At threatened Bed-Stuy hospital, extended run for Edward Albee’s “The Death of Bessie Smith”

Site-specific production of rare Albee play extended to February 9

January 21, 2014 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Following an initial sold-out run, New Brooklyn Theater announced a three-week extension for Edward Albee’s “The Death of Bessie Smith.”

The company is presenting the play at troubled Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which is battling in bankruptcy court for survival. Interfaith was promised $3.5 million from the state to stay open through March, but the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) will not released the funds until Interfaith gives up its clinics.

Set in a 1937 Memphis whites-only hospital, “The Death of Bessie Smith” uses the legend surrounding the death of the famous blues singer to portray the attitudes that allow injustice to occur.

Performances were originally scheduled to close on Sunday, January 19. The show will now run an additional three weeks to Sunday, February 9. The performance schedule is Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
“We have succeeded in bringing hundreds of people together in a conversation about health, race, class, and our hospital’s pending closure. Our aim is to continue until there is a permanent solution or until the state closes Interfaith with us performing inside,” says Artistic Director Jonathan Solari.
Tickets are free to the public and available by visiting or
“The Death of Bessie Smith” was written in 1959 and premiered in West Berlin in 1960. It made its American premiere at the York Playhouse the following year. This is the first New York production of the play in 46 years.
Interfaith Medical Center is one of several hospitals throughout Brooklyn in danger of imminent closure. Over the last few months the hospital has been wracked with protests, legal actions and money shortages. The theater company hopes the public will consider “whether that is how public health decisions affecting hundreds of thousands should be made.”
All performances will be followed by discussions with leaders in the arts, government, labor, and health. Previous post-show conversations have included U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblymembers Annette Robinson and Walter Mosley; City Councilmembers Robert Cornegy, Laurie Cumbo, and Steve Levin; NYSNA executive director Jill Furillo, activist Sharonnie Perry of the Interfaith Community Advisory Board, Diane Porter of the Interfaith Board of Trustees, and Jonathan Solari, artistic director of New Brooklyn Theater.
The cast includes original members Jessica Afton* (Nurse), Brian D. Coats* (Bernie), Jamyl Dobson* (Orderly), Edwin Lee Gibson* (Jack), Keilly McQuail(Second Nurse), James Patrick Nelson* (Intern), and Paul Wilcox (Father).
Edward Albee’s The Death of Bessie Smith is directed by Jonathan Solari and features set and costume design by Claire DeLiso, lighting design by Brandon Bagwell, sound design by Laura Cunningham, prop design by Marissa Bergman, and dramaturgy by Samantha Levitt. Clarissa Ligon and Jeannipher Pacheco are the production’s stage managers.

*These actors are appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association.

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