Photo Coverage: NFT 40th Reunion Awards Starry Gala Arrivals
Woodie King, Jr.'s New Federal Theatre (NFT) celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special Gala at the historic Edison Ballroom (240 West 47th Street) last night, May 22nd. This special event saluting NFT, for 40 years a seminal force in Black Theater, was co-hosted by Randall Pinkston (CBS News) and Lynn Whitfield. Chairmen for the event were Laurence Fishburne, John Morning and Susan Taylor. The Honorary Chair was Dr. Maya Angelou. BroadwayWorld was there for the festivities, and brings you coverage of the starry arrivals below!
In addition to celebrating NFT's vital contribution to the arts internationally, the Gala featured special awards for 13 individuals that changed the cultural life of our nation: Sidney Poitier, Ntozake Shange, Ruby Dee, Alicia Keys, Mayor David Dinkins, Imhotep Gary Byrd, George Faison, Amiri Baraka, Rev. Malcolm Boyd, Elizabeth McCann, Carla Pinza, Terrie Williams and Sylvia Sprinkle Hamlin.
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.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride / Retna Ltd.