New Federal Theatre's 44th Season to Feature Ed Bullin's IN THE WINE TIME & THE FABULOUS MISS MARIE
Woodie King Jr's New Federal Theatre kicks off its 44th season with "The Ed Bullins Project" - two revivals from his "Twentieth Century Cycle of Plays" - In The Wine Time and The Fabulous Miss Marie. Bullins, winner of the prestigious NY Drama Critics' Circle Award and OBIE Award for The Taking of Miss Janie, has greatly influenced American theatre, especially Black theatre. His work, characterized by disdain for ineffective political rhetoric as a substitute for action, most often examines the lives of Black people in the inner city. In 1968, Clive Barnes, writing in the New York Times callEd Bullins "a welcome addition to the ranks of New York playwrights." Four years later, Barnes added "Bullins writes the way Charlie Parker played: It is all so easy and effortless. It sounds improvised, and yet it doesn't sound improvised, simply because it is the improvisation of formality." Today, Bullins is regarded as a seminal force in the American theater.
Woodie King Jr. explains the impact of Ed Bullins: "Ed Bullins is a pioneer in the Black Theatre. The Fabulous Miss Marie and In The Wine Time are among the finest plays written for the Black theatre. No other black playwright before had exerted a greater influence on contemporary Black theatre. His writings cover almost every form, i.e., naturalism, realism, theatre of the absurd, avant garde, etc. The characters in his plays cross the lines of race and class. His voice as a playwright is loud and very clear. Bullins arrived on the New York scene in 1965, during the height of the Black Power Movement. The following year, he co-founded New Lafayette Theatre in Harlem, where his work appealed specifically to ethnic-specific communities like Harlem. New Lafayette Theatre produced the landmark production of Bullins' In the Wine Time. That production with Sonny Jim Gaines, Gary Bolling, Bette Howard, George Miles, Kris Keiser, Bill Lathan, and the other New Lafayette Players was the most brilliantly produced and directed work in the Bullins' canon. The language and the concise Blackness of Bullins' In The Wine Time combined take black theatre to a level of beauty not found in the American theatre. It combines the violence, the language, and the characterizations of Black life. New Federal Theatre was founded to serve playwrights like Ed Bullins. The first play by Ed Bullins I produced was The Gentleman Caller, as part of an evening called "A Black Quartet." The quartet consisted of four one-act plays by Amiri Baraka, Ron Milner, Ben Caldwell; and Bullins. The plays opened in New York during the 1968-'69 season - first at Chelsea Theatre Center, then moving Off-Broadway to the Gate Theatre. I introduced his work to Wynn Handman at the American Place Theatre that same week. American Place Theatre presentEd Bullins' one-acts Electronic Nigger and Others, including A Son Comes Home, Clara's Ole Man, and Electronic Nigger. Subsequently, they presented his full length plays (The Pig Pen and House Party) and did a staged reading of Goin' a Buffalo."
