Congrats to Baayork Lee, Asian American actor, dancer, singer, choreographer, director and author, who will receive the 2014 Paul Robeson Citation Award presented by the Actors’ Equity Foundation, on Friday, October 10, 2014, at 2 P.M., at the Actors Equity Building, 1560 Broadway, New York, New York 10036. A small reception will follow the brief presentation at the beginning of AEA’s membership meeting. You do not have to be a member of AEA to attend the presentation – please RSVP by October 6 here.
Created in 1971, the Paul Robeson Citation Award honors individuals or organizations that best exemplify and practice the principles to which Mr. Robeson devoted his life: dedication to the universal brotherhood of all humankind, commitment to the freedom of conscience and of expression, belief in the artist’s responsibility to society, respect for the dignity of the individual and concern for and service to all humans of any race or nationality. Previous recipients include:Paul Robeson; Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee; Pete Seeger; Harry Belafonte; Studs Terkel; Lena Horne; Joe Papp; Maya Angelou; Bill Cosby; Sidney Poitier and, in 2013, Shauneille Perry.
Lee, born in New York City’s Chinatown to an Indian mother and Chinese father, made her Broadway debut at the age of five as “Princess Ying Yaowalak” in the 1951 original production of The King and I. Her dream was to become a ballerina and she appeared in George Balanchine’s production of The Nutcracker, but this dream was dashed when she achieved her full height of just four feet, ten inches. In 1958, she returned to Broadway in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song. Other Broadway appearances were in Bravo Giovanni; Mr. President; Here’s Love; Golden Boy; A Joyful Noise; Henry, Sweet Henry; Promises, Promises; Seesaw and Michael Bennett’s groundbreaking production of A Chorus Line, in which she originated the role of “Connie.” She worked with Bennett in several productions and over the years went from being his dance partner, to being his assistant. She would later supervise all major productions of A Chorus Line, choreographing 35 international productions as well as the 2006 Broadway revival. She is the co-author of the book, On the Line: The Creation of A Chorus Line, published in 1990.
Lee also has choreographed and directed scores of national and international tours of, among others, The King and I; Bombay Dreams; Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella; Porgy and Bess; Jesus Christ Superstar and Carmen Jones. In addition, she has choreographed several productions for the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center, been a talent scout for Tokyo Disneyland and opened a musical theatre school in Seoul, South Korea. She was the recipient of the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Asian Woman Warrior Award from Columbia College in Chicago.
Throughout her career, Lee has been committed to promoting a diverse society on American stages and dedicated to fostering opportunities for Asian American performers to play roles for which they might otherwise not be considered.
In 2009, Lee founded (with Steven Eng and Nina Zoie Lam) the National Asian Artists Project, which focuses on providing opportunities for the Asian American artistic community. NAAP’s “Discover New Musicals” program allows writers of all races and ethnicities to have new works showcased annually, utilizing Asian American casts, and its educational programs enable artists to hone their craft and to stay competitive in the workplace.
The Actors’ Equity Foundation, a philanthropic and humanitarian non-profit organization, was created in 1962 to aid and assist the members of the acting profession and to promote the theatre arts. It is separate from Actors’ Equity Association and is funded by estate bequests and individual donations.
Other articles by Lia Chang:
National Asian Artists Project To Present All-Asian Production of OLIVER! Featuring Raul Aranas, Anthea Neri, Bonale Zohn Fambrini, Mel Sagrado Maghuyop, Cindy Cheung, Scott Watanabe, Virginia Wing, David Shih and More
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Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, and made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
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