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Baayork Lee: One Singular Sensation

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40477607_1982368585141397_1426521611535646720_nTheater Resources Unlimited’s The 2018 TRU Love Benefit, “The Power of Community” honoring Baayork Lee and John Chatterton

The event honors legendary A Chorus Line co-star and co-founder of the National Asian Artists Project Baayork Lee, who will receive the TRU Spirit of Theater Award for a lifetime of creating opportunities for Asian artists. Ms. Lee is choreographing the upcoming 50th Anniversary celebration of A Chorus Line at City Center. Cast members will be coming to TRU to help celebrate her. TRU is also honoring off-off-Broadway maverick, creator of the former OOBR Awards and the Midtown International Theatre Festival, John Chatterton who will receive the TRU Entrepreneur Award for providing 17 years of developmental opportunities for a range of independent theater artists.

Performance and award show will be directed by Jonathan Cerullo, Broadway/NYC choreography consultant for Say, Goodnight Gracie; assistant director and/or choreographer for Band in Berlin, Anna Karenina, The Three Musketeers, original cast of Legs Diamond; and choreographer for Big Apple Circus’ Carnivale! & Picturesque @ Lincoln Center. He will be assisted by Andrew Winans, with music director Lulu Picart and stage manager Jim Semmelman.

APPEARANCES INCLUDE: Members of the recent U.S. National Tour, Japan International Tour, upcoming China International Tour and upcoming 50th Anniversary New York City Center productions of A Chorus Line (Mel Cabey, Samantha Cho Grossman, Aaron Patrick Craven, Giovanni Da Silva, Steven Del Col, Veronica Fiaoni, Lauren Garriott, David Grindrod, Ryan Koerber, Laura Pierpont, Zoe Schneider-Smith, Madison Tinder, Jake Vielbig and Baayork’s assistant Andrew Winans), plus Sam Simahk (Carousel revival, Curly in Oklahoma! at TUTS, 1st National Company of The King and I), will be joining Tony Award nominated Brenda Braxton (Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Chicago); original A Chorus Line co-stars and Tony Award winners Donna McKechnie and Priscilla Lopez; NAAP co-founders Nina Zoie Lam and Steven Eng, as well as selections from MITF musicals Thrill Me! by Stephen Dolginoff, Sistas (the long-run off-Broadway hit) by Dorothy Marcic, Take Me America by Bill Nable, and more!

It all takes place on Sunday, November 4, 2018 from 12pm-4pm at Caroline’s on Broadway, 1626 Broadway, NYC. Tickets are available at Eventbrite(https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tru-love-benefit-2018-the-power-of-community-tickets-50935196544); details about the gala are athttps://truonline.org/events/tru-love-2018/. Tickets start at $50 for the performance only, $115 for performance plus three-course luncheon.

Event committee members include: Broadway/Off-Broadway Producers Lisa Dozier King, Pat Flicker Addiss, and Jim Kierstead and Broadway notables Donna McKechnie and Priscilla Lopez (both from the original production of A Chorus Line) and producer/promoter, Jay Michaels.

Ms. Lee was gracious enough to share a few thoughts with Ai regarding life, career and TRU.

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  • You are part of American theater history. Not just A Chorus Line – where you were the basis for your character – but two of Rodgers ad Hammerstein’s most pivotal works. How does that feel and how did it influence your career goals? 
I am so blessed to have been able to be apart of theater History, The King and I, and Flower Drum Song . Even though I was just a  kid I knew  then that this was going to be my profession. I had started on Broadway and worked very hard throughout the years to stay there.
  • Please share with us something about the National Asian Artists Project. What was the inspiration for creating it? 
With the  lack of diversity in casting on  Broadway  and  no opportunity for talented Asian American performers to experience  the American Classic Musicals ,Nina Zoie Lam ,Steven Eng started NAAP. We were excited to produce Oklahoma, Carousel, Hello, Dolly , Oliver, and Into The Woods. This lead us to go back to Zoie and my hometown, Chinatown, New York and start a Theater Club at Yung Wing Elementary School PS124. Musical Theater is not part of Asian culture, so inorder to cultivate  our community to  appreciation  it we started with the children. Our Theater Club has become an award winning group in Ensemble Choreography, Acting ,and Production performing at Lincoln Center, Senior centers and at the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. The NAAP Broadway Community Chorus was born also out of a lack of opportunity to sing Musical Theater Classics.
 
  • How has theater changed over the years? 
Theater has changed over the years , as many show are based on Films, or pop artists Song Books. More film stars are coming to Broadway ,a big price tag for a producer but guaranteed an audience. We have many revivals . So much more Orginal material comes out of off Broadway workshops then on to Broadway , Hamilton for example. We look to Off Broadway for fresh and innovated shows. 
  • What does being honored by TRU mean to you? 
To be recognized for my lifes work is a humbling experience. All I ever wanted to do was Dance and Sing on Broadway. Zoie, Steven and I are all performers but we saw the need to make a difference by giving our Asian Actors platforms to be recognized. We started with just passion and commitment. How lucky we are to have an organization like TRU who is there to help navigate the business of theater. As we soon came to discover passion and committment are key players to start but we need the business side of the show to help us survive in this crazy world. TRU with its ever growing workshops and seminars,  helps so many young companies like ours. With our mission to bring Arts Education and Musical Theater Classics ,featuring Asian American performers to the forefront and to be recognized by TRU is an Honor.
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