Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Novella Nelson and Melvin Van Peebles to be feted by Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal Theatre at Gala Benefit on June 26

Novella Nelson and Melvin Van Peebles will be feted at Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal Theatre’s Gala Benefit on Sunday, June 26, 2016,  from 2:00 to 5:30 PM at Trump Place, 220 Riverside Boulevard (enter West 70th Street) in New York. Ms Nelson and Mr. Van Peebles are among the many actors and directors who have worked with NFT over the theatre’s 46 year history. Mr. Van Peebles will be introduced by Academy Award winner Estelle Parsons. Ms. Nelson will be introduced by former Mayor David Dinkins.

Lia Chang with her IDENTITY CRISIS director, Melvin Van Peebles at LaMaMa in New York in 2010.

Lia Chang with her IDENTITY CRISIS director, Melvin Van Peebles at LaMaMa in New York in 2010.

Co-chairs are Carmen de Lavallade, Barbara Montgomery and Phylicia Rashad. Honorary Chairperson of the event is Susan Taylor. Co-hosts are Art McFarland and Garla Miles.

Tickets are $200 and may be purchase online at Checks may be sent to New Federal Theatre at 292 Henry Street, New York, NY 10002.

Proceeds from the benefit will fund upcoming works of New Federal Theatre and ensure continuation of its acting and playwriting workshops.

NFT is honoring Melvin Van Peebles and Novella Nelson because of their exceptional commitment to African American theater and film. Mr. Van Peebles’ memorable plays include Broadway’s Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death and Don’t Play Us Cheap, NFT’s Champeen and Waltz of the Stork Boogie, and many films, especially the award winning Story of a Three Day Pass. His American film debut was Watermelon Man starring Godfrey Cambridge and Estelle Parsons.

Woodie King Jr.'s New Federal Theatre to Honor Novella Nelson and Melvin Van Peebles at 2016 GalaNovella Nelson is being honored for her years as artist-in-residence with impresario Joseph Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival and for her work with NFT directing Runners by Ivey McCray and starring in the play Gilbeau by Clayton Riley. Ms. Nelson also starred in Denzel Washington’s directorial debut, Antone Fisher, and Woodie King’s Jr.’s productions of The Torture of Mother and Women of the Regent Hotel.

New Federal Theatre (NFT), founded by Woodie King, Jr. in 1970, grew out of a theater program at Mobilization for Youth. This neighborhood-based professional theater was originally funded by the Henry Street Settlement along with a small grant from the New York State Council on the Arts. The theater’s first season was launched in the basement of St. Augustine’s Church on Henry Street. In 1974, the construction of the Henry Street Settlement’s Louis Abrons Arts Center located at 466 Grand Street was completed. The physical plan included three theaters, rehearsal studios and modern stage equipment-all of which were made available to NFT. In March 1996, New Federal Theatre’s administrative offices returned to St. Augustine’s Church, but maintains its production and training programs at Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Arts Center.

Specializing in minority drama, NFT has brought the joy of the living stage to many minorities who live in the surrounding Lower East Side community and the greater Metropolitan area. NFT has provided emerging playwrights with the opportunity to have their works produced; it has brought minority actors, directors and designers to national attention and sponsored a variety of ethnic theater groups and events. The vocational training workshops prepare minority people for employment in theater and theater-related fields. Most importantly, NFT provides the multi-ethnic Lower East Side as well as New York metropolitan area audiences with first-rate theater relating to the interest of different cultural groups.

Forty-six years later, it is almost impossible to turn on a television and not see a former student from NFT. Writers first presented at NFT are now part of the literary mainstream of American playwrights. Many plays have reached national significance and much wider audiences through having been showcased at NFT. Because of the work of NFT, such playwrights as: J.e Franklin, Ron Milner, Ed Bullins, Amiri Baraka, Joseph Lazardi, Ntozake Shange, David Henry Hwang, Damien Leake, Genny Lim, Laurence Holder, Alexis DeVeaux, and several others have been brought to national attention. Many actors are starring in television series as well as motion pictures: Jackée Harry, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Debbie Allen, Phylicia Rashad, Dick Anthony Williams, Glynn Turman, Taurean Blacque, Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Fishburne, Garrett Morris, Robert Downey, Jr., Sam MacMurray, Debbie Morgan, Lynn Whitfield, Reginald Vel-Johnson, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Ruby Dee, Leslie Uggams, Ella Joyce and so many more who, at one time performed in an NFT production. New Federal Theatre provides educational workshops in playwriting, and drama workshops for adults and teens.

New Federal Theatre’s Mission is to integrate minorities and women into the mainstream of American theater by training artists for the profession, and by presenting plays by minorities and women to integrated, multicultural audiences-plays which evoke the truth through beautiful and artistic re-creations of ourselves.

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

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and

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