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Cast Set for Amiri Baraka's Last Play at Woodie King Jr's New Federal Theatre

Woodie King Jr's New Federal Theatre will continue its 46th season dedicated to Amira Baraka with the world premiere of his final play, The Most Dangerous Man In America (W. E. B. Du Bois). Performances will begin May 28th, with opening night set for June 11th at the Castillo Theater (543 West 42nd Street). This limited Off-Broadway engagement, directed by Woodie King Jr., will continue through June 28th only.

Starring Art McFarland as W. E. B. Du Bois and Petronia Paley as his wife, The Most Dangerous Man In America (W. E. B. Du Bois) will also feature Arthur Bartow, Michael Basile, Marie Guinier, Ralph McCain, Zuhariah McGil, Nick Plakias, Stu Richel, Joyce Sylvester, and Landon G. Woodson, along with Lamar K. Cheston, Keldrick Crowder, Sidiki Fofana, Michael Green, Te'la Curtis Lee, Robert Siverls, and Akil N. Williams. The Most Dangerous Man In America (W. E. B. Du Bois) will have scenic design by Chris Cumberbatch, costume design by Gail Cooper-Hecht, lighting design by Antionette Tynes, sound design by Mark Brukner, and projection design by Bill Toles.

The Most Dangerous Man In America (W. E. B. Du Bois), Baraka's final play, is a dramatic reflection of one of the most traumatic events in the terrible period of McCarthyism. W.E.B. DuBois, co-founder of the NAACP and a scholar and political activist known and recognized throughout the world was indicted in 1951, by the US Federal Government at the age of 82 as "an agent of a foreign power." Throughout the play, the focus moves back and forth between the Harlem community and their opinions, and the witnesses' testimony and the courtroom battles, giving more balanced view of the interior narrative. Video stock footage of significant historical events and speeches will be part of the production design.

After more than 30 years as a TV and radio news reporter in New York, Art McFarland returns to the acting career he set aside years before. Art retired from WABC-TV News in May, 2014, devoting his time to family, writing and rekindling his experience as an actor. >From the Little Theater Group at Tuskegee University to the Drama Department at the University of Michigan, Art planned a journey that would include roles in theater, TV and film. During his first professional acting job as a member of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, he was offered the opportunity for advanced acting study at Juilliard. The training was followed by roles in Art's hometown of Atlanta, including that of Othello in a musical version of Shakespeare's play, called Catch My Soul. Shortly after returning to New York a few years later, he began what he considers a deeply rewarding career in broadcasting. Petronia Paley is an award-winning actor who has worked in classical and contemporary theatre on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional theatre. She recently presented her one-person work On the Way to Timbuktu at Penumbra Theatre Company as part of the Claude Edison Purdy Festival in Saint Paul, MN. Her New York credits include, on Broadway: On Golden Pond, Ethel understudy; Off-Broadway: Coriolanus (Audelco nomination); Electra, Classical Theatre of Harlem (Audelco Award). Regional acting credits include The House That Will Not Stand at Berkeley Rep and Yale Repertory; Raisin in the Sun, Crossroads Theatre; Death of a Salesman, Oberlin College; King Lear, Yale Repertory; Trojan Women, Shakespeare Theatre (Helen Hayes nomination); The Oedipus Plays, Shakespeare Theatre and The Odeon of Herodes Atticus (Greece); On Golden Pond, Kennedy Center; Nothing Sacred, Arena Stage; Midsummer Night's Dream, Arena Stage. She is the founder of the Actor Acting Studio. Other teaching credits: Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre's Raul Julia Training Unit, New Federal Theatre and the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center. She is a member of the Actors Studio and Ensemble Studio Theatre.

