Site-Specific Production of Edward Albee's The Death of Bessie Smith at Brooklyn Hospital Begins Jan. 9

By Michael Gioia
09 Jan 2014

Edward Albee
Edward Albee

The New Brooklyn Theater presents a site-specific production of Edward Albee's The Death of Bessie Smith — the first New York revival of the play in 46 years — at the Interfaith Medical Center beginning Jan. 9. The production aims to raise awareness about the possible closure of the healthcare facility.

Directed by Jonathan Solari, artistic director of New Brooklyn Theater, performances continue through Jan. 19.

"Staging Edward Albee's play inside Interfaith Medical Center is a unique opportunity to bring together the larger Brooklyn community in a common conversation about race, class, health, and the arts," said director Solari in a statement.

The cast features Jessica Afton, Brian D Coats, Jamyl Dobson, Edwin Lee Gibson, Keilly McQuail, James Patrick Nelson and Paul Wilcox.



Here's how New Brooklyn Theater bills the work: "Set in a 1937 Memphis whites-only hospital and its surrounding area, The Death of Bessie Smith uses the legend surrounding the death of the famous blues singer to mine the circumstances and attitudes that allow injustice to occur."

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.

According to press notes, "Interfaith Medical Center, located in Bed-Stuy, is one of several hospitals throughout Brooklyn in danger of imminent closure. Despite the efforts of the Bed-Stuy community and its allies in labor and government rallying to its defense, Interfaith may have to shut its doors, literally any day now, if mediation in bankruptcy court is unsuccessful. The public is invited to consider whether that is how public health decisions affecting hundreds of thousands should be made."

Other members of the creative team include set and costume designer Claire DeLiso, lighting designer Brandon Bagwell, sound designer Laura Cunningham, props master Marissa Bergman, dramaturg Samantha Levitt and stage managers Clarissa Ligon and Jeannipher Pacheco.

Several performances will be followed by panel discussions with elected officials, theatre artists, health care providers and neighborhood activists.

The Interfaith Medical Center is located at 1545 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Tickets to all performances are free to the public and available by clicking here.