Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Rome Neal Tribute and Fund Raiser @ The Five Spot

A Tribute and Fund Raiser for Rome Neal has been organized by Eric Frazier, Banana Puddin’ Jazz Sponsor and Rome’s partner, and will take place on Sunday, October 12, 2014, at The Five Spot, located on 459 Myrtle Avenue, corner of Washington Ave. Brooklyn, NY at 7:00 P.M. The cover is $20. For further information, call 718-797-2459 or 718-852-0202.

It’s time to step up for our beloved Rome Neal, an actor, director, producer and jazz vocalist, who broke his ankle and shoulder after a 30 ft. ladder fall while setting lights for a show at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York on September 4, 2014.

Rome has staged and produced numerous theatrical productions and events at the Cafe, and has produced his popular music series Banana Puddin’ Jazz  there for 11 years. The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, has been around for forty years and is known as one of the premier spaces for award winning poetry and poetry slams, award winning theatre and music.

Randy Weston, Ed Stoute, Patience Higgins, Mala Waldron, Onaje Allen Gumbs, Roseanna Vitro, Eric Frazier, Ty Stephens, Eve Cornelious, Danny Simmons, Solomon Hicks, Alex Layne, Steve Sonny Williams, Phil Young, Anthony Wonsey, Jeff King, Stanley Banks,Napoleon Revels-Bey, Marcus Persiani, Basir Mchawi, Pam Cornelius, Bruce Cox,Tulivu Donna Cumberbatch, Michael C. Lewis, Arlee Leonard, Daryle Pooser, Steve Cromity, Rodney James,  Carol Leven, Tehrin Cole, Elizabeth Rivera De Garcia,  Mustafa Khaliq Ahmed, Rudi Mwongozi, Carl Bartlett Jr, Kym Hampton, Lon Ivey, Arnold Lee. Jerome Jennings, Lou Vega, Cyril D. Greene, Dave Gibson, TC III, Aziza Miller, John Cooksey, Leslie Harrison, Charles Pulliam, Noel Simone Wippler are among the artists who have donated their time and talent for their pal.

Click here to see Rome Neal’s celebration of 11 years of Banana Puddin’ Jazz at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on June 7, 2014….

A Crowdfunding campaign on FUNDLY has been set up by Sheryl Renee, BPJ sponsor, web designer and friend. I just donated and you can too by clicking here

“Rome has personally given opportunity to thousands of creative souls who live in, and come to NYC to live out their dreams,” said Sheryl Renee.

Sheryl Renee posted this message on her Facebook page on October 8th.

“Heading into our last month of this funding campaign for brother Rome Neal. Special thanks to the 44 Rome Neal supporters who have given and helped reach a 1/4 of the goal for living expenses. Rome says the funds have made a big difference. Fundly is a safe and quick way to donate. This Sunday, Oct 12th is Eric Frazier’s “Rome Neal Tribute Concert” with a fantastic list of world class entertainers. An excellent way to help him, but treat yourself! Please share this campaign with others!”

Rome’s accident has put a crimp in his style as an artist, and as one of the hardest working producers in NYC which he has so tirelessly devoted his time and personal resources to for over 40 years. The crowd-funding campaign that Sheryl Renee has established on FUNDLY is to help Rome with his rehabilitation, and to continue his important work with Banana Puddin’ Jazz Live Shows at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and his weekly Banana Puddin’ Jazz Program, featuring highlights of the Live show, which airs on Brooklyn Public Network.

Alone when he fell to the floor off the ladder, Rome managed to crawl to the door and alerted people passing by of his predicament. The good Samaritans (two women from London, whom Rome would like to find and thank) assisted him and called the ambulance.

“Rome has endured his first surgery on his broken ankle and is preparing for a second, and possibly an operation on his shoulder,” writes Steve Williams on Facebook.  “Let us all remember this Theatrical and Music impresario who has done so much, to, promote the arts and talents of many including myself. Prayers go out to the family of and my friend and Brother From Another Mother, Rome Neal.”

“As an artist and/or supporter of other artists, we all know that an injury can become both artistic and financial setbacks and therefore, please be prepared to assist and attend any fundraisers being coordinated,” said David Brooks.

Rome Neal in performance at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in March 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Rome Neal in performance at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in March 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Rome posted this message on his Facebook page on September 9th.

“Greetings and much love to all my family in the Arts and in Life, your prayers and healing vibrations are truly felt and some of you have tapped a tearful emotion in me which flows like a fountain, sometimes overwhelming…. Knowing I will be out of commission for quite a while, some of my people (Sheryl Renee, Eric Frazier, and Helena D. Lewis) are helping with crowd fundraising and tributes to show love and help me get through the uncertain times ahead. If you can show your love it would be appreciated…. As I go in to my second surgery I feel blessed knowing that things are going to work out wonderfully!!! THANKS AGAIN FOR THE LOVE!”

After several surgeries on his ankle at Bellevue Hospital, the 61 year old NYC native was transferred to Gouverneur Hospital, where he has been having physical therapy daily and has been well taken care of.  He has a lengthy recuperation and healing process ahead.

It’s impossible to keep a good man down, so Rome decided to show some appreciation by organizing and inviting his jazz friends to perform in an impromptu concert on  October 9th.