Woodie King Jr. explains the impact Amiri Baraka had on him: "Amiri Baraka and I shared a 50 year friendship. Shortly after I arrived in New York City, he came to see the play I was directing at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery. It was my good fortune, beginning that night, to get to know him. We had in common a close friendship with Langston Hughes and we both loved shoes and hats. Baraka was already a nationally recognized poet and respected editor of literary journals (where he published unknown writers alongside Ginsberg, Corso, Ferlinghetti, Rivers, Rexroth and Kerouac). After the success of Dutchman (produced by Edward Albee) marked him as a major playwright, Baraka moved uptown to Harlem to set up the Black Arts Repertory Theater. In the '60s, American cities were in turmoil; Baraka's poetry and essays defined that unrest. Baraka's image blazed on front pages of newspapers across America and his poetry and plays fired up African Americans everywhere. In 1968, I began producing his plays: Great Goodness of Life (a Coon Show), Slaveship, The Toilet, A Recent Killing, Sidnee Poet Heroical, and Boy and Tarzan Meet Again in a Clearing (and produced It's Nation Time - for the Motown label, Black Forum Records). He participated in my documentary Black Theater in America and co-edited anthologies with me. Baraka's life and literary achievement as playwright should give us inspiration and courage, especially to African-American artists. He had incredible vigor and forcefulness. If one followed Baraka's evolution from the Village in the mid -'50s, through jazz joints and cafes, to Harlem, where he denounced all the whites he had associated with up to that time (including his wife Hettie Jones), and embraced Black Nationalism, then back to Newark where he founded the nationalist organization Committee for a Unified Newark, and then into the 1970s, after absorbing W.E.B. Du Bois he announced he was adopting a Marxist philosophy - you might reel with confusion. But look at the incredible body of work that evolved out of this prolific, transformative writer."

Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 in Newark, NJ. After leaving Howard University and the Air Force, he moved to the Lower East Side in 1957 and co-edited the avant-garde literary magazine Yugen and founded Totem Press, which first published works by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and others. He published his first volume of poetry, Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note, in 1961 His Blues People: Negro Music in White America (1963) is still regarded as the seminal work on Afro-American music and culture. His reputation as a playwright was established with the production of Dutchman at Cherry Lane Theatre in March 1964. The controversial play won an Obie Award for Best Play and subsequently was made into a film. In 1965, Jones moved to Harlem where he founded the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School. BARTS lasted only one year and Baraka returned to Newark, his hometown, and set up with his wife, Amina Baraka The Spirit House and The Spirit House Movers, that brought drama, music and poetry from across the country. In 1968, Baraka co-edited Black Fire: Anthology of Afro-American Writing. Amiri and Amina Baraka edited The Music: Meditations of Jazz & Blues (Morrow) and Confirmation: An Anthology of African-American Women, which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka was published in 1984. His subsequent publications include Y's/Why's/Wise (3rd World 1992), Funk Lore (Littoral 1993), Eulogies (Marsilio, 1994), Transbluesency (Marsilio 1996), and Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems (Nehesi 2002). In the fall of 2002, Baraka, who had been named New Jersey Poet Laureate by then Governor James McGreevey, coming under fire from the Anti-Defamation League, the New Jersey Assembly and others after a reading of his controversial poem "Somebody Blew Up America" about the 9/11 attacks. After reading the poem at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation's annual poetry festival in Stanhope, NJ, Baraka's $10,000 stipend was rescinded and the Poet Laureate position eliminated in 2003 by Gov. McGreevey. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Baraka's case in which he asserted that his First Amendment rights were violated. Baraka bounced back from the melee and remained a figure in demand at international festivals, book fairs and on university campuses. Baraka was the Poet Laureate of the Newark Public Schools appointed by former Superintendent Marion Bolden. Amiri Baraka's numerous literary honors included fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama, the Langston Hughes Award from City College of New York, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Letters in 1995. In 2002 he was named Poet Laureate of New Jersey and Newark Public Schools. His book of short stories, Tales of the Out and the Gone (Akashic Books) was published in late 2007. Home, his book of social essays, was re-released by Akashic Books in 2009. Digging: The Afro American Soul of American Classical Music (Univ. of California) was also released in 2009; the Before Columbus Foundation selected Digging as winner of their annual American Book Awards. His last book RAZOR: Revolutionary Art for Cultural Revolution was published in 2012. He died January 9th 2014.

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 42-year history. Mr. King has produced and directed on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in regional theatres, and in universities across the United States. He is the original producer of the ground breaking "choreopoem" For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. He also produced What the Wine Sellers Buy, Reggae and The Taking of Miss Janie (Drama Critics Circle Award). Mr. King was recently inducted into The Theater Hall of Fame for outstanding contribution to the American Theater.

Performances will be Thursday and Friday evenings at 7:30 PM, Saturday at 2 PM and 7:30 PM, and Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets will be $25 and can be ordered through www.castillo.org or by phone at 212/941-5800.

For more information, please visit www.newfederaltheatre.com or call NFT at 212-353-1176.


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