New Federal Theatre To Hold 53rd Anniversary Celebration in October

The event is set for October 2 at Edison Ballroom.

By: Aug. 30, 2023
New Federal Theatre To Hold 53rd Anniversary Celebration in October
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Woodie King, Jr.'s New Federal Theatre (NFT), led by Producing Artistic Director Elizabeth Van Dyke, will hold a 53rd Anniversary Celebration October 2, 2023 at Edison Ballroom, 240 West 47th Street.  

The event will honor Woodie King, Jr., Gabrielle Kurlander and Sade Lythcott and is chaired by director Kenny Leon and actor Lynn Whitfield.  Its honorary benefit committee includes Dee Davis Enterprises, Frankie Faison, Heather Beal, Ron Himes, Ruben Santiago Hudson, Delroy Lindo, Jonathan McCrory, John Rankin, Norman A. Small, John E. Scutchins, Diane Stiles, Elizabeth Van Dyke and Claude Winfield.

Cocktails and reception will start at 6:00 PM; dinner and presentations will start at 7:00 PM.  Single tickets are $300, $530 and $750 and tables are $5,300, $7,500 and $10,000.  To purchase tickets, go to NFT's website,


Woodie King, Jr., Founder and Producing Director Emeritus of New Federal Theatre, has been a father in the theater to generations of Black and women playwrights, actors and other professionals whose work he has nurtured and presented since the 1970's. The company rose to national prominence with such productions as "Black Girl" by J.E. Franklin, which won a Drama Desk Award; "The Taking of Miss Janie" by Ed Bullins, which moved from NFT to Lincoln Center and won the Drama Critics Circle Award; and "for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf" by Ntozake Shange, which performed on Broadway for ten months and was nominated for the Best Play Tony Award before embarking on a three-year national tour. It has subsequently been performed regionally and around the world and was revived   Off-Broadway in 2019.  Woodie King, Jr. and NFT received the 2020 Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre.  On May 19, 2020 the Off-Broadway Alliance named him a "Legend of Off -Broadway" for sustained achievement in Off-Broadway Theater.  In recent years, he has been the subject of biographical documentaries including "The King of Stage: the Woodie King, Jr. Story" directed by Juney Smith and TCG's "Legacy Leaders of Color" video project. His numerous other awards include an Obie Award for Sustained Achievement, TCG's Peter Zeisler Award, AEA’s Paul Robeson Award, AEA’s Rosetta LeNoire Award, an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Wayne State University, a Doctorate of Fine Arts from the College of Wooster and honorary doctorates from Lehman College and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  In 2012 he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and received the Innovative Theatre Award’s Sustained Excellence in Theatre.  NFT’s Board of Directors, led by Mr. King, passed on leadership of New Federal Theatre to actress/director/producer Elizabeth Van Dyke in 2021, but he remains on the Board of Directors.

Gabrielle L. Kurlander is a theater director, actor and nonprofit entrepreneur who left a Broadway national tour in 1987 to join the grassroots Castillo Theatre and its blend of activism and political and multicultural theater.  She has spent more than 35 years building programs to empower poor and underserved communities using an innovative performance approach. She has served as founding CEO of All Stars Project since 1989.  In 2003, she opened All Stars’ 42nd Street performing arts center where over 100 plays have been staged. She has worked with New Federal Theatre (NFT) as a producer, director and philanthropic partner; NFT moved into the All Stars’ center in 2014. Productions under her direction have earned six AUDELCO Awards. She has directed dozens of productions for Castillo Theatre and "Dr. DuBois and Miss Ovington" for NFT. In 2023, she directed the "1619 Project, One-Act Festival" at Bishop Arts Theatre Center in Dallas, TX. She is currently directing "Indecent" for Emerson Theatre Collaborative in Sedona, AZ and will next direct "This Time" for Undermain Theatre in Dallas, TX.  She serves on the boards of The Arts Community Alliance and All Stars Project.

