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News & Features » February 2016 » Spotlight on New Federal Theatre

Spotlight on New Federal Theatre

To celebrate the release of The System of Dante’s Hell — the long-awaited reissue of Amiri Baraka‘s remarkable 1965 novel, featuring a new introduction by Woodie King Jr. — we’re pleased to feature a spotlight on Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal Theatre.

Click here to read Woodie King Jr.’s introduction to The System of Dante’s Hell.

New Federal TheatreOver its forty-year history, the New Federal Theatre has become a cultural mainstay in the Lower East Side and greater New York area. Created by Woodie King Jr. as a way to counter the “lack of opportunities for black actors, directors, designers,” the theater’s mission is to help integrate minorities and women into the mainstream. Producing shows by emerging and minority playwrights, the NFT also offers vocational training workshops as well as sponsoring theater groups and local events.

The theater has also helped launched a number of careers — Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Ruby Dee, among others, all got their start here — and continues to push boundaries and explore political issues. Since its start in 1970, the theater has hosted over 325 productions, including “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” “What the Winesellers Buy, “Reggae,” and “The Taking of Miss Janie.” Woodie King Jr. was also recently inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame for his continued work and contribution to American Theater over the years.

In 1970, the NFT grew out of the Mobilization for Youth theater program. With the funding from a Henry Street Settlement and grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, Woodie King Jr. was able to launch the inaugural season in the basement of St. Augustine’s Church. The New Federal Theatre continues to stay true to its roots and provide opportunities for minorities and women to access to all aspects of theater culture.

Click here to learn more about the New Federal Theatre.


AMIRI BARAKA/LEROI JONES (1934–2014) was the author of numerous books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. He was named poet laureate of New Jersey by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, from 2002–2004. His short story collection Tales of the Out & the Gone (Akashic Books) was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and won a 2008 PEN/Beyond Margins Award. He is also the author of Home: Social Essays, Black Music, The System of Dante’s Hell, and Tales, among other works.

WOODIE KING JR. is a producer and director of Amiri Baraka’s plays. Most recently, he produced and directed Baraka’s final play, Most Dangerous Man in America (W.E.B. Du Bois). He is author of The Impact of Race and editor of ten anthologies.

Posted: Feb 16, 2016

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