Tony-Nominated Actors Valisia Lekae and Daniel J. Watts to Perform Scenes from Sweet Lorraine as Part of Virtual Fundraiser for Stand Up To Cancer® and the Equity in the Arts and Culture Committee of the Brooklyn NAACP - Stand Up To Cancer


Posted November 15, 2020

Tony-Nominated Actors Valisia Lekae and Daniel J. Watts to Perform Scenes from Sweet Lorraine as Part of Virtual Fundraiser for Stand Up To Cancer® and the Equity in the Arts and Culture Committee of the Brooklyn NAACP

Playbill to Stream Donation-Based Performance Live on YouTube for World Pancreatic Cancer Day

New York – December 15, 2020 — Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) and the Equity in the Arts and Culture Committee of the Brooklyn NAACP, in collaboration with Tony® and Grammy® Award nominee Valisia LeKae (Motown the Musical, The Book of Mormon), announced today a one-night virtual fundraising event titled “Scenes From Sweet Lorraine The Play.” LeKae is the executive producer of the project, which is an adaptation of Sweet Lorraine, co-written by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj and Adam Mace. Funds raised during the event will equally benefit SU2C and the Equity in the Arts and Culture Committee of the Brooklyn NAACP. The donation-based performance will be streamed on Playbill’s YouTube channel on World Pancreatic Cancer Day, Thursday, Nov. 19 beginning at 7 p.m. ET, with a limited-capacity discussion with the cast, directors and creative team to follow at 8 p.m. ET. Donations for the production and tickets for the post-event talkback are available via Eventbrite here.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on cancer patients and survivors, as well as the theatre community,” said LeKae. “As a cancer survivor and a woman of color, this year has brought incredible challenges, but also opportunities to explore new ways to connect, create and share stories that inspire. As an actor and cancer survivor, it has been a tremendous highlight of my career to portray the great Lorraine Hansberry. I can think of no better way to honor Lorraine’s memory than by sharing her story and others in a way that gives back to Stand Up To Cancer and the Equity in the Arts and Culture Committee of the Brooklyn NAACP, two organizations at the forefront of supporting equity in health and the arts.”

The 45-minute production will take a unique approach by recreating scenes from the critically-acclaimed play with LeKae reprising her role as playwright Lorraine Hansberry, and Tony Award®-nominated Daniel J. Watts (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical) as writer James Baldwin. Inspired by Hansberry and Baldwin’s activism and personal cancer journeys, as well as Valisia LeKae’s own ovarian cancer diagnosis in 2013, the event will intertwine thought-provoking conversation around social justice, health equity and powerful stories from Bertha Howard, BSN, MSN, RN, co-founder of the Elvin Howard, Sr. Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Foundation (EHSPCAF), who was a caregiver to her husband during his battle with pancreatic cancer, and pancreatic cancer survivor Cedric Robins, EHSPCAF Ambassador.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has brought racial disparities to the forefront of the national conversation surrounding healthcare, this event will highlight the importance of addressing these disparities with regard to cancer research. As an innovator and leader in cancer research, SU2C has been focused on increasing diversity in cancer clinical trials since 2017. Stand Up To Cancer continues to address these issues as part of its Health Equity Initiative, which was announced in January 2020 and is aimed at reducing racial and ethnic disparities in cancer research and improving outcomes for minority populations.

“Longstanding health disparities have impacted communities of color for far too long; the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing these disparities to light currently, and we’ve seen similar inequities in cancer treatment and clinical trials. Through our Health Equity Initiative, Stand Up To Cancer is ensuring that individuals in underserved communities not only benefit from cancer clinical trials, but actively participate in them,” said Sung Poblete, CEO of Stand Up To Cancer. “We are incredibly thankful for the support from those like Valisia and the Sweet Lorraine team, whose passion for cancer research allows us to continue this important work.”

Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, co-writer and co-director for “Scenes From Sweet Lorraine The Play” and Chair of the Equity in the Arts and Culture Committee for the NAACP Brooklyn Branch said, “As the oldest civil rights organization in the United States of America, we are committed to providing resources, information, and access to platforms that can help our people live healthier, happier, longer lives. I am thrilled that through this project, we get to bear witness to Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin’s brilliance, citizenship, and unwavering love for each other.”

“Lorraine and James were two of the most important and influential artists and activists of the twentieth century,” said Adam Mace, co-writer and co-director for “Scenes From Sweet Lorraine The Play.” “Their words moved millions and inspired a generation of writers. There isn’t a more significant time to share their story than right now, in this moment. We also mustn’t forget the effect that cancer had on their lives, taking both of them much too soon. It’s so very encouraging to not only shed light on their narratives but those of cancer survivors as well.”

Sweet Lorraine, which had its world premiere last summer, produced by the Rebel Theater Company, is a theatrical interpretation of the final conversation shared between best friends Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin in Hansberry’s New York City hospital room in January 1965. The play is set one week prior to Lorraine’s passing from pancreatic cancer and explores the complex, dynamic and often heated relationship between these two prolific, creative giants and American artists and activists. For more information about Sweet Lorraine, visit

The “Scenes From Sweet Lorraine The Play” production team includes Executive Producer LeKae; co-writers, and co-directors Maharaj and Mace; associate producers Abdul Tubman and Dana Iannuzzi; director of photography, editor and sound engineer Paul Wilt; and producing assistant, Kevin Ferguson.

About Stand Up To Cancer

Stand Up To Cancer® (SU2C) raises funds to accelerate the pace of research to get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. SU2C, a division of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, was established in 2008 by media and entertainment leaders who utilize these communities’ resources to engage the public in supporting a new, collaborative model of cancer research, to increase awareness about cancer prevention, and to highlight progress being made in the fight against the disease. As of June 2020, more than 1,600 scientists representing more than 180 institutions are involved in SU2C-funded research projects.

Under the direction of our Scientific Advisory Committee, led by Nobel laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., SU2C operates rigorous competitive review processes to identify the best research proposals to recommend for funding, oversee grants administration, and ensure collaboration across research programs.

Current members of the SU2C Council of Founders and Advisors (CFA) include Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Kathleen Lobb, Lisa Paulsen, Rusty Robertson, Sue Schwartz, Pamela Oas Williams, and Ellen Ziffren. The late Laura Ziskin and the late Noreen Fraser are also co-founders. Sung Poblete, Ph.D., R.N., serves as SU2C’s CEO.

For more information, visit

About The Equity in the Arts and Culture Committee of the Brooklyn NAACP

The Equity in the Arts and Culture Committee seeks advocacy for artists in the borough of Brooklyn, builds bridges between funders and artists/arts organizations within the borough of Brooklyn, promotes and presents events that celebrate diversity, inclusion, and the core mission values of the NAACP, celebrates Artist-driven, radically inclusive, and fundamentally democratic art of, by, and for all people, especially those in the borough of Brooklyn, creates educational opportunities that support arts learning, affirms and celebrates diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community.


The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race- based discrimination.

About Playbill

Playbill is the exclusive magazine for Broadway and Off-Broadway theatregoers, providing the information necessary for the understanding and enjoyment of each show, including features articles and columns by and about theatre personalities, entertainment, travel, fashion, dining and other editorial pieces geared to the lifestyle of the upscale, active theatre attendee. Playbill also proudly serves New York’s three most prominent performing arts venues: the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center (Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, New York State Theater), and Carnegie Hall.

Media Contacts:

Fiona McRobert
SVP Communications, Stand Up To Cancer

Meghan Gambichler



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