WOODIE KING, JR'S NEW FEDERAL THEATRE TO RECEIVE TONY AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN THEATRE ON SEPTEMBER 26.
NEW YORK -- On September 26, 2021 Woodie King, Jr.'s New Federal Theatre will be a recipient of The 2020 Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre. This award was established in 1990 and is awarded annually to institutions, individuals and/or organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in theatre, but are not eligible in any of the established Tony Award categories. Recipients are characterized as "outstanding contributors to the Broadway industry." The other recipients of the awards this year are: Fred Gallo, President of PRG Scenic Technologies; Broadway press agent Irene Gandy and Stage Manager Beverly Jenkins.
Woodie King, Jr.'s New Federal Theatre (NFT) 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 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.
The company has produced more works by minority playwrights and women than any other organization in the history of New York Theater. Founded by Woodie King, Jr. in 1970, the organization has produced over 450 mainstage plays, an astonishing and influential record of achievement, sending multiple plays to Broadway and launching numerous minority and women playwrights and actors into prominent careers.
Since 1975, the company has also conducted training workshops in playwriting and drama workshops for adults and teens. These became a powerhouse program whose contributions have not yet been fully appreciated, although many of its alumni are now legendary.
NFT and its workshop have helped bring to national attention such playwrights as Ed Bullins, Amiri Baraka, J.e Franklin, Ntozake Shange, David Henry Hwang, Ron Milner, Joseph Lazardi, Damien Leake, Genny Lim, Laurence Holder, Alexis DeVeaux, and others. Actor veterans include Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Debbie Allen, Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Fishburne, Chadwick Boseman, Robert Downey, Jr., Ruby Dee, Leslie Uggams, Jackée Harry, Phylicia Rashad, Dick Anthony Williams, Glynn Turman, Taurean Blacque, Garrett Morris, Sam MacMurray, Debbie Morgan, Lynn Whitfield, Reginald Vel-Johnson, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Ella Joyce, Starletta DuPois, Issa Rae, S. Epetha Merkson, Oz Scott, Trazana Beverley, Morgan Freeman, Anna Maria Horsford and many more.
Other noted artists who worked at NFT include Lloyd Richards, Charles Nelson Reilly, Melba Moore, Vinie Burrows, Art McFarland, Kathleen Chalfant, Earle Hyman, Roger Robinson, Ellen Holly, Giancarlo Esposito, William "Mickey" Stevenson, Max Roach, Shauneille Perry and many more.
On May 19, 2020 the Off-Broadway Alliance named Woodie King, Jr. a "Legend of Off Broadway," recognizing 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 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 was originally inspired by a deep study of the original Federal Theatre Project and the vision of its leaders including Hallie Flanagan, Orson Welles and John Houseman. But the theater's artistic focus has always been on issues of the "now." This is reflected, in recent seasons, by productions including "Zora Neale Hurston: A Theatrical Biography," "Harriet's Return: Based Upon the Legendary Life of Harriet Tubman," Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green" and "Looking for Leroy," a theatrical portrait of Amiri Baraka which won six AUDELCO Awards in the 2019 season.
In 2020, NFT changed its mission from "integrating people of color and women into mainstream theater" to "producing plays by people of color and women."
As NFT embraces the digital world and adapts to becoming creative within it, the company has adapted to virtual programming during the Covid-19 lockdowns in order to speak to the widest possible audience, including those who look to NFT for artistic leadership. Programs for virtual audiences have included poetry jams and two kinds of readings series. "Octoberfest" is a readings series in which rarely-done yet noteworthy plays, all previously produced by NFT, have been recreated by accomplished actors. The "Ntozake Shange Readings Series,"dedicated to new works, has been used to develop African-American writers and to select plays that NFT may present as full productions. Last season, the theater's Board of Directors, through its Audience Development Committee, pioneered methods of outreach to the new, borderless, virtual audience with "50 years in the Groove," an evening of music and celebrity interviews.
Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, Mr. King has been collaborating in leadership of the company with actress/director/producer Elizabeth Van Dyke, who was appointed Artistic Director last year while Mr. King retained the role of Producing Director. Mr. King retired from leadership of the famed theater company on June 30, 2021, but remains on NFT's board of directors. His creative projects are changing tracks: he is writing a book on Black Theater in New York and is associate producer of an animated film for Netflix, "Bud, not Buddy," an adaptation of the historical fiction novel by Christopher Paul Curtis about a ten-year-old boy's journey through Michigan during the Great Depression seeking a father whom he has never met.
NFT turned 50 last year. It will continue to be known as "Woodie King Jr.'s New Federal Theatre."
The Tony Awards, presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, will host a multi-platform celebration on Sunday, September 26, starting with the presentation of the American Theatre Wing’s 74th Annual Tony Awards at 7:00 PM ET / 4:00 PM PT exclusively on Paramount+, followed by “The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!” on the CBS Television Network. For more information on the Tony Awards, please visit www.TonyAwards.com.
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PHOTOS OF NEW FEDERAL THEATRE'S HISTORIC AND SIGNATURE PRODUCTIONS are available for download at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ge4bCAK8Ln3buusi6.