Danny Glover & Debbi Morgan to Host NFT 44th Anniversary Gala, 3/16
Woodie King, Jr.'s New Federal Theatre's 44th anniversary will culminate with a special Gala at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center (199 Chambers Street) on Sunday evening March 16th. This special event saluting NFT, for over 40 years a seminal force in Black Theater, will be hosted by Danny Glover and Debbi Morgan.Honorary Chairmen are Harry Belafonte and Hon. Mayor David N. Dinkins. The celebration will kick off at 4pm, and feature performances from Daniel Beaty, Impact Repertory Theater (Academy Award Nominee, "Raise It Up" from the film August Rush), Chuck Jackson, and Valerie Simpson.
In addition to celebrating NFT's vital contribution to the arts internationally, the Gala will honor Voza Rivers, founding member of New Heritage Repertory Theatre. Voza Rivers is an accomplished theatre, music, film and events producer and is recognized as one of the country's leading African American theatre producers. Rivers' involvement in the theatre dates back to 1964 when he met Roger Furman, a playwright/ director, and a member of the American Negro Theatre (1940-1949), which included Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Sidney Poitier, Gertrude Jeannette, and Fred O'Neil among many others. Furman launched New Heritage 50 years ago on the philosophy and mission of his beloved American Negro Theatre. Rivers joined New Heritage with Furman's encouragement and guidance which left an indelible impression on the importance of black theater and the role it played then and now in mirroring the lives of people of color around the world. Rivers became Executive Director of New Heritage upon Furman's death in 1983. In 1973 Furman directed a staged revival of the American Negro's Theatre's 1940's production of Striver's Row, starring Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. Under River's leadership New Heritage produced, in tribute to Furman, a 1984 production of Strivers Row, which earned New Heritage lavish praise and many awards. The successful impact of Striver's Row inspired Rivers to look beyond the African American experience and reach across the world to introduce Harlem to the works of Black South African playwrights and actors. In 1984, as Executive Producer of New Heritage, Rivers and his team convinced the producers of a two character South African play, Woza Albert!, featuring Mbongeni Ngema and Percy Mtwa, and directed by Barney Simon, at the Lucille Lortel Theater in New York City to allow New Heritage to transfer and produce Woza Albert!, this extraordinary and powerful play about apartheid, at New Heritage's theater in Harlem. The success of Woza Albert!, an example of agitprop theater, initiated a historic relationship between New Heritage, Mbongeni Ngema and Black South African artists that has fostered such major productions such as Ngema's Asinamali! and Sarafina! the Musical - both shows went to Broadway. The relationship between New Heritage's team (Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Andre Robinson, and Duma Ndlovu) continues to this day. In 1988, New Heritage presented the stage production of Sarafina! in Harlem at Aaron Davis Hall for two presentations; one for 750 Harlem students and the second for the community. Also in 1988, Rivers received the FEDAT (Foundation for the Extension and Development of the American Professional Theatre, supported by the League of American Theatres and Producers) award for his work on Sarafina! That same year Rivers received the United Nations Medal for Peace, also for Sarafina! and in 1989, a banner year, he received a Grammy nomination, as one of the producers of the Sarafina! cast album and co-produced with Lincoln Center Theater a musical concert featuring Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masakela and the Sarafina! cast at Radio City Music Hall.
Actor, producer and humanitarian Danny Glover has been a commanding presence on screen, stage and television for more than 25 years. As an actor, his film credits range from the blockbuster Lethal Weapon franchise to smaller independent features, some of which Glover also produced. He co-starred in the critically acclaimed feature Dreamgirls directed by Bill Condon and in Po' Boy's Game for director Clement Virgo. He appeared in the hit feature Shooter for director Antoine Fuqua and can be seen in Honeydripper for director John Sayles and Be Kind, Rewind for director Michel Gondry. Glover has also gained respect for his wide-reaching community activism and philanthropic efforts, with a particular emphasis on advocacy for economic justice, and access to health care and education programs in the United States and Africa. For these efforts, Glover received a 2006 DGA Honor. Internationally, Glover has served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program from 1998-2004, focusing on issues of poverty, disease, and economic development in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and currently serves as UNICEF Ambassador. In 2005, Glover co-founded Louverture Films dedicated to the development and production of films of historical relevance, social purpose, commercial value and artistic integrity. A native of San Francisco, Glover trained at the Black Actors' Workshop of the American Conservatory Theater. It was his Broadway debut in Fugard's Master Harold...and the boys, which brought him to national recognition and led director Robert Benton to cast Glover in his first leading role in 1984's Oscar®-nominated Best Picture Places in the Heart. The following year, Glover starred in two more Best Picture nominees: Peter Weir's Witness and Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple. In 1987, Glover partnered with Mel Gibson in the first Lethal Weapon film and went on to star in three hugely successful Lethal Weapon sequels. Glover has also invested his talents in more personal projects, including the award-winning To Sleep With Anger, which he executive produced and for which he won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Actor; Bopha!; Manderlay; Missing in America; and the film version of Athol Fugard's play Boesman and Lena. On the small screen, Glover won an Image Award and a Cable ACE Award and earned an Emmy nomination for his performance in the title role of the HBO movie Mandela. He has also received Emmy nominations for his work in the acclaimed miniseries "Lonesome Dove" and the telefilm "Freedom Song." As a director, he earned a Daytime Emmy nomination for Showtime's "Just a Dream."
