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.
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.
Jamyl Dobson* recently performed in Are You Not Entertained? for the Weasel Festival/Classic Stage Co. Three years with Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Co. International Tour: Zorro. NYC credits: The Seven (New York Theatre Workshop), Fela! (Broadway workshop), Fondly Do We Hope, Fervently Do We Pray (Lincoln Center Festival), Romeo and Juliet, Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death (Classical Theatre of Harlem), Rainy Days and Mondays (NYC Fringe Festival). Regional: La Jolla Playhouse, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Iowa Summer Rep, and the Core Ensemble Co.
Edwin Lee Gibson's* work as an actor has been featured in The New York Times, The Village Voice, American Theatre Magazine, Theatre Journal, and the Sundaymagazine, This Week. In addition to his ninety-five theatre productions, Mr. Gibson is a recipient of Off Broadway's OBIE Award for Outstanding Performance, an NEA writing commission, and two Mondo Cané artist commissions. As a guest artist and lecturer, he has made stops at Yale University, New York University, City University of New York, SUNY Purchase College, Ithaca College, and Western Michigan University. His company, Thespis Brown Laboratory, is presently in Pittsburgh crafting two works aimed at extending the legacy of the late playwright August Wilson.
Keilly McQuail is happy to be working with New Brooklyn Theater for such a worthy cause. A graduate of NYU's Tisch School, she's workshopped new works at such places as Rattlestick, The Atlantic Theatre Company, New Georges, Fresh Ground Pepper, Pipeline, and Crashbox Theatre. Film/TV: Not Fade Away (dir. David Chase), Are We There Yet? (TBS), and Shortcomings (MTV). This spring you can see her in an awesome new work conceived by Playwrights Horizon's alumni Annie Tippe and Ryann Weir: DEBUTANTE. Proud member of Screen Actors Guild. www.KeillyMcQuail.com
Richard Millen has appeared recently in Crystal Skillman's Follow directed by Daniel Talbott, and can be seen in the forthcoming films: Shawn Snyder's Festus and Graham Waterston's And It Was Good. His award-winning documentary Chronicle of a Death Postponed was screened at the Anthology Film Archives (NewFilmmakers New York) and numerous film festivals. Richard taught French for twenty years in Flatbush at a public middle school. He lives in Brooklyn.
James Patrick Nelson* has appeared Off-Broadway in Three Sisters (Classic Stage Co. with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard), A Midsummer Night's Dream (CSC with Bebe Neuwirth and Christina Ricci), Ivanov (CSC with Ethan Hawke and Joely Richardson), and Rutherford and Son (The Mint). He recently starred in the world premiere of Old Familiar Faces in the NYC Fringe (with Sam Tsoutsouvas and Tandy Cronyn) and will soon appear in the world premiere of Organic Shrapnel at Theatre 54. His own play, The Second Sun, was recently workshopped at the Barrow Group and will be produced in the months ahead. Regional theatre includes Pericles(Berkeley Rep), The Group (Actors Theater of Louisville), The Duchess of Malfi (Actors Shakespeare Project), Galileo (Central Square Theater), The Norman Conquests(Depot Theater), Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest (Olney Theater, National Players), and a year-long repertory national tour for the American Shakespeare Center. He appears in the popular web series 'In Between Men,' which recently screened at the New York Television Festival and the London Raindance Film Festival. Next month, he will shoot his first feature, Finer Homes and Gangsters. Education: BFA Boston University, LAMDA.
Edward Albee was born on March 12, 1928 and began writing plays 30 years later. His plays include The Zoo Story (1958), The American Dream (1960), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1961-62, Tony Award), Tiny Alice (1964), A Delicate Balance (1966, Pulitzer Prize; 1996, Tony Award), All Over (1971), Seascape (1974, Pulitzer Prize),The Lady from Dubuque (1977-78), The Man Who Had Three Arms (1981), Finding the Sun (1982), Marriage Play (1986-87), Three Tall Women (1991, Pulitzer Prize),Fragments (1993), The Play About the Baby (1997), The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (2000, 2002 Tony Award), Occupant (2001), Peter and Jerry: Act 1, Homelife; Act 2, The Zoo Story (2004), and Me, Myself and I (2007). He is a member of the Dramatists Guild Council and President of the Edward F. Albee Foundation. Mr. Albee was awarded the Gold Medal in Drama from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1980, and in 1996 received the Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts. In 2005 he was awarded the special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Jonathan Solari (director) is the Founding Artistic Director of New Brooklyn Theater. He has directed theatre and opera productions throughout the United States, been assistant director on Broadway, and worked with legendary directors such as Daniel Sullivan, Bartlett Sher, Jo Bonney, and Daniel Kramer. His opera directing includes the world premiere of Green Sneakers by Ricky Ian Gordon (restaged at Lincoln Center in 2013) and operas for Maestro Lorin Maazel's Castelton Festival, Bel Cantanti Opera, and the Five Boroughs Music Festival. Internationally, he has staged works for the Prague Playhouse and Belarus Free Theatre. His most recent original work, The Love Letter You've Been Meaning to Write New York, had a sold-out run in 2011 at 3LD Art & Technology Center.
New Brooklyn Theater is a 501c3-pending theatre company founded in 2012 and based in Bed-Stuy. Its mission is to restore theatre to 1215 Fulton Street (also known as the Regent Theater and the Slave Theater) by turning it into a new performing arts center; fill Bed-Stuy's need for performing arts and arts education; and develop New York's next generation of emerging artists. The company's production history began in 2013 with a festival of shows featuring new dramatic works and films by Brooklyn-based artists and a rarely seen play by Bed-Stuy resident Ntozake Shange, author of For Colored Girls.... In 2014 New Brooklyn Theater will launch its education department serving the youth of Bed-Stuy and continue its history of producing new works that speak to our times.
Interfaith Medical Center is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing quality healthcare to the residents of Kings County. Annually, Interfaith provides a total of over 200,000 outpatient clinic visits, over 50,000 Emergency Department visits, and over 11,000 discharges. The Community of Central Brooklyn faces serious health care access issues. Interfaith is located in a primary medical care Health Professional Shortage Area as designated by the federal government. The shortage of primary care providers combined with the social problems that plague low-income, high-poverty communities have led to serious health status consequences for its residents. In Central Brooklyn, the death rate per 100,000 residents is higher by 30% for all causes compared to New York City as a whole.
For more information, visit www.newbrooklyntheater.com.