BD Wong to Revisit Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, March 6 – March 31

BD Wong. Photo by Lia Chang
BD Wong. Photo by Lia Chang
BD Wong. Photo by Lia Chang

Following rave reviews and audience acclaim at off-Broadway’s Atlantic Theater Company this past spring, American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon announced that Tony Award winner and San Francisco native BD Wong will reprise his role as ‘Wen Chang’ in award-winning Bay Area playwright Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap, performing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater (415 Geary St., San Francisco) from Wednesday, March 6, through Sunday, March 31, 2019. Additional casting will be announced at a later date.

Says Wong: “I’m always looking for the rare work that’s as moving as it is funny, that has characters who are people you’ve never met before but whom you somehow immediately feel familiar with. This play, kind of miraculously, gives me all of it. I love Lauren Yee’s insightful vantage point that looks over family relationships and the unsettled scores such relationships keep, all wrapped up in a fresh athletic metaphor. It’s a play that is so specifically Chinese American, yet somehow all-embracing-and that isn’t an easy feat for a playwright. It is a gift of an opportunity to perform Lauren’s play on one of the great regional stages in the country.”

Lauren Yee, BD Wong, Lisa Peterson, Pam MacKinnon. Photo by Lia Chang
Lauren Yee, BD Wong, Lisa Peterson, Pam MacKinnon. Photo by Lia Chang

Adds MacKinnon: “The Great Leap was already going to be a celebration of San Francisco-a story set here, by a playwright from here, about a sport vital to here. We now add to that a homecoming for San Francisco’s own BD Wong. I cannot wait!”

When a college basketball team from San Francisco is invited to China for an exhibition game in 1989, a smack-talking American coach prepares to take on his protégé-now grown and bent on crushing the Westerners. But after a public high school star from Chinatown joins the American team, his actions in Beijing become the accidental focus of attention, escalating the fractured history between the coaches. Funny, urgent, and contemporary, this slam dunk of a sports drama from Yee-developed at A.C.T.’s New Strands Festival in 2017-explores cultural identity, global politics, and the collision of cultures and generations. Under the direction of two-time Obie Award winner Lisa Peterson, The Great Leap soars through time and leaps across continents from the hardball courts of San Francisco’s Chinatown to a Beijing on the brink of a revolution, building tension right up to the buzzer.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Wong is the only actor ever to have received all five major New York Theater awards for a single role-namely his performance in M. Butterfly (his Broadway debut): the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Theater World Award, the Clarence Derwent Award, and the Tony Award.

Wong gained notice on HBO’s critically acclaimed series “Oz” as the resilient prison priest (Father Ray) for the show’s six-season run. Then, for 11 seasons on the top-rated NBC series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” he played George Huang, an FBI forensic psychiatrist and expert on the criminal mind. Other television credits include NBC’s “Awake,” ABC’s “All-American Girl,” HBO’s telefilms And the Band Played On and The Normal Heart, as well as guest-starring roles on “Sesame Street,” “The X-Files,” “Madam Secretary,” “Nurse Jackie,” and “NCIS: New Orleans.” He most recently has been seen in two drastically different television roles simultaneously: as the nefarious Hugo Strange on “Gotham” and as the mysterious trans-female hacker Whiterose on “Mr. Robot.” For his work on the latter, he received an Emmy, Gold Derby, and a Critic’s Choice Award nominations.

Wong has appeared in more than 20 feature films, including Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Jurassic World, Focus, The Space Between Us, Stay, The Salton Sea, Executive Decision, Seven Years in Tibet, Jurassic Park, Father of the Bride (1 & 2), and The Freshman. He can also be heard as the voice of Shang in the Disney animated films Mulan and Mulan II. He will next be seen in Birdbox.

Wong’s additional New York theater credits include The Great Leap at The Atlantic Theater Company, The Tempest, A Language of Their Own, As Thousands Cheer, Shanghai Moon, and the Broadway revivals of the musicals You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures (the latter for which he received a Drama League nomination for distinguished performance). He recently starred regionally in The Orphan of Zhao at La Jolla Playhouse and San Francisco’s A.C.T. In addition, he has starred in five productions of the one-man musical Herringbone, a project dear to his heart.

Wong holds an honorary M.F.A. from American Conservatory Theater.

