with The Kumble Theater
at LIU Brooklyn, New York
1 University Plaza (Flatbush between DeKalb and Willoughby)
Award-winning actor Blair Underwood along with legendary dancer/actress Carmen de Lavallade will come together for an intimate conversation about their careers and their roles in the upcoming Broadway play, A Streetcar Named Desire. Off the heel of her 81st birthday, Carmen will discuss her commissioned body of work and Blair will share his experience on NBC’s, Who Do You Think You Are. Blair Underwood will read excerpts from his new book.
Blair Underwood has distinguished himself as an award-winning actor/director/producer who continues to showcase his multitude of talents in the world of film, television, theatre and literature. Underwood most recently starred as the President of the United States in the NBC drama The Event, and co-starred in the independent drama film Homework (Fox Searchlight) opposite Emma Roberts and Freddy Highmore – which originally premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. In 2009, Underwood received an abundance of accolades including a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word for former Vice President Al Gore’s album An Inconvenient Truth (read by Blair Underwood, Beau Bridges & Cynthia Nixon). He also received his second Golden Globe nomination for Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television for his powerful role on HBO’s groundbreaking drama In Treatment. Additionally, he was nominated for four NAACP Image Awards and was awarded his sixth overall. In 2007, Underwood shot his feature directorial debut in Pittsburgh, the independent drama Bridge to Nowhere. The film, which stars Danny Masterson, Bijou Phillips and Ving Rhames, is the story of four blue-collar twenty-something men from North Pittsburgh who team up with a destitute prostitute to create a high-priced escort service. The dark story follows their rise and inevitable spiraling descent. In fall 2005, Underwood published his first book, a non-fiction bestseller called Before I Got Here (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, Inc.). The book is a collection of stories and anecdotes from parents that speak to the existence of a child’s soul prior to birth. He is also co-founder of Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA). Founded in 1989, by members of the arts and entertainment community, ANSA is a nonprofit organization working in the U.S. and South Africa to combat HIV/AIDS, assist children orphaned by the disease, advance human and civil rights, educate and empower youth, and build bonds between our nations through arts, culture, and our shared pursuit of social justice. In addition to serving as an “Artist In Residence” at Harvard University in 2009, Underwood also holds an honorary Doctorate from Emerson College, Boston, Massachusetts.
Carmen de Lavallade first appeared in New York City with the Lester Horton Dance Theater and subsequently on Broadway with Alvin Ailey in House of Flowers. She appeared in the films Carmen Jones, Odds Against Tomorrow, Big Daddy and Lone Star. Horton, Geoffrey Holder, Ailey, Glen Tetley and Agnes de Mille created ballets especially for her. She was a principle dancer with the Metropolitan Opera, a guest artist with the American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Center Opera. At Yale, she taught movement for actors and became a member of the Yale Repertory Company and the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard. She has choreographed for Dance Theatre of Harlem, Philadanco, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Metropolitan Opera. De Lavallade received a Dance Magazine Award, an honorary doctorate from the Juilliard School, a Duke Ellington Fellowship Award and a Dance/ USA Award. She is a founding member of Paradigm, a repertory concert company.
Esther Armah is a radio host, playwright, writer, award-winning international journalist and creator of the ‘Emotional Justice’ movement. As a New York radio host, you can hear her on WBAI 99.5 FM’s morning talk show Wake Up Call, Mon-Thurs 6-8am. She has hosted WNYC’s The Next New York Conversation, GRITtv with Laura Flanders, and “MNN’s Ancestor House” with Nana Camille Yarbrough. Esther Armah is a political commentator on MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes. As an international journalist she has written for The Guardian newspaper in London, Essence magazine in the US, and West Africa magazine in Africa. Her most recent writing has appeared in the 2012 book, Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness edited by Rebecca Walker. As a playwright, her plays Can I Be Me?, Forgive Me?, and Entitled! have all been seen on New York stages. Her play SAVIOUR? debuted October 2011 at Manhattan’s Dwyer Cultural Center. Esther’s first book, Can I Be Me?, is a Top Ten Best selling book for AALBC 2012. Esther created the term ‘Emotional Justice’ a phrase to address, challenge, and deal with the legacy of untreated trauma from our history and passed down from generation to generation. This is a multi-media critical community conversation series: on the mic via radio, on stage via theater, on the page via writing, and live via panel discussions. In London, England, she worked in radio and television for over a decade with the world’s biggest broadcaster - British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC. She runs Centric Productions, a multi-media production company. As a reporter and journalist she has traveled and worked in London, Washington, Philadelphia, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Lesotho. She was named as one of Ebony magazines “must see, must cop, must listen to” people on their 2012 “The Cool List.” She now lives in New York.
Jessica Lynne and DéLana R.A. Dameron reflect on ways they make a home, creatively, wherever they are.