Even in its 46th year, the New Federal Theater still has a penchant for experimentation and political inquiry. And in that vein, producer and director Woodie King Jr. begins previews of the theater's upcoming staging of Amiri Baraka's Most Dangerous Man in America (W. E. B. Du Bois).
Baraka, who died in January 2014, handed Mr. King the script before it was sized down for the stage. It's initial length--a 250-page manifesto--wasn't unlike anything Baraka has done before. The subject matter, unsurprisingly, deals with Du Bois, an African-America scholar and civil rights activist, who resembled a similar ideology as the Marxist Baraka.
"This thing was 250 pages long," said Mr. King, whose theater has provided an early theatrical home for notables like Ed Bullins, Ntozake Shange and David Henry Hwang, to The New York Times. "Ossie Davis was doing the initial reading, and he and Baraka just got into it: 'Look, you can't give an actor no 250-page play!'"
Now, the script has been scaled down to accommodate a smaller cast, which is still about 18 people wide. But the play focuses on a period of Du Bois's life that resonated with Baraka: the time when he became chairman of a nuclear disarmament group and was accused of espionage.
In response to that, Du Bois's passport was confiscated and many of his colleagues at the N.A.A.C.P. later rejected him.