Three-, four-, and five-play subscriptions are available and offer incredible savings, unparalleled access, exclusive benefits, and personalized customer service. Subscribers save as much as 50% off single-ticket prices. Students and educators are eligible to save up to half price on subscriptions, and senior discounts are available for certain series. A.C.T.’s competitive subscriber benefits include free ticket exchanges up to the day of your scheduled performance, guaranteed best seating, ticket insurance, access to convenient prepaid parking one block away from the theater, discounts for neighborhood restaurants, and the opportunity to subscribe to Words on Plays, A.C.T.’s in-depth theater guide for each show.

BD Wong, Ned Eisenberg, Ali Ahn and Tony Aidan Vo Celebrate Opening Night of Lauren Yee’s THE GREAT LEAP 

The Rise of Playwright Lauren Yee

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AAIFF41: Jon Norman Schneider, Brian Rivera, Patrick Epino, Josephine De Jesus, L.A. Renigen and Theresa Navarro Star in H.P. Mendoza’s BITTER MELON; Screens at Asia Society on August 4

From the producers of SORRY TO BOTHER YOU and COLMA: THE MUSICAL…

AAIFF41 is presenting the New York premiere H.P. Mendoza’s BITTER MELON at Asia Society on August 4, followed by a Q+A panel.

3:30PM – 5:15PM: Screening of BITTER MELON | Asia Society
5:15 – 5:30PM: Q+A with the filmmakers | Asia Society

BITTER MELON is the dark comedy story of a Filipino-American family reuniting for a Christmas party at their family home in San Francisco only to find out that Troy, the second oldest child, has been ruling the house with violence and fear—intimidating everyone who lives there—including his mother, and even physically abusing his wife. What starts as a fun holiday reunion turns into a darkly humorous crime scene as Declan, the gay youngest son, leads the family as they plot to kill one of their own.

The cast features Jon Norman Schneider (Declan), Brian Rivera (Moe), Patrick Epino (Troy), Josephine De Jesus (Prisca), L.A. Renigen (Tiya), Theresa Navarro (Shelly)

Jon Norman Schneider (Declan) is a Bronx-bred, Filipino American actor based in New York. In 2004, Jim McKay cast Jon from an open call in his film Angel Rodriguez, opposite Rachel Griffiths. Since then, he’s appeared on various-sized screens in “The Normals,” “The Girl in the Book,” “Succession” (upcoming HBO), “Jessica Jones,” “Veep,” “30 Rock,” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” Selected stage credits include Awake and Sing! (NAATCO/Public Theater), Sarah Ruhl’s The Oldest Boy (Lincoln Center Theater), and Julia Cho’s Durango (Long Wharf and Public Theater). Jon is grateful to filmmakers like H.P. Mendoza for the opportunity to give voice and visibility to characters who look like him and his family.

Bitter Melon

Brian Rivera (Moe) was born in Sacramento and moved to San Francisco to earn his BA in Drama at San Francisco State. Rivera has performed with numerous Bay Area theatre companies and is a member of Campo Santo. He gained on screen acting experience on the TV shows “Cuff Me If You Can” or “Trauma”.
Recently, Brian has been acting as the King in the Broadway Revival of The King & I at Lincoln Center, which won four Tony Awards including Best Revival. Rivera is currently working in the Broadway National Tour of The King & I and resides in New York City. Bitter Melon is his feature film debut.

Bitter Melon

Patrick Epino (Troy) is an actor, director, and producer. He starred in and co-directed the action comedy Awesome Asian Bad Guys. He also directed the dark comedy Mr. Sadman starring Scoot McNairy and Tim Kang. Patrick is the executive producer of National Film Society, a Los Angeles based production studio and YouTube channel. He received an MFA in Cinema from San Francisco State University and a BA in Sociology from the University of Chicago. In his spare time, he runs the Warriors fansite OaklandWarriors.com.

Bitter Melon

Josephine De Jesus (Prisca) is a Pinay actor, voice-talent, script-translator, dubber for films & TV commercials. She has appeared in biscuit TV commercial & some minor roles on TV soap-operas in the Philippines. She paid her way through college by voicing for radio commercials in early 70s. She is a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Commerce major in Marketing & Advertising. When she first saw the announcement on TFC that the studio was looking for some actors for a mother role, Josephine said she felt in her heart that that role was really for her! She is married to Jun de Jesus, a former actor-singer in Manila & owns a live-band that plays here around the Bay Area.

Bitter Melon

L.A. Renigen (Tiya) is a Los Angeles based Writer, Actor and Producer. She is known for her work in H.P. Mendoza’s films Fruit Fly, I am a Ghost (Producer) and the Independent Spirit Award Nominated Colma the Musical. She also hosted the Comcast food show, “LaLa,” with H.P. Mendoza, profiling Asian Chefs and Restaurants in the Los Angeles area, produced by the Center for Asian American Media. She graduated from SF State with a BA in Theatre Arts, and was also a Resident Artist at Bindlestiff Studios, a Filipino American Performing Arts Center.

