NEC's Year Of The Woman 2015 Reading Series
March 18 — March 22nd
About J e Franklin, Playwright
The founder of Blackgirl Ensemble Theater in New York City, J. e Franklin has earned acclaim for her uncompromising depictions of contemporary African-American life. Her plays and other writings, which examine themes of identity, family relationships, and oppression, convey both the dreams and the harsh realities that shape the experience of Black Americans in the decades after the Civil Rights Movement.
A noted scholar, J. e Franklin is the author of Black Girl: From Genesis to Revelations, published by Howard University Press. She was a Eugene O’Neill fellow, a Rockefeller fellow, a Resident Scholar at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, A National Endowment for the Arts/U.S.-MEXICO Artist Exchange fellow and a winner of the John F. Kennedy New American Play Award. She is a graduate of the University of Texas and attended Union Theological Seminary, the oldest independent seminary in the nation, and now part of Columbia University. She has taught at the University of Iowa, Brown University, Skidmore College, Touro College, and Herbert H. Lehman College/CUNY. Her works have appeared in such anthologies as Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound and Sense, published by Harcourt-Brace, and Black Drama in America, published by Howard University Press.
Ms. Franklin’s first play to receive a major stage production was Mau Mau Room, produced at the Negro Ensemble Company, in 1969. It was directed by Shauneille Perry, who would also direct Black Girl for New Federal Theatre. Among the many plays she has written, Ms. Franklin is best known for Black Girl, originally produced for public television in 1969, by WGBH, Boston. In 1971, Black Girl received a New York Drama Desk Award. Franklin’s feature-film adaptation of the play was directed by Ossie Davis, who cast his wife Ruby Dee in a cameo role. The film was released in 1972, and is currently playing on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
Ms. Franklin’s newly-released book To Break EveryYoke, published by Xlibris Press, contains four plays that span from slavery to the 21st century. “I wanted to show the range of the forms I’ve been working in over the years,” said Franklin. “The theme of To Break Every Yoke is freedom. In every play, a character is trying to break free.” Mother, Dear Mother, I Still Think of Thee tells the story of a mother trying to free her son from bondage, That’s Why They Calls Us Colored: Bless They Hearts is the story of a man who lived as white, and who finds himself trapped in the racial laws of the nation’s One-Drop theory. Then, there’s the acclaimed Black Girl, in which a high school drop-out tries to break free from negative family forces to pursue her dream of being a dancer. Finally, there’s Freedom Rider, the story of an idealistic young girl who joins The Movement, and is sent to the Cradle of the Confederacy to help in the struggle for voter rights, just before the 1964 election. It opened in October, 2014 and played to sold-out houses at the Dwyer in Harlem.
Jeannine Foster-McKelvia, Actor/Director
Jeannine Foster-McKelvia, Actor/Director, just completed work as Assistant Director/Dramaturge for FLY at the Ensemble Theatre in Houston, Texas. Other directing credits include director/ producer for the New York premier of A Question of Taste at the Midtown International Theatre Festival, Edge of the Jungle (Pulse Ensemble Theatre), On the Cusp (Juneteenth Legacy Theatre), The Story and A Doll’s House (Sarah Lawrence College), A Question of Taste and The Kitchen for Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Festival in Black and White (Best Director Honors for both productions). She was the assistant director to veteran director Allie Woods, Jr. for 1000 Miles (Juneteenth Legacy Theatre Festival) and to veteran TV and stage director Ed Sherin on A Moon to Dance By (Pittsburgh Playhouse). Her acting credits include the Mother in the web series Escaping Single, Scissoring (Columbia Stages), Punching Glass (Manhattan Rep Theatre),Five and Flying Lessons directed by Ed Sherin (Sarah Lawrence College), Relativity, directed by Talvin Wilks, Jelly’s Last Jam, and Ashes to Africa (Kuntu Repertory Theatre), The Bridge Cluband Christmas is Comin’ Uptown (Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre) American Menu, Blue and The Dance on Widows Row (New Horizon Theatre). Jeannine is a graduate of Duquesne University and Sarah Lawrence College.
Woodie King Jr., Moderator, Producing Director / Founder – New Federal Theatre
and National Black Touring Circuit
Woodie King, Jr. is a founder and Producing Director of New Federal Theatre in New York City. His directional credits are extensive and include work in film as well as Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional theater. In 1985, he was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award for Boseman And Lena and in 1987/88 season he won a NAACP Image Award for directing Checkmates at Inner City Cultural Center (Los Angeles). In 1988, he directed Checkmates, on Broadway in 1987. In 1987, he also directed Charles Dutton in Splendid Mummer at American Place Theatre; in 1990, God’s Trombones at the Ford’s Theatre, and Joe Turner’s Come And Gone at Detroit Rep. In 1991, he directed A Raisin In The Sun and in 1992, he directed The Member Of The Wedding, both at GeVa. In 1993 he produced and directedRobert Johnson: Trick The Devil for which he won AUDELCO Awards as Best Director and Best Play of the Year. He directed Checkmates at St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre. In 1994, he directed And The World Laughs With You at Crossroads Theater Company in New Brunswick, NJ; Mudtracks by Regina Taylor at Ensemble Studio Theatre, and A Raisin In The Sun, starring Esther Rolle and Kenny Leon, at The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. In the 1996/97 season, he directed Joe Turner’s Come And Gone and Samm-Art Williams’ Home both at Brooklyn College. In the 1998/99 season, he directed Ali at the Crossroads Theatre and Angels In America: Millennium Approaches and in 2010 Men In White both at Ohio State University. He directed The Piano Lesson at Tennessee Repertory Theatre in Nashville and again at Seminole State College in 2012. Last year he also directed Lonette McKee in the critically acclaimed Sowa’s Red Gravy. Woodie King, Jr. was a visiting professor at Oberlin College, Florida State University, and Ohio State University. In addition to directing at these universities, he has taught at Yale, Penn State, North Carolina A&T, Columbia, NYU, Hunter, and Brooklyn College School of Contemporary Studies. Mr. King is a Graduate of Will-O-Way School of Theatre in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; Lehman College in New York; and received his MFA in Directing from Brooklyn College. Mr. King is the recipient of many awards, including the Paul Robeson Award; the Rosetta LeNoire Award; the TCG Award, an Obie Award for Sustained Achievement, and Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Wayne State University, an Honorary Doctorate from both John Jay College and Lehman College, and a Doctorate of Fine Arts from the College of Wooster. In 2012, he was inducted in the American Theatre Hall of Fame.