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NFT needs your help finding a home for its 2011-12 season

LINDA ARMSTRONG Special to the AmNews | 8/31/2011, 6:41 p.m.

The New Federal Theatre (NFT) celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. It was an amazing event-a time for rejoicing and acknowledging the work of this marvelous theater company that has produced 280 plays.

However, these days, New Federal Theatre is doing anything but rejoicing and celebrating. Woodie King Jr., the founder and producing director, along with his staff, is in a panic about where their 2011-2012 theatrical season will take place. Yes, NFT is without a space to hold their three productions this season, and they need help from possible venues and the public.

NFT normally mounts their season at Henry Street Settlement in Lower Manhattan, but that is not possible this year. King recently spoke with the AmNews about this critical situation, hoping that by making their crisis known, solutions may be found, and quickly. A blunt Q&A follows:

AmNews: You just celebrated the 40th anniversary of New Federal Theatre. How is it that New Federal has no theater home for its 2011-2012 season? What happened?

WK: Henry Street needs a one-year notice; NFT cannot give a one-year notice. We don't know that far in advance where we will get the funds to pay for space.

AmNews: When did you find out that you didn't have a theater home for this season?

WK: NFT was informed in early June that the space had been rented.

AmNews: What type of theatrical space are you trying to secure? That is, how many seats?

WK: NFT needs a 99-seat space.

AmNews: How soon do you need to hear from theaters and the public?

WK: NFT needs to know before mid-September so that we will be able to promote the first play, "Puberty Rites."

AmNews: How can venues contact you to work things out?

WK: A venue can contact New Federal Theatre at (212) 353-1176 or by emailing newfederal@aol.com.

AmNews: What is it that you need from the public to make sure that the 2011-2012 season can happen?

WK: I am hoping the public will make donations to New Federal Theatre so that New Federal Theatre can rent space. Tax-deductable donations can be made by going to www.newfederaltheatre.org.

AmNews: Why did you choose the two plays that are being done this season, and what is the third play you will be doing?

WK: The two plays selected thus far are by major American playwrights. "Puberty Rites," by Elaine Jackson, directed by Dean Irby, is a play that NFT first presented as a reading with "Going to the River." It is an absolutely brilliant piece of theater.

"The Court Martial at Fort Devens," by Jeffrey Sweet, directed by Marybeth Easley, is a fact-based documentary set during World War II. Eleanor Roosevelt urges young Black women to join the Army and be trained as nurses. The young Black women were treated as domestics. Four young Black women in the WACs are court-martialed and could get the death penalty for refusing domestic work. Roosevelt, however, comes to their rescue.

AmNews: How traumatic is it to have to worry about where New Federal will mount its productions?

WK: It's very difficult to find rehearsal and performance space at this late date. The entire staff is busy trying to help secure space. I hope Amsterdam News readers will support this 40-year-old institution and help NFT.