Bitter Melon

Theresa Navarro (Shelly) is a Pinay actor, cultural worker and Independent Spirit Award-nominated producer. Her recent credits include YES WE’RE OPEN (CAAMFEST ’12), DAYLIGHT SAVINGS (SXSW ’12) and ADVANTAGEOUS (SUNDANCE ’15). BITTER MELON marks her fourth collaboration with HP Mendoza. Theresa currently works with pioneering media arts nonprofit American Documentary, producer of award-winning series ‘POV’ on PBS and ‘America ReFramed’ on WORLD Channel. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Theresa holds undergraduate degrees from UC Riverside and completed her graduate work at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. She is based in Brooklyn with her husband and young daughter.

Post Screening Panelists:
H.P. Mendoza, Director
Theresa Navarro, Actor

Watch the trailer here:
https://vimeo.com/261721516

Tickets to BITTER MELON Premiere:
General: $16
Student/Senior/Partner: $12

Buy tickets here:
bit.ly/BitterMelonPremiere

Follow Bitter Melon on Facebook!

See full AAIFF41 schedule here:
aaiff.org/2018/schedule

#AAIFF41 #BITTERMELON

 

 

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Steve James, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and More Attend “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” Screening at Metrograph Cinema; Among 15 Documentary Features to Advance in 2017 OSCAR® RACE

Co-producer Fenell Doremus, Producer Mark Mitten, Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Heather Sung, Producer Julie Goldman, Director Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently announced that 15 films in the Documentary Feature category will advance in the voting process for the 90th Academy Awards®, including Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. One hundred seventy films were originally submitted in the category.

Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Heather Sung and Director Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang
Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Heather Sung and Director Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang

On Wednesday night, the screening of Abacus: Small Enough To Jail at Metrograph Cinema in New York was followed by a panel discussion moderated by award-winning documentary filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, and featured director Steve James, producer Mark Mitten, and members of the Sung familiy including Vera Sung, Jill Sung and Chanterelle Sung.

From acclaimed director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters), Abacus: Small Enough to Jail tells the 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 bank prosecuted after the 2008 financial crisis. 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.

Award-winning filmmakers Roger Ross Williams and Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang
Award-winning filmmakers Roger Ross Williams and Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang

The Academy’s Documentary Branch determined the shortlist in a preliminary round of voting. Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles.

Nominations for the 90th Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, January 23, 2018.

The 90th Oscars® will be held on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live on the ABC Television Network at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT. The Oscars also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung and Heather Sung. Photo by Lia Chang
Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung and Heather Sung. Photo by Lia Chang
Co-producer Fenell Doremus, Producer Mark Mitten, Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Heather Sung, Producer Julie Goldman, Director Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang
Co-producer Fenell Doremus, Producer Mark Mitten, Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Heather Sung, Producer Julie Goldman, Director Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang

The film recently earned the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Political Documentary at the 2017 Critics’ Choice Awards, as well as a nomination for the Cinema Eye Honors’ Audience Choice Prize. The Sung family – including Chanterelle Sung, Hwei Lin Sung, Jill Sung, Thomas Sung and Vera Sung – was nominated for Cinema Eye Honor’s non-competitive honor, The Unforgettables, which honors the year’s most notable and significant nonfiction film subjects. This year’s winners will be announced at the 2018 Honors Awards Ceremony on Thursday, January 11, 2018 at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. The ceremony will be hosted, for the third consecutive year, by Abacus director Steve James.

Abacus is directed by Steve James and produced by Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman; edited by John Farbrother and David E. Simpson; music by Joshua Abrams; cinematography by Tom Bergmann; co-produced by Fenell Doremus and Nick Verbitsky and executive produced by Gordon Quinn, Christopher Clements, Betsy Steinberg, Justine Nagan, Raney Aronson and Sally Jo Fifer. Abacus is a Mitten Media, Motto Pictures and Kartemquin Films production for WGBH/FRONTLINE and Independent Television Service (ITVS) in association with Blue-Ice Film Fund.

Abacus is now available to stream and download on Amazon Video and iTunes.

Photo Flash: Steve James, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi And More Attend Abacus: Small Enough To Jail Screening At Metrograph

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.

Vera Sung and Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
Vera Sung and Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
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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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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