set of BLEACH. (Courtesy of Ed Wheeler)
Andrew Lauren and Ed Wheeler on the set of BLEACH. (Courtesy of Ed Wheeler)

Lia: What have been your three favorite projects in film, television and theater?
Ed:
I am a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and The Actors’ Equity Association.
My favorites have been…
THEATRE- Leonard Malone’s Melody in Search of a Base Note, Samm-Art Williams’ The Dance on Widow’s Row and The Waiting Room, CHARLES FULLER’s WE Series and Zooman and The Sign and Carlyle Brown’s The Little Tommy Parker’s Celebrated Colored Minstrel Show
TV- “Law and Order, “The Cosby Show”
FILM- Core of the Apple, (on-camera Narrator), Broadcast News, Head of State, Bleach, The Good Heart
VOICE-OVER RECORDING- The World According to John Coltrane

EAST TEXAS HOT LINKS at The Public Theater. (Courtesy of Ed Wheeler)
EAST TEXAS HOT LINKS at The Public Theater. (Courtesy of Ed Wheeler)

Lia: What inspires you?
Ed:
My inspiration came from my mother. She worked hard all of her life as the owner of a small ‘Mom & Pop’ employment agency and sought to encourage young college students through summer work.

Lia: Who were your role models in your formative years?
Ed:
My role models were mostly athletes. My young life was highly influenced by my involvement with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).

Lia: What have you been up to lately?
Ed:
I’ve been away from the business since 2013. After surviving Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and most recently a total hip replacement and now my total focus is trying to live a healthy, stress-free lifestyle.

Lia: What kinds of projects do you produce?
Ed:
My wife, Messeret Stroman & I have been incorporated for 15 years. Our production company primarily centers around producing ourselves and contributing to new and established black theatrical groups.

For more information, visit www.nbtf.org.

Louis Gossett, Jr., Ed Wheeler, Timothy Douglas, Dominique Morisseau, Ron Himes, Ron Simons, Thelma Pollard, Mabel Robinson, Gregory Horton, Allie Woods, Antoinette Tynes, Ed De Shae, Stephen Byrd, Alia Jones-Harvey, Corey Mitchell, Cleopatra Solomon, Wilbert T. Jenkins and More to be honored at the Opening Night Gala of the 2017 National Black Theatre Festival on July 31 

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. 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 and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in  Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.