Sade Lythcott is the CEO of the historic National Black Theatre (NBT). She is the daughter of the late Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, founder of NBT and legendary champion of African-American arts and culture. As a leader and staunch advocate for women and people of color in the cultural sector, she chairs the Coalition of Theaters of Color, serves on the board of directors of Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and the advisory boards of the Black Genius Foundation, Art in a Changing America, and HueArts NYC Project.  In 2021, she served on the New York Governor’s task force to reopen live performance statewide after pandemic-era shuttering and was chosen by New York City Mayor Elect Eric Adams to co-lead his transition committee on Parks, Arts and Culture and was tasked to contribute to the blueprint for New York City’s recovery.  In 2012, she wrote and produced the musical "A Time To Love," which garnered three AUDELCO nominations and is currently in development in partnership with the world famous Apollo Theater.  Her acting appearances include "Urban Transition: Loose Blossom" by Ron Milner at New Federal Theatre, directed by Woodie King, Jr.  Her awards include the Key to Harlem for her excellence in the Arts, An OBIE award for Sustained Excellence in Production and Continued Advocacy on Behalf of Black Artists, and The Mark Segal Center’s Change Maker Frankie Award.


Kenny Leon is a Tony and Obie Award-winning, Emmy-nominated Broadway and TV director. Last season, he directed Lifetime’s Emmy-nominated "Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia," received a Tony Award for the 20th anniversary production of "Top Dog Under Dog," directed Broadway's "Ohio State Murders" starring Audra McDonald, and directed the Tony-winning Broadway production of “A Soldier's Play" presented by Roundabout Theatre Company for which he was nominated for Best Director.  He has staged "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Hamlet" for Shakespeare in the Park. His Broadway credits also include "American Son," which was also adapted for Netflix; the revival of "Children of a Lesser God," the Tupac musical "Holler If Ya Hear Me," "A Raisin in the Sun" starring Denzel Washington (Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play and Best Revival of a Play), "The Mountaintop" starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, "Stick Fly" produced by Alicia Keys, August Wilson’s "Fences" (which garnered ten Tony nominations and won three Tony Awards), August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean," and "A Raisin in the Sun" starring Sean "Diddy" Combs, Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald.  He received the 2016 Mr. Abbott Award for Lifetime Achievement in Directing and the 2010 Award for Excellence in Directing from the Drama League. He serves on the board of The Public Theater and is Artistic Director Emeritus of Atlanta's Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company. He is currently Senior Resident Director at Roundabout Theatre Company and is working on a Broadway revival of "Purlie Victorious" starring Leslie Odem and Kara Young.

Lynn Whitfield appeared off-Broadway in "The Great MacDaddy" and " It's Showdown Time" before earning international acclaim in the 1978 production of "for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf" alongside Alfre Woodard.  Since then, her TV and film career has been prolific.  Highlights include the title role in HBO's biographical film "The Josephine Baker Story" (1991), for which she received a Golden Globe Award nomination for her breakout performance.  For four years, she starred as Lady Mae Greenleaf in the Oprah Winfrey Network dramatic series "Greenleaf," for which she won critical acclaim and garnered two NAACP Image Awards and a Gracie Award. Whitfield has won a total of seven NAACP Image Awards.


New Federal Theatre (NFT) has produced more works by minority playwrights and women than any other organization in the history of New York theater.  Its name came out of the Federal Theatre Project, created under the FDR administration and directed by Hallie Flannigan, which had 35 Negro Units across America.  In over 450 productions, NFT has brought an exceptional cohort of minority actors, directors, and designers to national attention.  These include playwrights Ron Milner, J.E. Franklin, Ed Bullins, Pearl Cleage, Charles Fuller, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Laurence Holder, Ntozake Shange ("for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf") and Amiri Baraka ("Slave Ship," "Black Girl"), "When The Chickens Came Home To Roost") and actors Denzel Washington, Debbie Allen, Phylicia Rashad, S. Epatha Merkerson, Issa Rae, La Tanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Chadwick Boseman, and Morgan Freeman.  Its vocational training workshops, begun in 1976, have prepared Black people for employment in the theatre.

Its recent productions include the AUDELCO Award winning world premiere of "Gong Lum’s Legacy" by Charles White; "Micki Grant: Step Into My World," conceived by Nora Cole, a devised piece using unpublished writings and music by the late Micki Grant, and "Telling Tales Out of School" by Wesley Brown, directed by Woodie King, Jr., which will open NFT’s Fall Season on October 17, 2023.


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