Ed Bullins is considered one of the most prolific and influential playwrights of the Black Arts Movement. He is the author of more than 100 plays that have been produced throughout the United States and Europe. His acclaimed canon of plays include Clara's Ole Man, Dialect Determinism (or The Rally), How Do You Do (1965), A Minor Scene, It Has No Choice, The Theme Is Blackness (1966); In New England Winter, Black Commercial #2 (1967); Goin' a Buffalo, A Son Come Home, The Electronic Nigger, The Corner, In The Wine Time, The Gentleman Caller (1968); The Box Office, One-Minute Commercial, State Office Bldg. Cruse, The American Flag Ritual, We Righteous Bombers (1969); The Helper, Death List, A Short Play for A Small Theater, Street Sounds, The Man Who Dug Fish, The Duplex, It Bess Dat Way, A Street Play, A Black Time for Black Folk (1970); The Fabulous Miss Marie, Night of the Beast (1971); The Play of the Play (1973); Malcolm: 71 or Publishing Blackness (1975); The Taking of Miss Janie, The Mystery of Phyllis Wheatley: An Historical Play for Young Americans, I Am Lucy Terry: An Historical Fantasy for Young Americans (1976); City Preacher (1984); High John Da Conqueror: the Musical (1985); and Salaam, Huey Newton, Salaam (1990), among othersHe received the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Vernon Rice Award, the Drama Prize at the Venice Biennale Arts Festival, an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Columbia College, three OBIE Awards, two Guggenheim fellowships, three Rockefeller Foundation Playwriting grants and three NEA playwriting grants. A Professor of Theatre at Northeastern University, Mr. Bullins has also won AUDELCO Awards and The Black Theatre Festival Living Legend Award. Bullins has published four collections of plays: Five Plays by Ed Bullins (1968), The Fabulous Miss Marie (1970), The Duplex: A Black Love Fable in Four Movements (1971), Four Dynamite Plays (1972) and The Theme is Blackness (1972), as well as short prose The Hungered One: Early Writings (1971) and a novel The Reluctant Rapist (1973). Bullins is currently represented Off-Broadway by the York Theater's revival of Storyville.
In the Wine Time is the story of Ray, Lou and Cliff - people so linked by blood, law, or friendship that they simply cannot walk away from their relationships, regardless of how unpleasant or destructive they might be. Bullins addresses these issues. It is Ray's rite of passage. Dramatized are the many levels of denial but nothing more overwhelming than the sheer weariness, that is the numbness of poverty as expressed in cheap wine. Though incomplete, the Twentieth Century Cycle stands as one of the monuments of African-American drama, Its sweep and scope influencing, among others, August Wilson. Originally planned as a series of twenty plays, it traces the lives of an extended family of African Americans through the Cold War era. Like Wilson, Bullins intended these plays to engage broad historical questions facing African Americans. In the Wine Time marks Bullins' first successful use of music as a truly dramatic element. The competing radios of the Dawson's (which Plays rhythm 'n' blues) and Miss Minny Garrison ( playing gospel) provide a sense of historical situated ness, clarify the deep moral and metaphysical issues at stake, and underscore the very different attitudes and expressive styles in conflict on this small side street of a large northern industrial city in the early 1950s. Black theater has its strongest traditions in the realistic genre and as such has projected middle class hopes of the aspiring Africa-American Bullins pulls his images and words from the deepest layers of the dispossessed: the highest aspirations here are just to exist. Bullins writes a sharp, hard-hitting dialogue and is acidly humorous, with an occasional hint of thwarted lyricism breaking through...[His] work show coherence and power. The cast for this 14-character play will be announced shortly.
Ed Bullins' 1971 play, The Fabulous Miss Marie, is set in Los Angeles during the Civil Rights' student sit-ins. This is arguably Bullins' greatest work, one that bears comparison to Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. Like Chekhov, Bullins is interested in how love can be expressed in a "cemetery of human failure and class arrogance." With this play, part of his Twentieth Century Cycle, Bullins perfected a dramatic structure also found in In the Wine Time.
Every Day a Visitor is a comedy set in a Jewish home for the aged in the Bronx. The residents are cranky, argumentative about their surroundings and each other. To change their perspective and respect for each other. they each play-act somebody famous. This leads to a renewed vitality, imaginative relationships and plain old-fashioned fun.
Richard Abrons has received productions of his plays in New York and Los Angeles, including The Body Politic (59E59), Three Travelers(Odyssey Theater L.A. and St. Clements - NYC), Whose Family Values (Clurman), Every Day a Visitor (McGinn-Cazale), and The Brothers Berg (Here). He has published more than twenty short stories and won a National Magazine Fiction Award for his story, "Every Day a Visitor." A compilation of his stories, titled Every Day a Visitor and other stories (Nightingale Press) includes the award winning story and "Sleepy," nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is a retired partner from First Manhattan Co., an investment management firm he helped found in 1964. He is vice chairman and past president of the Henry Street Settlement and a director of The Bronx Children's Museum and Grow NYC. At Grow NYC he established the Plant-a-Lot program, which is responsible for over sixty park/gardens in poor communities and is still going strong. He is president of The Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation, which has given away over a hundred and ten million dollars over the past 30 years. At the Huffington Post he has an established blog that reflects his observations and opinions. At eighty six, Richard is older than most of his aged characters in Every Day a Visitor. More than he did thirteen years ago, when the play was first produced, he relates to their fears, their fight for recognition and their brave humor despite their physical decline.
