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About the play:

Billie, Malcolm & Yusuf opens at a funeral.  Among the guests mourning the passage of the “dear departed” are the great revolutionary Malcolm X, the legendary blues singer Billie Holiday, and a black teenager Yusuf Hawkins, who was brutally murdered by a white mob in 1989.

As the funeral procession makes its way through the Gates of Heaven, we learn the identity of the “departed,” the conflicts between Billie, Malcolm and Yusuf, and their struggle to live, love and laugh without gods or icons.  With songs, humor, powerful reminiscences, historical footage and more than a few surprises, these characters take the audience on a spellbinding journey.

Please join us for a night of profoundly relevant and entertaining theater.



The production was first mounted in 1992. The playwright and the director both have a historical connection to the Yusuf Hawkins’ tragedy, having joined the family and many community activists in weekly protests in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where the murder took place. 2019 will mark the 30th anniversary of Hawkins’ murder, which catalyzed broad protests for racial justice and resulted in the election of New York City’s first black Mayor.


Gabrielle L. Kurlander (director) has directed eight plays by Fred Newman at the Castillo Theatre since 1998, as well as four by German avant-gardist Heiner Müller. In 2011, the Castillo Theatre won the Vivian Robinson AUDELCO Award for Excellence in Black Theatre Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance for Kurlander’s production of Playing with Heiner Müller. The following year, her musical production of Newman and Annie Roboff’s Sally and Tom (The American Way) won five AUDELCO awards, including Best Director of a Musical Production and Best Musical Production of the Year. In 2014, Kurlander directed Clare Coss’ play Dr. Du Bois and Miss Ovington, starring Kathleen Chalfant and Timothy Simonson; and in 2016 Newman and Jackie Salit’s musical play Votes, about a woman running for president.
Kurlander began her professional theater career as an actor in the national touring company of Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues. She joined the Castillo Theatre in 1987, and has since performed in 35 productions. Kurlander is the president and CEO of the All Stars Project, Inc. (ASP), a national nonprofit organization that uses the developmental power performance to transform the lives of youth and poor communities, in partnership with caring adults.

Fred Newman (playwright, 1935-2011) was the resident playwright of the Castillo Theatre and served as its artistic director from 1989 until his retirement in 2005. He wrote 44 plays and musicals. In addition, Newman was America’s leading director of the work of the German post- dramatic playwright Heiner Müller, and also directed plays by Bertolt Brecht, Aimé Césaire, Yosef Mundy and Peter Weiss. In 2002, he wrote and directed the award-winning independent film Nothing Really Happens (Memories of Aging Strippers). In addition to his theatrical work, Newman was an independent political pioneer, a social therapist and a Stanford University- trained philosopher and teacher. He co-founded the All Stars Project with Dr. Lenora Fulani.