Talkbacks to Accompany Castillo Theatre's Production Fred Newman's BILLIE, MALCOLM & YUSUF

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Talkbacks to Accompany Castillo Theatre's Production Fred Newman's BILLIE, MALCOLM & YUSUF

The Castillo Theatre (Dan Friedman, artistic director; John Rankin, associate managing director) has scheduled two talk backs in-conjunction with its current production of Fred Newman's Billie, Malcolm & Yusuf, directed by award-winning director, Gabrielle Kurlander. The production commemorates the 30th anniversary of Yusuf Hawkins' murder in 1989. The Castillo Theatre is located at 543 West 42nd Street. Performances Billie, Malcolm & YusufThe Castillo Theatre (Dan Friedman, artistic director; John Rankin, associate managing director) has scheduled two talk backs in-conjunction with its current production of Fred Newman's continues through March 17, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m.

Castillo Theatre Cultural Talks:

Saturday, March 2, 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Dr. Lenora Fulani presents: The Legacy of Yusuf's Movement

Michael Hardy (National Action Network) and Harry Kresky ( will lead a discussion of Yusuf's Movement in the early 1990's and its political and cultural legacy.

Sunday, March 3 (following the 2:00 performance) A Conversation with Two Women Directors: Petronia Paley and Gabrielle Kurlander

Featuring award-winning theatre directors Gabrielle Kurlander, director of Billie, Malcolm & Yusuf and Petronia Paley, director of Larry Muhammed'sLooking for Leroy, produced by the New Federal Theatre.

Culture Talks are free; reservations required. Seating limited. Call 212-941-1234 or contact

About Billie, Malcolm & Yusuf

Billie, Malcolm & Yusuf opens at a funeral. Among the guests mourning the passage of the "dear departed" are the great revolutionary Malcolm X, the legendary blues singer Billie Holiday, and a black teenager, Yusuf Hawkins, who was brutally murdered by a white mob in 1989. As the funeral procession makes its way through the Gates of Heaven, we learn the identity of the "departed," the conflicts between Billie, Malcolm and Yusuf, and their struggle to live, love and laugh without gods or icons. With songs, humor, powerful reminiscences, historical footage and more than a few surprises, these characters take the audience on a spellbinding journey.

The playwright and the director both have a historical connection to the Yusuf Hawkins' tragedy, having joined the family and many community activists in weekly protests in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where the murder took place. 2019 will mark the 30th anniversary of Hawkins' murder, which catalyzed broad protests for racial justice and resulted in the election of New York City's first Black mayor.

The Castillo Theatre has been producing political plays in New York City since 1984. It has produced the plays of over 50 political playwrights, including 44 plays and musicals by its late artistic director Fred Newman. Along with political musicals, avant-garde plays, improvisation, and youth productions, Castillo produces plays that engage social issues affecting the African American community, including Our Young Black Men Are Dying and Nobody Seems to Care by James Chapmyn (1991); and Crown Heights by Fred Newman and Dan Friedman about the 1992 riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn (1998 and 2004). Castillo has a longstanding producing partnership with Woodie King, Jr. and his New Federal Theatre, which is in residence at Castillo Theatre.

Gabrielle L. Kurlander (director) has directed eight plays by Fred Newman at the Castillo Theatre since 1998, as well as four by German avant-gardist Heiner Müller. In 2011, the Castillo Theatre won the Vivian Robinson AUDELCO Award for Excellence in Black Theatre Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance for Kurlander's production of Playing with Heiner Müller. The following year, her musical production of Newman and Annie Roboff's Sally and Tom (The American Way) won five AUDELCO awards, including Best Director of a Musical Production and Best Musical Production of the Year. In 2014, Kurlander directed Clare Coss' play Dr. Du Bois and Miss Ovington, starring Kathleen Chalfant and Timothy Simonson; and in 2016, Kurlander directed Fred Newman and Jackie Salit's musical play Votes, about a woman running for president. Kurlander began her professional theatre career as an actor in the national touring company of Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues. She joined the Castillo Theatre in 1987, and has since performed in 35 productions. Kurlander is the president and CEO of the All Stars Project, Inc., a national nonprofit organization that uses the developmental power of performance to transform the lives of youth and poor communities, in partnership with caring adults.

Fred Newman (playwright, 1935-2011) was the resident playwright of the Castillo Theatre and served as its artistic director from 1989 until his retirement in 2005. He wrote 44 plays and musicals. In addition, Newman was America's leading director of the work of the German post-dramatic playwright Heiner Müller, and also directed plays by Bertolt Brecht, Aimé Césaire, Yosef Mundy and Peter Weiss. In 2002, he wrote and directed the award-winning independent film Nothing Really Happens (Memories of Aging Strippers). In addition to his theatrical work, Newman was an independent political pioneer, a social therapist and a Stanford University-trained philosopher and teacher. He co-founded the All Stars Project with Dr. Lenora Fulani.

Photo credit: Ronald L. Glassman

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