NEW YORK CITY: Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal Theatre has announced the programming in its 46th season, which will be dedicated to the late poet/playwright Amiri Baraka. The season, titled “The Amiri Baraka Project,” will contain two Baraka plays: his 1964 classic Dutchman, and the world premiere of his final play, Most Dangerous Man in America (W. E. B. Du Bois).
“Amiri Baraka and I shared a 50-year friendship,” said King in a statement. “Shortly after I arrived in New York City, he came to see the play I was directing at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery. We had in common a close friendship with Langston Hughes, and we both loved shoes and hats.” That led to King producing Baraka’s plays, starting in 1968 with Great Goodness of Life (a Coon Show), then Slaveship, The Toilet, A Recent Killing, Sidney Poet Heroical, and Boy and Tarzan Meet Again in a Clearing. Concluded King, “Baraka’s life and literary achievement as playwright should give us inspiration and courage, especially African-American artists.”
The title of Dutchman (Feb. 5–March 8) alludes to the Dutch East India Company, a 17th-century slave ship company. The play, a two-hander set in a New York City subway train, plays out a tense conversation between a young white woman and a young black man. Ryan Jillian Kilpatrick and Michael Alcide will star; both actors previously appeared in the Atlanta Black Theater Festival’s fall 2014 production of Dutchman. King will direct.
Most Dangerous Man in America, scheduled to open in May, is set during the McCarthy Era, when historian and activist W.E.B. DuBois was accused by the U.S. Federal Government in 1951 of being a foreign spy. The play moves back and forth between the courtroom and DuBois’s Harlem.
The New Federal Theatre was founded in 1970 by Woodie King Jr. and specializes in producing plays by writers of color, and of women.