Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang Photos: Willie Reale, Frances McDormand, Lewis Black, Bela Fleck, Renee Goldsberry, Duncan Sheik, Lisa Benavides, Abigail Washburn, Tim Blake Nelson at The 52nd Street Project Benefit

Willie Reale and Denise Burse at The 52nd Street Project Benefit on May 9, 2011 at Espace. Photo by Lia Chang

Willie Reale and Denise Burse at The 52nd Street Project Benefit on May 9, 2011 at Espace. Photo by Lia Chang

Last Monday, I joined “House of Payne”‘s Denise Burse at The 52nd Street Project’s He Started It! 30th Anniversary Benefit celebrating Willie Reale, the founder of The Project, at Espace in New York. Burse who plays Claretha on Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” is featured in the latest episode “Talented Paynes.”

(L-R) Lyricists Edelys Tiana Guerrero, Haley Zoe Martinez Nicolas Carrero, Genesis Hires and Malik Velazquez (not pictured). Photos by Lia Chang

(L-R) Lyricists Edelys Tiana Guerrero, Haley Zoe Martinez Nicolas Carrero, Genesis Hires and Malik Velazquez (not pictured). Photos by Lia Chang

Willie Reale, is an actor, playwright and 1994 MacArthur Fellow, who recently received his third Daytime Emmy nomination as part of the producing team of “The Electric Company.” He is an Academy Award nominee for Best Original Song (with Henry Krieger) for “Patience” from Dreamgirls, a two-time Tony nominee for A Year with Frog and Toad (Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score with brother Robert Reale), a two-time Writers Guild of America nominee for “Damages” and “Out There” (with Mark Palmer). He won a 2010 Daytime Emmy as part of the producing team for “The Electric Company,” and was also nominated for Outstanding Writing in a Children’s Series for “The Electric Company,” that same year.

In 1981, Reale, started the project in response to a deepening need to improve the quality of life for New York’s inner-city children. As a company member of the Ensemble Studio Theater (EST), Reale used his company privileges to reach out to the children of the neighborhood by creating theatrical endeavors specifically for them.

Lewis Black Photo by Lia Chang

Lewis Black Photo by Lia Chang

For almost two decades, Burse and her husband actor Peter Jay Fernandez have been among the countless professional theater artists who have volunteered their time and talent, being matched up with kids in a series of unique mentoring programs for The 52nd Street Project. The Project’s mission is dedicated to the creation and production of new plays for and by kids between the ages of nine and eighteen that reside in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in New York City. This was done with the cooperation and support of EST and its across-the-street-neighbor, the Police Athletic League’s Duncan Center. The Project is now an independent not-for-profit organization that creates over eighty new plays and serves over 115 children every year.

Frances McDormand Photo by Lia Chang

Frances McDormand Photo by Lia Chang

The evening was hosted by Lewis Black, with special remarks by Frances McDormand and Jose Soto. The entertainment featured songs with lyrics written by Project kids Nicolas Carrero, Edelys Tiana Guerrero, Genesis Hires, Haley Zoe Martinez and Malik Velazquez, set to music and performed by Lisa Benavides, Bela Fleck, Christopher Fitzgerald,Tim Blake Nelson, Duncan Sheik and Abigail Washburn. Adult composers included J. Michael Friedman, Henry Krieger, Rob Reale, Duncan Sheik and Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck.

Lisa Benavides and Tim Blake Nelson Photo by Lia Chang

Lisa Benavides and Tim Blake Nelson Photo by Lia Chang

 

Duncan Sheik Photo by Lia Chang

Duncan Sheik Photo by Lia Chang

 

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn Photo by Lia Chang

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn Photo by Lia Chang

Renee Goldsberry Photo by Lia Chang

Renee Goldsberry Photo by Lia Chang

Check back for a slideshow of the night.

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Related articles:
Rene Goldsberry, Frances McDormand, Tim Blake Nelson, Duncan Sheik lend vocal talents for The 52nd Street Project 30th Anniversary Gala Celebrating Willie Reale
Multimedia: The 52nd Street Project Benefit Photos: Michael Cerveris, James Monroe Inglehart, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Matthew Morrison, Greg Naughton and Kelli O’Hara
Michael Cerveris, Matthew Morrison & Kelli O’Hara sing for 52nd Street Project’s Benefit
House of Payne’s Denise Burse on the 2011 NAACP Image Awards & Season 7; “Shout Out” Episode airs April 20
Video: Denise Burse as Claretha Jenkins in House of Payne Episode “Payneful Visit”
Wikipedia List of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne Episodes

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Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive.

Lia Chang Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer, and 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. Lia currently plays Nurse Lia on “One Life to Live”. She has appeared in Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and “New York Undercover”.

Selections of Lia’s archive of Asian Pacific Americans in the arts, fashion, journalism, politics and space are now in the 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, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre, Broadwayworld.com, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle, Timeout.com, Villagevoice.com, Playbill.com, Theatermania.com, thelmagazine.com, 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 AsianConnections.com. She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2011 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com.

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