Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Ishmael Reed’s THE FINAL VERSION Stars Rome Neal at Nuyorican Poets Cafe through January 19, 2014

Rome Neal. Photo by Lia Chang

Rome Neal. Photo by Lia Chang

Rome Neal is currently starring as Lee Ransom in the World Premiere of acclaimed writer Ishmael Reed’s The Final Version, at the Nuyorican Poets Café, 236 East 3rd Street (between Avenues B and C), in New York, which began preview performances on December 12, 2013 and will continue through Sunday, January 19, 2014, during its 40th anniversary season. The cast also features Lynae De Priest, Melissa Harlow, Dawn Murphy, Molly Elizabeth Parker, Stephen Powell, Connie Stewart, Temesgen Tocruray and Robert Turner.

The play follows Lee Ransom, a writer who struggles with tensions between Communist ideology and commercial success from the 1930s through the 1960s. Ishmael Reed’s poetry, prose and plays have been honored with fellowships from the MacArthur and Guggenheim Foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts; his work has also been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Awards. Rome, an Obie and multiple Audelco award winner for his theatrical work, also directs the production.

Ishmael Reed. Photo by Lia Chang

Ishmael Reed. Photo by Lia Chang

The play is set in 1939 and 1965. Lee Ransom is an African-American writer who has been sponsored by the American Communist Party. When the Party founders in the late 1930s, Ransom compromises his ideological stance by cutting radical Communist characters from the manuscript of his novel, a move that wins him a publishing contract and material success. In 1965, a publisher asks to release the original novel. Ransom fights with his conscience and with the two excised characters about whether to accept the new publishing deal. The Final Version explores the complex intersections between racial identity and liberal ideology, and examines how New York City’s leftist culture has changed since the 1930s.

The Final Version opened Thursday, December 12 and runs most Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons through January 19 (23 total performances) at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe (236 East 3rd Street, between Avenues B and C in Manhattan). Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances start at 7PM; Sunday performances start at 3pm. Admission is $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and $18 for students and seniors at the door. Tickets and directions are available at or by calling 212-780-9386.

ROME NEAL (Actor/Director/Producer/Jazz Vocalist) is the Artistic Theatre Director of the Nuyorican Poets Café theatre program. Rome received an Obie Grant with Café founder Miguel Algarin for excellence in theatre. He is the recipient of five Audelco Awards – two for directing – Pepe Carril’s SHANGO de IMA and Samuel Harp’s DON”T EXPLAIN; two for acting – Lead Actor in Gabrielle N. Lane’s SIGNS, and one for Solo Performance in his critically acclaimed MONK, by Laurence Holder. He also received the National Black Theatre Festival’s coveted Lloyd Richards Director’s Award.

His fifth Audelco Award was a technical award for his lighting design of SHANGO de IMA. Mr. Neal received a Triumph Award for his acting in Alex Mc Donald’s PRISM and a Monarch Merit Award for his outstanding contributions in New York Theatre. His directorial credits includes his adaptation of William Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR SET IN AFRICA, Sekou Sundiata’s THE CIRCLE UNBROKEN IS A HARD BOP Amiri Baraka’s MEETING LILLIE, SHANGO de IMA, PRISM, Ishmael Reed’s THE C ABOVE C ABOVE HIGH C and Amiri Baraka’s PRIMITIVE WORLD: AN ANTI- NUCLEAR JAZZ MUSICAL, all performed at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Rome directed Wesley Brown’s LIFE DURING WARTIME at the Cafe and The National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta Georgia. His production of Alex McDonald’s PRISM was performed at the Ex-Ponto Festival in Slovenia, Eastern Europe.

His acting credits include Dan Owen’s FOREVER MY DARLIN’, directed by Daune Jones at the Richard Allen Center, and later by John Amos, and Judi Ann Mason’s A STAR AIN’T NOTHIN BUT A HOLE IN HEAVEN directed by Mikel Pickney.

Rome’s film acting credits include Michael Almereyda’s HAMLET, Spike Lee’s SUMMER OF SAM and Leon Ichaso’s PINERO.

