Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang Photos: André De Shields leads the cast of Charles Smith’s Knock Me A Kiss at The National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, 8/2-8/4

André De Shields as W.E.B. Du Bois in Charles Smith's Knock Me A Kiss © Lia Chang

André De Shields as W.E.B. Du Bois in Charles Smith's Knock Me A Kiss © Lia Chang

From August 2-4, 2011, Two-time Tony Award Nominee and Emmy Award-Winning actor André De Shields will reprise his critically acclaimed role as W.E.B. DuBois in Charles Smith’s Knock Me A Kiss, directed by Chuck Smith, at The National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, a co-production of Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal Theatre and Legacy Creative Arts Company.

Performances are Tuesday, August 2 @ 8pm, Wednesday, August 3 @ 3pm and 8pm, and Thursday, August 4 @ 8pm, at the Hanesbrands Theatre – Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts, 209 N. Spruce Street in Winston-Salem, NC. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online.

(L-R) Morocco Omari (Jimmy Lunceford), André De Shields (W.E.B. Du Bois), Marie Thomas (Nina Du Bois), Erin Cherry (Yolande Du Bois), Sean Phillips (Countee Cullen) and Gillian Glasco (Lenora) in Charles Smith’s Knock Me a Kiss, directed by Chuck Smith. © Lia Chang

(L-R) Morocco Omari (Jimmy Lunceford), André De Shields (W.E.B. Du Bois), Marie Thomas (Nina Du Bois), Erin Cherry (Yolande Du Bois), Sean Phillips (Countee Cullen) and Gillian Glasco (Lenora) in Charles Smith’s Knock Me a Kiss, directed by Chuck Smith. © Lia Chang

The cast also features Erin Cherry as Yolande Du Bois, Gillian Glasco as Lenora, Morocco Omari as Jimmy Lunceford, Sean Phillips as Countee Cullen, and Marie Thomas as Nina Du Bois.

The New York Times called Knock Me A Kiss “a dandy play about the ill-advised marriage of W. E. B. Du Bois’s daughter,” and went on to say “suchrollicking fun that you may find yourself worrying at the intermission about whether there’s any way this production can successfully work itself around to the serious part of the story that you know lies ahead. But somehow it does, keeping its sense of humor but muzzling it just enough to allow some drama and poignancy to enter the mix. There are moments in the second act when the play seems less like a work about the past and more like a work from the past… an engaging, well-acted production that deserves a better theater and a longer run.”

Erin Cherry as Yolande Du Bois and Sean Phillips as Countee Cullen in Charles Smith’s Knock Me a Kiss. © Lia Chang

Erin Cherry as Yolande Du Bois and Sean Phillips as Countee Cullen in Charles Smith’s Knock Me a Kiss. © Lia Chang


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.
Erin Cherry and Marie Thomas Photo by Lia Chang

Erin Cherry and Marie Thomas Photo by Lia Chang

Larry Leon Hamlin founded the National Black Theatre Festival® in 1989. His goal was to unite black theatre companies in America and ensure the survival of the genre into the next millennium. With the support of Dr. Maya Angelou, who served as the Festival’s first Chairperson, NBTF was born. The ’89 Festival offered 30 performances by 17 of America’s best professional black theatre companies. It attracted national and international media coverage. According to The New York Times, “the 1989 National Black Theatre Festival® was one of the most historic and culturally significant events in the history of black theatre and American theatre in general.” Over 10,000 people attended. It lived up to its theme: An International Celebration and Reunion of Spirit. The NBTF enables Black theatre professionals to express cultural values and perspectives inherent to the African Diaspora candidly, dramatically and powerfully. Staged components of the NBTF foster the creation and sharing of new works while educational components document and preserve the history and traditions of the genre. Intense week-long interactions focus on renewing their commitment to preserve professional Black theatre and to revitalize its genre. Held biennially, the NBTF attracts more than 65,000 people during the six-day event. The 2011 National Black Theatre Festival will be held in Winston-Salem, NC, August 1 – August 6.
André De Shields as W.E.B. Du Bois with Erin Cherry, who play his daughter Yolande, in Charles Smith's Knock Me A Kiss. Photo by Lia Chang

André De Shields as W.E.B. Du Bois with Erin Cherry, who play his daughter Yolande, in Charles Smith's Knock Me A Kiss. Photo by Lia Chang

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, as the farmer Old Banks opposite Charlayne Woodard, in the Red Bull Theater’s Off-Broadway production of The Witch of Edmonton at The Theatre at St. Clement’s, 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. He recently appeared as the title character of Charles Smith’s The Gospel According to James, directed by Chuck Smith at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater in Chicago. Upcoming projects include directing a staged reading of Jacqueline Malcolm’s The Trade at The Player’s Club in New York on July 19; jetting off to Italy after the Festival to be a teaching artist at the 1st Annual La MaMa Umbria International Master Acting Workshops; and directing the New Jersey-based Crossroads Theatre Company’s production of the Fats Waller revue Ain’t Misbehavin’, October 6-24. A triple Capricorn, he is the ninth of eleven children born and reared in Baltimore, Maryland. www.andredeshields.com.
Charles Smith, playwright of Knock Me A Kiss  © Lia Chang

Charles Smith, playwright of Knock Me A Kiss © Lia Chang

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 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 had a success run this Spring at the Victory Gardens Biograph in Chicago.
Chuck Smith © LiaChang

Chuck Smith © Lia Chang

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.
New Federal Theatre producer Woodie King, Jr. © Lia Chang

New Federal Theatre producer Woodie King, Jr. © Lia Chang

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. For more information, visit www.newfederaltheatre.org/

Knock Me A Kiss director Chuck Smith, playwright Charles Smith, André De Shields, and New Federal Theatre producer Woodie King on the set of Knock Me A Kiss at the Henry Street Settlement/Abrons Recital Hall in New York on November 11, 2010.  © Lia Chang

Knock Me A Kiss director Chuck Smith, playwright Charles Smith, André De Shields, and New Federal Theatre producer Woodie King on the set of Knock Me A Kiss at the Henry Street Settlement/Abrons Recital Hall on November 11, 2010. © Lia Chang

Articles on Andre De Shields:
André De Shields to Direct Reading of Jacqueline Malcolm’s The Trade at The Player’s Club on 7/19
Project1Voice’s Multiple Staged Readings of Alice Childress’ Trouble in Mind features André De Shields, Peter Coyote, Roger Robinson, Leslie Uggams, LaChanze, John Mahoney, Bill Irwin, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Irma P. Hall on June 20
André De Shields in Charles Smith’s The Gospel According to James at the Victory Gardens Biograph through June 12
André De Shields set for Chicago Premiere of Charles Smith’s The Gospel According to James at the Victory Gardens Biograph
Photos: De Shields, McClendon, Elisa, Glasco, Nemser, Phillips, Thompson at The Sovereign State of Boogedy Boogedy Reading
Spend Valentine’s Day with André De Shields in The Sovereign State of Boogedy Boogedy at the Abingdon Theatre
André De Shields and Charlayne Woodard are featured in Red Bull Theater’s Off Broadway Production of The Witch of Edmonton
André De Shields leads cast of Charles Smith’s Knock Me A Kiss at Abrons Arts Center
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
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
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
Multimedia: Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe
André De Shields and Reg E. Cathey Star in Cato at The Flea

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

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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