Two-time Tony Award Nominee and Emmy Award-Winning actor André De Shields returned to the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina from July 30 – August 1, 2013 to reprise his critically acclaimed role as W.E.B. DuBois in Charles Smith’s Knock Me A Kiss at the Gerald Freedman Theatre, directed by Chuck Smith, a co-production of Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal Theatre and Legacy Creative Arts Company. The cast also featured original castmembers 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.
In 2011, Knock Me A Kiss was one of the top grossing and audience attended plays at the National Black Theatre Festival, and the play swept the Audelcos, with 9 wins of the 13 categories for which it was nominated including top honors for Best Dramatic Play, André De Shields (Lead Actor), Marie Thomas (Supporting Actress), Charles Smith (Playwright), Chuck Smith (Director-Dramatic), Shirley Prendergast (Lighting), Ali Turns (Costumes), Anthony Davidson (Set Design) and Bill Toles (Sound Design). Knock Me A Kiss was featured at the Festival as an Encore Celebrity Performance.
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 “such rollicking 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.”
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.
André De Shields is currently appearing as King Louie and Akela in the Mary Zimmerman-helmed production of Disney’s The Jungle Book at the Huntington Theatre through October 20, 2013. He received a Jeff Award nomination for Actor in a Supporting Role – Musical (winners will be announced on November 4, 2013) Previous Goodman credits include Camino Real during the 2011/2012 Season, Play On! (Jeff Award; Black Theater Alliance Award) and Waiting for Godot. Other Chicago credits include The Gospel According to James at Victory Gardens Theater; Poe and Warp! at Organic Theater Company; Hair (professional debut) at the Shubert Theater and The Me Nobody Knows at Civic Stage. He has appeared on Broadway in Impressionism, Prymate (Drama Desk Award nomination), The Full Monty (Tony Award nomination), Play On! (Tony Award nomination), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Drama Desk Award nomination) and The Wiz. Mr. De Shields’ off-Broadway credits include Knock Me a Kiss (Audelco Award for Best Actor) at the New Federal Theatre and The Bacchae at the New York Shakespeare Festival. He has appeared on film in Extreme Measures, and his television credits include ‘Law & Order,’ “Sex and the City,” “Lipstick Jungle,” “Life on Mars,” “Rescue Me,” “Cosby” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’” (Emmy Award). Mr. De Shields won a Jeff Award for Best Director for The Colored Museum at Victory Gardens Theater, and was the choreographer for Bette Midler and the Harlettes at The Happy Medium. Mr. De Shields is a recipient of the 2012 Fox Foundation Fellowship/Distinguished Achievement, and will be completing his residency at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater. www.andredeshields.com.
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.
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. For more information, visit www.newfederaltheatre.org/
Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia recently starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, Lorey Hayes, Marcus Naylor and Phynjuar.
Other Articles by Lia Chang:
Photos: Denise Burse, Michael Genet, Doug Eskew, Tracie Thoms, Sakina Ansari-Wilson and More Celebrate Marcus Gardley’s dance of the holy ghosts Opening Night at Center Stage
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Spend an Evening with Tony Winner Nikki M. James at Joe’s Pub on October 21, 2013
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Photos: Backstage Q & A with Thom Sesma and the cast of Signature’s Miss Saigon
Production Photos: Primary Stages Presents World Premiere of Eric Simonson’s Bronx Bombers Featuring C.J. Wilson, Francois Battiste, Chris Henry Coffey, Richard Topol and More at The Duke on 42nd Street, Opens October 8, 2013
Photos: Backstage with Michi Barall and the cast of Regina Taylor’s stop.reset. at Signature Theatre
Photos: Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Phylicia Rashad, John Earl Jelks, Leslie Uggams, Anthony Chisholm, S. Epatha Merkerson, Taraji P. Henson, Jesse L. Martin, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Kenny Leon and More Set for August Wilson American Century Cycle Recording Series at The Greene Space in NY, Aug. 26-Sept. 28, 2013
Photos: All-Access Pass to August Wilson’s Two Trains Running with John Earl Jelks, Harvy Blanks, Chuck Cooper, Anthony Chisholm, Owiso Odera, Roslyn Ruff and James A. Williams
Febone1960.net Review: Power Play Powerful & Suspenseful
Oct. 9 – Nov. 17: Denise Burse and Michael Genet Star in Marcus Gardley’s dance of the holy ghosts at Center Stage
Photos: Denise Burse, Lizan Mitchell, Novella Nelson, Arthur French at Regina Taylor’s stop. reset with LaTanya Richardson Jackson at Signature
Photos: The 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards and After Party
Video: Power Play’s Lorey Hayes and Lia Chang on The Carmen Mathis Show
The Chronicle Features Lorey Hayes’ Power Play
Celebrity Actress, Pauletta Pearson Washington returns home to North Carolina starring at 2013 National Black Theatre festival with Roscoe Orman (“Sesame Street,” Willie Dynamite) and all star cast in Lorey Hayes’ award-winning “Power Play”, a play about Politics, Passion and The Power of God
Photos: Yellow Fever Playwright Rick Shiomi Explores New Territory with An All-Female Cast
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