Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang: André De Shields Portrays W.E.B. Du Bois in New Federal Theatre’s Production of Charles Smith’s Knock Me a Kiss, 11/11- 12/5

Andre De Shields portrays W.E.B. Du Bois in Charles Smith’s Knock Me a Kiss at Henry Street Settlement's Abrons Arts Center/Recital Hall (466 Grand Street) from November 11 through December 5. Photo by Lia Chang

Andre De Shields portrays W.E.B. Du Bois in Charles Smith’s Knock Me a Kiss at Henry Street Settlement's Abrons Arts Center/Recital Hall (466 Grand Street) from November 11 through December 5. Photo by Lia Chang

Woodie King Jr’s New Federal Theatre’s first production of the season is Charles Smith’s Knock Me a Kiss, which will have performances at Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Arts Center/Recital Hall (466 Grand Street), from November 11 through December 5. Opening night is set for Sunday, November 21st. Chuck Smith directs a cast that features Erin Cherry, André De Shields, Gillian Glasco, Morocco Omari, Sean Phillips, and Marie Thomas. Knock Me a Kiss has set design by Anthony Davidson, costume design by Ali Turns, lighting design by Shirley Prendergast, and sound design by Bill Toles.

Knock Me a Kiss is a fictional account inspired by the actual events surrounding the 1928 marriage of W.E.B. Du Bois’ daughter Yolande to one of Harlem’s great poets, Countee Cullen. The marriage marked the height of the Harlem Renaissance and was viewed as the perfect union of Negro talent and beauty. It united the daughter of America’s foremost Black intellectual, cofounder of the NAACP and publisher of Crisis Magazine, with a young poet whose work was considered to be one of the flagships for the New Negro movement. The marriage is a triumph of pomp and pageantry but fails to be a union of man and woman.

Performances are Wednesday through Friday evenings at 7:30 PM, Saturday at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sunday at 3 PM. No performance Thanksgiving, November 25th; special added performance Tuesday, November 30th at 7:30 PM.

Tickets are $25 and can be ordered by phone at 212/352-3101. For more information, please visit or call NFT at 212-353-1176.

Performances for Knock Me a Kiss are at Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Arts Center/RecitAl Hall, 466 Grand Street (between Pitt & Willett Streets). By subway: “F” train to Delancey Street; “M” and “J” train to Essex Street; or by “M14A” bus to Pitt Street.

André De Shields recently dazzled in The John W. Engeman’s production of DAMN YANKEES, this summer in Northport. In a career that has spanned four decades, De Shields is best known for his electrifying performances in the original Broadway productions of The Wiz in 1975 (title role), Ain’t Misbehavin’ in 1978 (Drama Desk nomination), Play On! in 1997 (Tony nomination) and The Full Monty in 2000, for which he received Tony, Drama Desk and Astaire Award nominations, in addition to both the Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Awards. His other Broadway credits include an autobiographical revue, Haarlem Nocturne, and the world premier of two new American plays: Mark Medoff’s Prymate (Drama Desk nomination) and Michael Jacob’s Impressionism, with Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen. He is the recipient of the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award, the 2007 Village Voice OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance and the 2009 AUDELCO Award for Outstanding Performance in a Musical/Male. He won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Achievement for his performance in the 1982 NBC broadcast of Ain’t Misbehavin’. New York theatre audiences have seen De Shields in productions as varied as Cato at The Flea, Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor at the Melting Pot Theatre, Let Me Sing at The George Street Playhouse, Lonnie Carter’s The Gulliver Trilogy at La MaMa e.t.c. and his solo work-in-progress Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory: From Douglass to Deliverance at The Abingdon Theatre about abolitionist Frederick Douglass. At the Classical Theatre of Harlem, he has been seen as Makak in Derek Walcott’s Dream On Monkey Mountain, in the title roles of Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe, CALIGULA and King Lear, directed by Alfred Preisser. Regional audiences have witnessed him as Henry Drummond in Inherit The Wind, Willy Loman in Death Of A Salesman, Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came To Dinner, Scott Joplin in Tin Pan Alley Rag, Vladimir in Waiting for Godot, Jacob Strand in Ibsen’s Ghosts (starring Jane Alexander), and the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.

