Lonette McKee to Lead SOWA'S RED GRAVY Off-Broadway

Woodie King Jr's New Federal Theatre, in association with Castillo Theatre, will present Sowa's Red Gravy by Diane Richards at Castillo Theatre (543 West 42nd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues.). Performances begin October 18th with Opening Night set for Sunday, October 28th. Performances continue through November 18th only.

In addition to Lonette McKee, Woodie King Jr. directs a cast that features Aaron Fried, JoNathan Peck, Kimberly Q, Toni SeaWright, Gary E. Vincent, Iris Wilson, David D. Wright, and Kene Holliday (Streamers, "Matlock," The Josephine Baker Story, G.I. Joe: (The Movie). Sowa's Red Gravy will have set design by John Scheffler, costume design by Ali Turns, lighting design by Antoinette Tynes, and sound design by Bill Toles. Bruce Heath will provide choreography.

Sowa’s Red Gravy is a play filled with humor and insight by a master storyteller of Southern folklore. The six character play with music captures the sound, heart, and fury of African-American culture. The play is similar in style and content to the works of the Harlem Renaissance writers Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. Sowa’s Red Gravy is a play of southern “mulebone” folklore and unforgettable characters like Windy Willow, Sapphire and Luwana. Narrated by Sowa, a 110-year old wise woman, who resides in Harlem in quantum time, Sowa recounts her life before the emancipation and claims to have lived many lives as varied as a White Hollywood film star, an African Warrior and a Louisiana Voodoo Queen. Sowa’s storytelling is so captivating that you are sure to be convinced she is telling the truth and you will delight in the other characters as well.

Playwright Diane Richards is a new voice in the American theatre and an emerging playwright that fills a much needed void in American theatre. Her greatest passion is writing. She is a member of the Harlem Writers Guild, the most prestigious African American writers guild in the world, who’s early founding members include Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Maya Angelou, Rosa Guy, Grace Edwards, Terry McMillan and Ossie Davis. Richards has studied fiction writing with James Baldwin and Elia Kazan’s legendary editor – Sol Stein. Also a songwriter and screenwriter, Richards has had an impressive career in the entertainment industry winning recording artist awards, writing and producing her own material and associate producing NKOTB and Big L’s albums on Sony Records. She remains active in the music and film world through memberships in ASCAP and the Independent Feature Project.

Director Woodie King Jr. is the Founder and Producing Director of New Federal Theatre. Woodie King Jr.'s New Federal Theatre has presented over 250 productions in its 41-year history. Mr. King has produced and directed on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in regional theatres, and in universities across the United States. He originated and subsequently co-produced For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf (first produced by NFT and Joseph Papp's Public Theatre), What the Wine Sellers Buy, Reggae and The Taking of Miss Janie (Drama Critics Circle Award). His directional credits are extensive and include work in film as well as theater. Mr. King was recently inducted into The Theater Hall of Fame for his outstanding contribution to the American Theater.

Lonette McKee received a Tony Award nomination for her portrayal of the tragic mulatto, Julie, in the Houston Grand Opera’s production of Showboat, for which she received the distinction of becoming the first African American actress to play the coveted role in the US. She later reprised the role on Broadway for great theatrical director Hal Prince. She earned critical praise and a Drama Desk nomination for her heartbreaking portrayal of Billie Holiday in the one-woman hit drama with music, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. Lonette exploded onto the screen in a stunning feature film debut playing the beloved character, ‘Sista’ in the now cult-movie, Sparkle. Following were starring roles in films Which Way Is Up and Brewster’s Millions opposite the legendary Richard Pryor, The Cotton Club and Gardens of Stone for renowned director, Francis Ford Coppola. Sundance Film Festival winner Lift earned Lonette a Black Reel nomination. Other films include Cuba, Men of Honor, ‘Round Midnight (for legendary French filmmaker Bertrand Tavenier), Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, He Got Game and She Hate Me (for Spike Lee). Recently, Lonette appeared in A Day in Black and White, Honey, ATL, Paper Mache Chase, Fast Food Fast Women, Honey 2, This Narrow Place and LUV, opposite hip hop mega-star Common. TV films include Women of Brewster Place, with Oprah Winfrey (NAACP nomination); Having Our Say, Queen, To Dance with Olivia, For Love of Olivia, Blind Faith and Dangerous Passions. Lonette also received an NAACP nomination for her recurring appearances on As The World Turns and enjoyed a recurring lead role on hit series Third Watch. Other TV appearances include The Tonight Show, Today Show, Good Morning America and David Letterman. Lonette was recognized in “People Magazine’s Fifty Most Beautiful” issue. Lonette has written and produced solo CD’s entitled, Lonette, Words and Music, Natural Love, Acoustic Tracks and Lonette McKee and toured throughout the world in solo concert performances including the prestigious JVC Jazz Festival at Carnegie Hall. Lonette has studied Film Directing at The New School in NYC and apprenticed directing under the tutelage of Spike Lee. Lonette continues to write and produce music and screenplays along with television concepts for Lonette McKee Films Inc. Dream Street, an original screenplay for theatrical release will mark Lonette’s directorial debut, and was chosen as a Finalist in Sundance Film Lab. Her music CDs Acoustic Tracks and Lonette McKee are now available via Black Ink Music Management. Currently, Lonette is a Contributor for the Huffington Post and teaches the Actors Workshop at The City College of New York Continuing and Professional Studies. Lonette is proud and honored that her first concert with friend and music great, Michael Henderson will be at CCNY’s Aaron Davis Hall on November 2, 2012.

Performances of Sowa’s Red Gravy will be Thursday and Friday evenings at 7:30 PM, Saturday at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets will be $25 and can be ordered at www.castillo.org or by phone at 212/941-1234. No performance November 2. For more information, please visit www.newfederaltheatre.org or call NFT at 212-353-1176.

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