Monday, June 18, 2012

A Few Words About Walter Dallas, The Amen Corner and Project1Voice

In just a few hours a cast of stellar performers, including Tony Award winners Lillias White, Chuck Cooper and Adriane Lenox, will take the stage at Gerald W. Lynch Theatre at John Jay College to present a benefit reading of James Baldwin's THE AMEN CORNER. The reading is part of a nationwide event called 1Voice, 1Play, 1Day, presented by Project1Voice, a grass roots movement dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacies of Black Theater and her playwrights. Over 28 theaters, including 10 in NYC, will read Baldwin's seminal piece to raise money and awareness for this very important cause.

Walter Dallas, currently senior artist-in-residence at the University of Maryland, College Park and former artistic director of Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia, will direct the NYC production. I met Walter in the early 90s. I was working at the Philadelphia Drama Guild and he was the director of the first August Wilson play I ever saw -- Joe Turner's Come and Gone. We became good friends and Walter, is without a doubt, my favorite director. You'll find out why if you come out to see THE AMEN CORNER tonight at 7pm.

Let me introduce you to Walter and to his words about his friend James Baldwin:

Walter Dallas, a celebrated director, playwright, and photographer is pleased to direct the Project 1 Voice reading of The Amen Corner in memory of its author and his friend, James Baldwin. He and Baldwin worked on Baldwin’s last play, The Welcome Table, here in the States and in the South of France. Dallas directed the world premiere of the play at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. A legendary icon in the African American theater, Dallas has directed theatre and opera at major regional theatres, on and off Broadway, and abroad. He has received numerous accolades including a Philly Barrymore Nomination for Best Director of 2010, Creative Genius Awards, an Audelco, several Best-Production of Season honors, garnered a San Francisco Emmy Award for KQED-TV for the televised version of his first play, Willie Lobo, the Mover and Shaker Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Promotion of South African Arts and Culture, and a NAACP Best Director nomination. He has been a Director Fellow for the NEA, a board member of Theatre Communication Group, and was lead writer for the international award-winning documentary, Standing in The Shadows of Motown, whose soundtrack won four Grammy Awards. His creative work has been shared at the O’Neill, Sundance, and in England, France, India, the Caribbean, Ireland, Russia, South America, and in West and South Africa. He studied at Morehouse College, the University of Ghana, Harvard Divinity School, and the Yale School of Drama. He is currently artist-in-residence at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Walter on James Baldwin: “The people at Baltimore's Center Stage insisted I take a bow on opening night. It was 1982. I had just directed The Amen Corner with Frances Foster and Bill Cobbs. When I ended my bow and stood up, next to me was my opening night surprise, the playwright James Baldwin. We fast became friends and he asked me to help him develop (and promise to direct) the new play he was working on, The Welcome Table. During the next few years, whenever Jimmy was in the states, to speak or to be interviewed, he'd always come to visit with me in Philadelphia and we'd work on the play. Or I'd go to his villa in the South of France where we designed the set. It's an honor to direct the reading of his The Amen Corner for Project 1 Voice. And with such a brilliant, brilliant cast. Raising funds and bolstering awareness of the joys and challenges of America’s black theatre is a cause that I know Jimmy would eagerly endorse. We are adding his voice to the national conversation as over 28 theatres across the country pay homage to him, to his legacy, by reading his play, The Amen Corner, on the same day.”

 So there you have it. An introduction to my good friend and favorite director Walter Dallas. I hope that you will come out tonight to know what I know about this incredible, huge talent. Here are the details:

, in association with the Gerald W. Lynch Theatre at John Jay College, presents THE AMEN CORNER by James Baldwin.  One Night Only Monday, June 18, 2012 @ 7pm, Gerald W. Lynch Theatre, 524 W. 59th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues. Tickets: $15-$50. To purchase tickets -- Tonight at the theatre box office, visit or call 631.464.7421.

Hope to see you at the theatre in support of the effort to keep the Black Theater live, vital and strong!