Rome Neal posted this message on his Facebook page on October 8th.
“While here at the Gouverneur Health Service facilities I have received so much love and care from everyone and I must say they have giving me a totally new appreciation of healthcare workers. With just about six days before my release into the real world I must say they all have helped me to adjust quite well…. I told them so and also said before I leave I wanted to do a JAZZ concert for them and invite my friends over to participate on this Thursday, Oct 9th at 4pm – 5:30pm… I would like to thank Arnold Lee, (s) Clay Clayborn Herndon (d), Alex Gressel (b), Mamiko Watanabe (p), and vocalists:, Rome Neal, (yes I can sing, maybe not be able to) walk or dance using my right foot) Steve Williams “Sonny”and Eric Frazier (singing and tapping). Need a female vocalist in this group…. It’s a great feeling to show people they are appreciated and these folks at the hospital are so looking forward to this concert.”

Rome Neal with family members and crew at Gouverneur Hospital after an impromptu concert that he organized in gratitude for the hospital workers taking such good care of him. Photo courtesy of Steve William' Facebook Page.

Rome Neal with family members and crew at Gouverneur Hospital after an impromptu concert that he organized in gratitude for the hospital workers taking such good care of him. Photo courtesy of Steve William’ Facebook Page.

Rome posted this message on his Facebook page on October 9th.

“Folks there was magic in the air and we all felt it… There was sick people in the house and people who help sick people to heal and get better in the house . And there was my Jazz musician friends in the house and together with the music we brought out smiles, laughter and tears of joy… No folks I’m not fully well, I’m fully blessed and thankful this event took place for a great cause…. A show of appreciation to the hard working health care workers at Gouvernuer Hospital.”

If you would like to send Rome a personal message, the address is:

Rome Neal
43 North Oxford Street
Brooklyn, NY 11205

Rome had just been celebrating his 40th Anniversary with his wife, Siu and their children (Rome, Smile, Lia (Olympic Bronze medalist) and Treasure, and his grandchildren and bonus daughters. Who knew that by weeks’ end, he would be facing months of critical rehabilitation and uncertainty, with no means of support.

10689554_10203285352394840_1880627103280970998_n On Thursday, November 6, 2014, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and NBTF Midnight Poetry Jam family, Poets for Rome, are presenting an open mic fundraiser to assist with medical bills for Rome, hosted by the legendary nathan p., with special performances by Eric Frazier, Helena D. Lewis and Ayanda Sunshine at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, 236 E. 3rd St. (btwn Ave B and C) in New York. Admission is $10. Doors open at 6:30 P.M. Show time: 7:00 P.M.

Click here for my April interview with Rome.

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”.

Other articles on Rome Neal:
Rome Neal Seriously Injured in Fall; Fundraisers Set at The Five Spot on October 12 and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on November 6
Jun. 7: Rome Neal Banana Puddin’ Jazz Celebrates 11th Anniversary with A Celebration of The Jazzy Puddin’ Fundraiser
Photos: On the Town with Rome Neal, Jazz Vocalist and Star of Laurence Holder’s MONK
Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz Presents “LADY” Featuring Lia Chang, Monica Garrido, Carolyn Holmes, Noel Simon’ Wippler, Linda Hudson, Adi Meyerson and Kathleen Doran
Ishmael Reed’s THE FINAL VERSION Stars Rome Neal at Nuyorican Poets Cafe through January 19, 2014 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
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

Other articles by Lia Chang
2014 AUDELCO Nominations Announced; Ceremony at Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space on November 17
Broadway to Dim Lights for Geoffrey Holder on October 10, 2014
Geoffrey Holder, Artist, Actor, Dancer, Choreographer, Two-Time Tony Award-winning Director and Costume Designer for The Wiz, Dies at 84; Son Pens Intimate Account of Last Days
Two-Time Tony Award-winning Actress Marian Seldes, Dies at 86
Photos & Video: The Wiz’s André De Shields Sang “So You Wanted to Meet the Wizard” in The Black Stars of The Great White Way Broadway Reunion: Live The Dream at Carnegie Hall 
Photos and Video: Ben Vereen Performs at Carnegie Hall in The Black Stars of The Great White Way Broadway Reunion: Live The Dream 
Photos and Video: Obba Babatunde and cast members from the original cast of Dreamgirls perform at Carnegie Hall in The Black Stars of The Great White Way Broadway Reunion: Live The Dream
Oct. 15: An Evening with Hollywood Legend Nancy Kwan at the New-York Historical Society
Cori Thomas’s When January Feels Like Summer with Debargo Sanyal, Dion Graham, Mahira Kakkar, Maurice Williams, Carter Redwood, Returns to Ensemble Studio Theatre through October 26, 2014
Reg E. Cathey, Ching Valdes-Aran, Joseph Harrington, Tony Torn and More in La MaMa’s The Tempest through November 2, 2014
David Henry Hwang and Lynn Nottage Appointed to the Playwriting Faculty of Columbia University School of the Arts Theatre Program
Joe Mantegna to Helm ‘Criminal Minds’ Season 10 Episode to Honor the late Meshach Taylor
Photos: Maxine Hong Kingston, Billie Tsien, Bill T. Jones, Linda Ronstadt, John Kander, Julia Alvarez, Jeffrey Katzenberg Receive 2013 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama 
Photos: Artist Arlan Huang, One Brush Stroke at a Time
Late Night Singing with Garth Kravits at 54 Below with The Skivvies, at Jim Caruso’s Cast Party at Birdland and Michael Raye’s Soul Gathering 
Joe Mantegna, Delta Burke, Gerald McRaney, President Bill Clinton and More Remember Meshach Taylor
Photos: Meshach Taylor Celebrates 67th Birthday with Arlene and Joe Mantegna, Delta Burke, Gerald McRaney, Jean Smart, Dennis Franz, Ernie Hudson, John Heard, Keith Szarabajka, Stuart Gordon, Shadoe Stevens and More
Crafting a Career
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang Photo by GK

Lia Chang Photo by GK

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.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2014 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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