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You are here: Home Theatre Reviews & Features 2015-16 Reviews 2010-11 Theatre Press Releases New Federal Theatre Kicks Off 40th Season with COOL BLUES Thu, Mar 10
Tuesday, 08 March 2011 15:16

New Federal Theatre Kicks Off 40th Season with COOL BLUES Thu, Mar 10

Woodie King Jr's New Federal Theatre Kicks Off Its 40th Anniversary Season
with the Off-Broadway Premiere of Bill Harris’

Ed Smith Directs a Cast that Features Ezra Barnes, Stephanie Berry, Terria Joseph, Marcus Naylor, Maria Silverman &  Jay Ward

Off-Broadway Limited Engagement Begins Thursday March 10


Woodie King Jr's New Federal Theatre will kick off its 40th season by presenting the Off-Broadway premiere of Cool Blues by Bill Harris at their home at Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Arts Center/Recital Hall (466 Grand Street). Performances begin Thursday March 10th with Opening Night set for Sunday, March 20th Performances for this limited engagement  continue through April 3rd only. Ed Smith directs a cast that features Ezra Barnes, Stephanie Berry, Terria Joseph, Marcus Naylor, Maria Silverman and Jay Ward. Cool Blues will have set design by Anthony Davidson, costume design by Ali Turns, lighting design by Shirley Prendergast, and sound design by Bill Toles. Casting was by Lawrence Evans.

It is 1955. B is a black jazz musician so renowned and innovative that he only needs a single initial to identify him. We join him as he shows up unannounced to spend a fateful weekend in the apartment of, Baroness Alexandra Isabella von Templeton (Xan), one of the world's richest women. His manner and his mood shifts are as mercurial as his music. His talent at deception and self defense as agile as his ability to charm. Questions of loyalty, love, privilege, and friendship are probed as the ghosts of B's past and present demand answers. Xan vows to protect him at all costs, even if it means ignoring the advice of the doctor summoned to attend to him. Does B want to be saved? Can he be? Has he come to recuperate from recent disastrous events in order to soar into the world again, or has the burden of being a cutting edge spirt in the war against conformity and racial prejudice taken its ultimate toll?

Playwright Bill Harris is a professor of English at Wayne State University.  He formerly served as Curator of Living History, then Chief Curator at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.  While living in New York City during the 1980s, Harris was the Production Coordinator at both New Federal Theatre and JazzMobile. As a playwright, Harris has had innumerable successful productions of his plays nationwide. Acclaimed actors S. Epatha Merkerson, Abbey Lincoln, Guy Davis, and Denzel Washington have starred in various productions of his. His plays have been published in The National Black Drama Anthology (Robert Johnson:  Trick the Devil-which, in an adaptation for radio, won the 1997 Silver Medal for Drama awarded by the International Radio Programming organization); New Plays for the Black Theatre; Voices of Color; and African American Literature (He Who Endures). Plays published under his own name include Riffs & Coda published by Broadside Press, and Stories About the Old Days, published by Samuel French, Inc. His books of poetry are Yardbird Suite:  Side One, which won the Lotus Press poetry prize, and The Ringmaster’s Array, published by Past Tents Press. Most recently Harris researched and wrote Birth of A Notion; Or The Half Ain’t Never Been Told. .. , a poetic critique of 18th century American history and popular cultural images of African Americans. The follow up volume of Booker T. & Them: A Blues will be published in 2012.  He also has two novels in the works. 

Director Ed Smith is an award-winning director and educator who has directed at theatres around the country, and in Canada and the West Indies. His directorial credits are extensive with stellar reviews for many of his productions. Some of his major productions include, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Bluest Eye, Dancing at Lughnasa, The Piano Lesson, I'm Not Rappaport, and From the Mississippi Delta, for which he was the original director and nominated by AUDELCO as Best Director in 1989.  He was also awarded Best Director in 1991 by the St Louis Dispatch Awards for Soldier's Play, and in 1993 for Fences, by the Buffalo Evening News. In 2000, he was awarded by Detroit's Focus Awards for his direction of Our Town; it also won for Best Play. That same year, he was nominated Best Director by the Oakland Press Detroit for Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. Ed directed Ossie Davis’ last play, A Last Dance for Sybil, which featured Ruby Dee and Earle Hyman and was produced by Woodie King, Jr. Ed has directed over a 100 plays and a few have been produced.  In 2009, Ed received the prestigious Lloyd Richard's Director's Award from the National Black Theatre Festival. He was the Artistic Director for the Jubilee Theatre in Fort Worth (2006-2010), the Associate Artistic Director for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Theatre (1993-1996), and was the Founder and Artistic Director of the Buffalo Black Drama Workshop (1970-1974). He was a full professor at SUNY/Buffalo from 1969-1994, and has taught at University of California, Florida State University, Mount Holyoke, and Wayne State University. He is presently adjunct at Texas Christian University, and was recently awarded by Jubilee Theatre, the "Edward Smith Scholarship" in Theatre. Additionally, Ed hosted a jazz radio program at WBFO-FM and WBER-AM in Buffalo, New York for over fifteen years and he grew up in Philadelphia as a BeBop Child. 

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.

Performances of Cool Blues will be Wednesday through Friday evenings at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 3pm & 8pm and Sunday matinees at 3pm.

Tickets will be $25 and can be ordered through or by phone at 212/352-3101. For more information, please visit or call NFT at 212-353-1176.

Performances will be at Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Arts Center/Recital Hall, 466 Grand Street (between Pitt & Willett Streets). By subway: “F” train to Delancey Street; “M” and “J” train to Essex Street; or by “M14A” bus to Pitt Street.