Dr. Du Bois and Miss Ovington is a two character play that captures a moment of crisis between two of the most esteemed founders of the NAACP: the heroic educator, human rights activist, African-American visionary leader Dr. W.E. B. Du Bois and Mary White Ovington, a white Unitarian, granddaughter of abolitionists, and outspoken justice advocate. These two courageous pioneers meet unexpectedly at the New York City NAACP headquarters on a Sunday morning, June1915. He comes charging in to write his final resignation letter which he intends to submit if his demands for full autonomy are not met. She, the only board member he trusts, is determined to change his mind. To lose the only African-American in administrative leadership would crash the Association. They spar, flirt, clash, reveal secrets, and compete to save their vital work, and protect their erotically charged partnership.
This is the World Premiere of Clare Coss' play, Dr. Du Bois and Miss Ovington. Her one-woman play Dangerous Territory (Mary White Ovington)had a developmental reading starring Kathleen Chalfant as part of New Federal Theatre's Zora Neale Hurston Series. Clare Coss' productions include String of Pearls, Provincetown Theatre Company; Our Place in Time: Ten Scenes from the Twentieth Century, co?produced by the Women's Project & Productions and New Federal Theatre; The Blessing, American Place Theatre starring Anita Gillette and Kelly Bishop; Lillian Wald: At Home on Henry Street, New Federal Theatre, starring Tony Award winner Patricia Elliott, (Lincoln Center Theatre on Film and Video Collection); Growing Up Gothic with Crystal Field, George Bartenieff and Joyce Aaron, original sound score by Thiago de Mello, Theatre for the New City/InterArt Theatre; co?author with Segal and Sklar, The Daughters Cycle: Daughters; Sister/Sister; Electra Speaks, InterArt Theatre, (NEA, NYSCA, CAPS, Joint Foundation Support); The Well of Living Waters, Old Testament Story Theatre, lyricist and co-author, original score Thiago de Mello, Cathedral of St. John the Divine; The Star Strangled Banner, Brechtian-Marx Brothers version of 1848 U.S. invasion of Mexico, Berkshire Theatre Festival Barn (Playwright in Residence Grant). In Coss' play Emmett, Down in My Heart - inspired by the Emmett Till lynching - violence, fear and courage collide with white silence and responsibility. Readings have featured Kathleen Chalfant, Danny Glover, Linda Powell, Mercedes Ruehl, and director Kenny Leon. Translated into French, Dans les Rivieres du Delta had a first reading in Paris Autumn 2011 at Moving Parts Theatre. There will be a NYC reading in French Spring 2013 to benefit the Haiti programs of Madre and the Center for Constitutional Rights. For more information, visit www.ClareCoss.com
Mansoor Najee-Ullah had the privilege to direct Ed Bullins Salaam Huey Newton Salaam produced by the New Federal Theatre in October 2008. He has also directed Shango De Ima at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Walking On Waterston at Rites & Reasons Theatre Brown University, Plumes at New York University, For Colored Girls... by Ntozake Shange at Long Street Theatre (University of South Carolina), MoJo by Alice Childress at Ethnical Cultural Society New York, Partake of the Goatmeat at Theatre for the Open Eye and many other Off-Off Broadway theaters in New York City.
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, (The play was then co-produced by NFT with Joseph Papp's Public Theatre). He also produced 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 outstanding contribution to the American Theater.
For more information, please visit www.newfederaltheatre.com or call NFT at 212-353-1176.