New Brooklyn Theater's Site-Specific THE DEATH OF BESSIE SMITH Plays Now thru 1/19

New Brooklyn Theater has announced casting today for its site-specific production of Edward Albee's The Death of Bessie Smith at Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn. This rare revival will run for eight performances between today, January 9 and 19, 2014. Each performance will be followed by talkbacks or panel discussions with leaders in the arts, government, labor, and health. These discussions are intended to raise critical questions about health access, race, class, and the arts in New York.

The cast includes Jessica Afton (Nurse), Brian D. Coats (Bernie), Jamyl Dobson (Orderly), Edwin Lee Gibson (Jack), Keilly McQuail (Second Nurse), Richard Millen (Father), and James Patrick Nelson (Intern).

Sets and costumes are designed by Claire DeLiso. The lighting design is by Brandon Bagwell. The sound design is by Laura Cunningham. The stage management is by Clarissa Ligon and Jeannipher Pacheco. Samantha Levitt is the dramaturge.

This unique company comprises veterans and newcomers from stage, screen, and dance who were eager to join a project that addresses pressing social and economic issues of our times. Five of the actors are appearing courtesy of Actors' Equity Association. All are working for free, in accordance with the wishes of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, who generously allowed us to produce this early work which has not been seen in New York since 1968.

The location of Interfaith Medical Center was chosen to highlight the threat of imminent closure that the hospital faces and to provoke discussion about how such decisions are made in our society, particularly when they impact low-income, chiefly African-American communities like Bedford-Stuyvesant, Interfaith's main catchment area.

Seven of the eight performances will be joined by civic and elected leaders including U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, NYC Public Advocate LetiTia James, and City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, with others to be announced. The January 12 performance will be followed by a panel discussion featuring City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, NYSNA executive director Jill Furillo, activist Sharonnie Perry of the Interfaith Community Advisory Board, Diane Porter of the Interfaith Board of Trustees, and Jonathan Solari, artistic director of New Brooklyn Theater.

Tickets to all performances are free to the public and available by visiting or

Jessica Afton*, actress and movement artist, is proud to make her New York theatrical debut with such a powerful play. Having moved to New York in search of theatre that impacts society, she is grateful to New Brooklyn Theater for providing this opportunity. Jessica received her BFA from Viterbo University. Her recent credits include Tony n' Tina's Wedding on the Las Vegas Strip, and the roles of Alice in Patrick Marber's Closer, Molly in John Kolvenbach's Love Song, and Laura in Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie.

Brian D. Coats* Graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. New York theatre includes: La Ruta (Working Theater), On the Levee (Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3), The Merry Wives of Windsor/Two Gentlemen of Verona (Public/Delacorte), Puddn'head Wilson (The Acting Company), The Bereaved/ And Miles to Go(Partial Comfort Productions), Woza Albert! (Lincoln Center Institute), Myrna in Transit (Ensemble Studio Theatre). Regional theatre credits include: Invisible Man(Huntington Theatre Company/Studio Theater, DC; Helen Hayes Award, Shared), Fences/ A Raisin in the Sun (Geva Theatre Center), Clybourne Park (Caldwell Theatre Co.), The Amen Corner (Rhynsburger Theatre/MU), Distant Fires (People's Light & Theatre Company; Barrymore Award, Shared). Film/TV credits include Friendship!, For Flow (HBO), Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, JAG, Big Lake, How to Make it in America, Blue Bloods, The Sopranos, Alternate Sides (Golden Egg Film Festival/ Tribeca Cinemas; Best Supporting Actor), and a recurring on HBO's Boardwalk Empire.

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