After completing their 40th anniversary year, highlighted by an all-star gala in May, New Federal Theatre will announce its 2011-'12 season.
The first play - Elaine Jackson's Puberty Rites, directed by Dean Irby - is slated for October. In Puberty Rites, an elemental heritage bonds two girls to an American heritage at the beginning of the 21st century. Keesha, from her struggling black world, and Vesna, from her white world of physical privilege, both face emotional poverty as they confront each other and their inherited past and future. Their personal secrets threaten to destroy them and their dreams.
In March, 2012, NFT will present Court Martial at Fort Devens, written by Jeffrey Sweet and directed by Mary Beth Easley. With meticulous research, Jeffrey Sweet uncovered this highly dramatic and true story of four Black women in the US Army (WACS) tried for mutiny during the last half of WWII. The women join the army to be trained as nurses (therefore bettering their lives) only to be relegated to cleaning latrines, mopping floors, and doing laundry. After refusing to perform these duties, they are court-martialed at Fort Devens as a consequence of refusing to perform commands during wartime. The third production, scheduled for May of 2012, will be announced at a later date.
After four decades of illustrious contribution to the cultural life of New York, NFT desperately needs a new performance venue for its 2011/12 season. Its former space at the Abrons Arts Center has become unavailable. Tax-deductible donations earmarked for new performance space rental for New Federal Theatre's presentations can be made online at www.newfederaltheatre.org.
Founded by Woodie King, Jr. in 1970, New Federal Theatre (NFT), is a neighborhood-based professional theatre company. NFT was integral to the growth and the popularity of the center for 40 years. Since then, it has produced full seasons. with an average of 4 plays per year and totaling 280 productions to date. Among NFT's many awards are the Drama Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, four Village Voice OBIE Awards, two Kennedy Center New Play Awards, two Richard Rodgers Production Awards, Newsday's Oppenheimer Award, and twenty-five AUDELCO Awards. Woodie King, Jr. has received an OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence.
New Federal Theatre has provided emerging playwrights the opportunity to have their works produced and it has brought minority actors, directors, and designers to national attention. Such playwrights include Ntozake Shange, David Henry Hwang, Ed Bullins, Amiri Baraka, Pearl Cleage, Samm-Art Williams, Bill Harris, Ruby Dee, Marcia Leslie, P.J. Gibson, J.E. Franklin, Joseph Lazardi, Damien Leake, Genny Lim, Laurence Holder, Alexis DeVeaux, William A. Parker, Richard Abrons, and Charles Smith.
It is almost impossible to turn on a TV or see a movie and not see a former student of NFT. Actors such as Academy Award winners Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, Tony Award winners Phylicia Rashad and Trezana Beverly, Emmy Award winners Glynn Turman and Debbie Allen, Dick Anthony Williams, Taurean Blacque, Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Fishburne, Garrett Morris, Starletta DuPois, Robert Downey, Jr. Sam MacMurray, Debbie Morgan, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, John Lone, Lynn Whitfield, Reggie VelJohnson, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Ruby Dee, Leslie Uggams, Jackée Harry, Ella Joyce, and so many more, have all performed in NFT productions. NFT alumni who recently graced Broadway include Debbie Allen, Phylicia Rashad, and Shauneille Perry (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), S. Epatha Merkerson (Come Back Little Sheba), Laurence Fishburne (Thurgood), Morgan Freeman (The Country Girl), and Denzel Washington (Fences), among others.