Playwright Charles Smith is a member of the Playwrights Ensemble at the Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago, alumni playwright of the Tony Award-winning New Dramatists in New York, and Head of the Professional Playwriting Program at Ohio University. His plays have been produced Off-Broadway and around the country by theaters such as Victory Gardens, The Acting Company, Indiana Repertory Theatre, People’s Light & Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Penumbra, Ujima Theatre Company, St. Louis Black Rep, New Federal Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and Berkeley Repertory Theater. His work has also been produced for the HBO New Writers Project, the International Children’s Theater Festival in Seattle, and the North Carolina Black Arts Festival. His play Pudd’nhead Wilson enjoyed a 22 city national tour and his plays Takunda and City of Gold enjoyed tours of the west coast. His other plays include Free Man of Color, which recently premiered in Australia after being awarded a Joseph Jefferson Award and John W. Schmid Award, both for Outstanding New Work. He is also author of two Emmy Award-winning teleplays, “Fast Break to Glory” and “Pequito.” A graduate of the Iowa Playwrights Workshop and recipient of the 2008 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, Smith has received commissions from Victory Gardens, The Goodman, Seattle Rep, Indiana Rep, The Acting Company, and Ohio University. His most recent work, The Gospel According to James, was a commissioned by Indiana Rep and is the result of a Joyce Award. The Gospel According to James received its World Premiere production at Indiana Rep and was subsequently be produced by Victory Gardens in Chicago.

Director Chuck Smith has had 25 years of experience in African-American theater. He is resident director of the Goodman Theatre, where he has directed Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, A Christmas Carol, and Vivisections from the Blown Mind. Smith is a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he was artistic director for four seasons, staging plays including Sizwe Banzi is Dead, Fathers and Other Strangers, Suspenders, the Jeff-winning musical Po’, and The Meeting. He has also directed at Fleetwood-Jourdain, The New Regal, Kuumba, Pegasus Players, New Federal Theater, ETA Creative Arts, Columbia College, and Chicago Black Ensemble Theater. He is also artistic director of the Chicago Historical Society’s Voices in History program and an artist-in-residence at Columbia College Chicago, where he facilitates the Theodore Ward playwriting contest.

Woodie King Jr. is the Founder and Producing Director of New Federal Theatre. Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal Theatre has presented over 200 productions in its 40-year history. Mr. King has produced and directed on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in Regional Theatres, and in universities across the United States. He 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.

Other Articles by Lia Chang:
Andre Dé Shields is having a Devilishly Good Time in Damn Yankees at The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport
Photos of André De Shields in Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory: From Douglass to Deliverance
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Signs Fred Korematsu Day Bill, Bill Establishes January 30 as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution
Castillo Theatre presents a reading of Nicole Anderson-Cobb’s Tangled, directed by Woodie King, Jr., on August 16
Woodie King, Jr.’s New Federal Theatre Presents Month Long Reading Series of Great Black Plays and Playwrights
Photo Call: BD Wong and the Cast of Heading East at the Asia Society
Multimedia: Promises, Promises’ Stars Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes at Lord & Taylor Fifth Ave
Achieving the American Dream, Professional Charmer Andre De Shields Sees Theater is a Way to Life
André De Shields Celebrates Black History Month Starring in The Working Theater’s Production of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory at The Abingdon in February 2010
The River Crosses Rivers Opening Night Photos
New Federal Theatre founder and director Woodie King receives award for community service in communications arts from Howard University’s John H. Johnson School of Communications
Classical Theatre of Harlem’s Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe, MTC’s Ruined are Top Winners at 2009 Audelcos
Multimedia: Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe Opening Night Party Photos
Photo Call: Derek Walcott’s Marie Laveau
Multimedia: Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe
A Tune Beyond Us or What a Revoltin’ Development This is
Angela’s Mixtape Opening Night
Zooman and The Sign Opening Night Party
Celebrating Woodie King
Dionne Warwick and Woodie King Jr. honored by AMAS Musical Theatre in New York
André De Shields and Reg E. Cathey Star in Cato at The Flea

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Photo by Lia Chang

Photo by Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer, an award-winning multimedia journalist.

As a photographer and videographer, Lia collaborates with artists, organizations and companies in establishing their documentary photo archive and social media presence. She has been documenting her colleagues and contemporaries in the arts, fashion and journalism since making her stage debut as Liat in the National Tour of South Pacific, with Robert Goulet and Barbara Eden.

This year, selections of Lia’s archive of Asian Pacific Americans in the arts, fashion, journalism, politics and space will become part of newly created LIA CHANG THEATER PHOTOGRAPHY PORTFOLIO in the ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN PERFORMING ARTS COLLECTION housed in the Library of Congress Asian Division’s Asian American Pacific Islander Collection.

Lia’s portraits and performance photos have appeared in Vanity Fair, Gourmet, German Elle, Women’s Wear Daily, The Paris Review, VIBE, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre,, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle,,,,,, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post. A former syndicated arts and entertainment columnist for KYODO News, Lia is the New York Bureau Chief for She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog.

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