Debbi Morgan was born in Dunn, North Carolina and raised in the South Bronx. Morgan appeared in several commercials before joining the New Federal Theatre Company. Her theatrical career includes roles in the Broadway hit What the Wine Sellers Buy, Off-Broadway production of Does the Tiger Wear a Necktie? and Los Angeles productions of My Sister, My Sister and Once in a Wifetime. Ms. Morgan's career over the past thirty years has been filled with colorful and deeply captivating roles such as the controversial film, Color of The Cross where Morgan portrayed Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She co-starred in the provoking film, Woman Thou Art Loosed along with Loretta Divine and the Reverend TD Jakes. She appeared opposite Samuel L. Jackson in the feature film Coach Carter, and co-starred along with Alfre Woodard, Omar Epps, and Dennis Haysbert in the popular Love and Basketball. Morgan also co-starred opposite Denzel Washington in Norman Jewison's The Hurricane, which won her a Best Actress nomination for an NAACP Image Award. However, it was in Kasi Lemmons' critically acclaimed feature Eve's Bayou that Debbi made her unforgettable big screen debut. Her performance garnered her an Independent Film Project Spirit Award and a Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress, as well as Best Supporting Actress nominations from the NAACP Image Awards and the Golden Satellite Awards. Morgan has guest starred on numerous primetime series, and starred in her own series opposite Lea Thompson on the Lifetime series "For the People". She also starred in the short lived FX televsion series, "Touching Evil". Other notable primetime appearances include re-curring guest-star roles as Darrin DeWitt Henson's ne'er- do-well mother on Showtime's popular family drama "Soulfood", for which she won an NAACP Image Award, and as the mystical Seer on the WB supernatural drama "Charmed." But it was in the role of Angie Hubbard on the popular daytime drama "All My Children," which catapulted Morgan into public consciousness in 1989, where she became the first, and only thus far, African American actress to win an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress. But one of her biggest award highlights was in 2009 when Debbi received the prestigious Gracie Award honoring women who've made enormous strides in television. Currently, in addition to her other commitments, Debbi has mounted a one-woman show "The Monkey on My Back!" based on her memoir of the same title. It has been playing to standing room only audiences and is the first of a series of such performances. And the actress's production company, Dam Entertainment is working in conjunction with Goldline Productions to bring to reality TV "All About The Benjamin's", a family's journey in dealing with two young adult sons, one with Autism, and the other with Asperger's syndrome. Debbi also just joined the cast of the new series "Power" for the Starz network, playing the recurring role of Estelle, executive produced by 50 Cent and slated to begin airing in 2014. And capping off the end of the 2013 Debbi was offered a book deal with Simon & Schuster for penning her personal memoir The Monkey on My Back, scheduled for release next year.
Founded by Woodie King, Jr. in 1970, New Federal Theatre has gone on to international acclaim for its bold mission to integrate minorities and women into the mainstream of American theater by training artists for the profession and by presenting plays by minorities and women to integrated, multicultural audiences - plays which evoke the truth through beautiful, artistic recreations of ourselves. Specializing in minority drama, New Federal Theatre has brought the joy of the living stage to not only the minority community living on the Lower East Side near NFT's home at Henry Street Settlement's Abrons Arts Center, but to audiences from all over the metropolitan area. NFT has provided emerging playwrights with the opportunity to have their works produced; it has brought minority actors, directors and designers to national attention and sponsored numerous ethnic theater groups and events. NFT's vocational training workshops continue to prepare minority people for employment in theater and related fields. Most importantly, NFT provides the multi-ethnic Lower East Side, as well as the New York Metro area, with theater of the highest caliber that relates to the interest of different cultural groups. The impact of NFT is nothing less than extraordinary. Writers first presented at NFT are now part of the literary fabric of the American mainstream. Many plays attained national significance and reached much wider audiences by having been showcased at NFT. The alumni list of NFT productions reads like a Who's Who of American theater, film and television: Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Debbie Allen, Phylicia Rashad, S. Epatha Merkerson, Jackee Harry, Laurence Fishburne, Dick Anthony Williams, Taurean Blacque, Debbie Morgan, Robert Downey, Jr. Garrett Morris, Lynn Whitfield, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Ruby Dee, Leslie Uggams, Samuel L. Jackson and many more. Under Woodie King, Jr.'s stewardship, NFT presented over 280 productions in the last four decades including: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, What the Winesellers Buy, Reggae, The Taking of Miss Janie and The Dance and The Railroad. His directorial credits are extensive and include work in film as well as in theater. He has directed at the most prominent theaters across the country and has been the recipient of numerous awards from AUDELCO, The NAACP, Drama Critics Circle and an Obie Award for Sustained Achievement.
Tickets for the Gala (from $100 to $300 including pre-event reception) may be purchased by calling New Federal Theatre at 212/353-1176 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.