As a Jazz Vocalist,  Rome has performed at Town Hall on Broadway, The Metropolitan Room, The Museum of the City of New York, Lenox Lounge, Joe’s Pub, Saint Nick’s Pub,  Minton’s Playhouse,  Showman’s,  966Jazz,  Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit,  The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Jazz Spot, and has performed around town as the lead vocalist for the Bill Lee Mo’ Better Quintet (Spike’s father). Mr. Neal has a CD entitled: “A Brighter Crooner”, and now his live concert “All in The Puddin'” recently released on DVD along with his “Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz Jam… A Night To Remember”.

Lia Chang. Photo by Charles Richard Barboza

Lia Chang. Photo by Charles Richard Barboza

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. She recently starred in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival opposite Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, Lorey Hayes, Marcus Naylor and Phynjuar.

Other Articles by Lia Chang:
Rome Neal Leads the Cast of the World Premiere of Ishmael Reed’s THE FINAL VERSION at Nuyorican Poets Cafe, 12/12/13-1/19/14
2013 National Black Theatre Festival Photos: Gala, Power Play and Knock Me A Kiss
Peter Scolari, C.J. Wilson, Francois Battiste, Chris Henry Coffey and More Begin Previews in Eric Simonson’s The Bronx Bombers at Circle in the Square Theatre on January 10, 2014
Jan. 9 – Feb. 9: Jarlath Conroy, Rebecca Brooksher, Eric Martin Brown, Ryan Garbayo, Rocco Sisto, Nick Westrate Set for Red Bull’s Off-Broadway Revival of Loot
Jan. 22-31: Photos: Tracey Conyer Lee, Lelund Durond Thompson, Matthew Murumba, and Carmen LoBue set for Camile Darby’s Lords Resistance Featured in The Fire This Time Festival at The Kraine Theater
Jan. 9 – Feb. 9: Thom Sesma and Michele Ragusa to Star in Greg Edwards and CRAVING FOR TRAVEL at Peter J. Sharp Theater
Feb. 4 – Mar. 16: Cole Horibe, Francis Jue, Peter Kim and More Set for Signature’s World Premiere of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu
Dec. 16: Award Winning Playwrights Rajiv Joseph and Tarell Alvin McCraney, the focus of PBS Film, Playwright: From Page to Stage
Photos: David Henry Hwang, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph honored at Sixth Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards
Roscoe Orman, Phynjuar, Horace Vincent Rogers and More Set for Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz: “A Jazzy Thespians Night” at Nuyorican Poets Café
Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz presents Motown… Ain’t Nothin’ But A Party 2 at Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Rome Neal in Laurence Holder’s MONK at the NUYORICAN POETS CAFÉ in New York
Signature’s Revival of The Piano Lesson Sweeps AUDELCO’s with 8 Wins including Best Revival, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Roslyn Ruff, Chuck Cooper and Brandon J. Dirden; Also Among 2013 “VIV” Winners – Wild with Happy’s Coleman Domingo and Sharon Washington; and Storyville’s Mercedes Ellington
Photos: LAByrinth’s Opening Night of Dominique Morisseau’s Sunset Baby with John Earl Jelks, DeWanda Wise, Harvey Gardner Moore, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Tracie Thoms, Alano Miller and More
Photos: André De Shields, Michael Shannon, Rajiv Joseph, Christine Sherrill, Doug Peck, Alexis J. Rogers, Karen Ziemba and More Celebrate 2013 Jeff Equity Awards
Photos: Cheryl Lynn Bruce, André De Shields, Sandra Marquez, Dennis Zacek and More Celebrate Opening Night of Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins at Victory Gardens
Photos: Christine Toy Johnson, Baayork Lee, Jose Llana, Ann Harada, Dodie Pettit and More at Charles Randolph-Wright’s “Three Voices” concert series at Stage 72
Photos: John Earl Jelks, DeWanda Wise, Harvey Gardner Moore, André De Shields at Dominique Morisseau’s Sunset Baby
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
Photos: André De Shields, Mary Zimmerman, Akash Chopra, Richard M. Sherman, Kevin Carolan, Larry Yando, Nehal Joshi and More Celebrate The Jungle Book Opening Night at Huntington Theatre in Boston
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2013 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


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