Whether you are planning on majoring in Drama, Theatre Arts Administration or Theatre with a Technical emphasis, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) cater to the specific needs of Black theatre professionals and can provide you with the education and support that you will need to start or enhance your theatre career. HBCUs have long been known as the cornerstone of educational opportunity for Blacks. In no particular order, Broadway Black has identified what we believe to be the top 5 HBCU theatre programs.
Taraji Henson, Anthony Anderson, Marlon Wayans and Phylicia Rashad are just a few of the distinguished alumni from Howard University. The Department of Theatre Arts offers several major areas of concentrated study which lead to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Arts. Areas of concentration in Theatre Arts include the Performing Arts; Acting, Musical Theatre, and Dance; Theatre Arts Administration and Theatre Technology. Minors in Theatre Arts, Dance Arts, Theatre Arts Administration, Technical Theatre, and Playwriting are also available to non-Theatre Arts students. According to the website,
“Howard University’s Department of Theatre Arts is an internationally acclaimed leader and producer of artistic merit. Each season the Department of Theatre Arts presents classical and contemporary plays in its two-theatre complex. These plays offer not only entertainment, but also a forum for ideas and discussion.”
Spelman and Morehouse Colleges share a spot on this list because Morehouse students can obtain their BA in Drama, with an optional concentration in Dance, by attending classes at Spelman. Additionally, one of the highlights for Drama students this year includes Spelman hosting a 90-minute distance learning opportunity with the Broadway Theatre League. According to the department website,
“The drama and dance curriculum is designed to offer a challenging theater arts program that encourages discovery, creativity and scholarship for those students whose special interests and talents lead them to the department of drama and dance; to impart to all majors the formal preparation necessary for advanced academic or professional study; to offer the Spelman student experiences in theater arts, giving her broad-based exposure to the various aspects of drama and dance; and to contribute to the cultural enrichment of Spelman College, the AU Center, and the community at large.”
In Hampton University’s School of Liberal Arts, theatre students may choose from a Bachelor of Arts degree in either Performance or Technical Theatre. According to the department’s website,
“The area of Theatre Arts exists to provide the best available preparation for those students who wish to pursue the craft of theatre. Enrollment in the Theatre Arts area is designed to give students experience and training in theatre management, production, and organization. Those students with interests and abilities in acting, directing, designing, construction, management and playwriting will find opportunities for expression and growth…In the department’s production organization, the Hampton Players and Company, students gain experience in every aspect of theatre, from box office operations to set construction. The faculty and students in the theatre program hold memberships in, and attend meetings at the Southeastern Theatre Conference, the National Association for Dramatics and Speech Arts, the Virginia Theatre Association, the American Theatre in Higher Education, and the United States Institute for Technical Theatre.”
In 2015, North Carolina A&T State University ranked as the best HBCU in North Carolina for Theatre Arts according to http://hbcu-colleges.com/. Located in Greensboro, North Carolina NCAT offers prospective theatre students
“an outstanding Bachelor of Fine Arts program that is dedicated to professionally training a student in his or her chosen area of either acting or technology. Our students have won numerous regional and national awards at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. We have been invited to Region IV KCACTF competitions sixteen times and twice to the national festival held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. of Theatre.”
NCAT’s program is one of only two HBCUs in the United States that offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre with an accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Theatre. Students may choose a concentration in the area of either Acting or Theatre Technology.
Since the 1930’s, theatre at Florida A&M University or FAMU has had a rich and storied legacy. A succession of passionate and committed educators has built a theatre program that currently offers two degree options, the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science for those students who concentrate in Technical Theatre or Theatre Management. Additionally, students may elect concentrations in either Performance, Design/Technical Production, or Management. According to the website, the department ascribes to
“The belief that theatre students profit most by a basic understanding of the totality of theatre before pursuing specializations … The program in theatre offers pre-professional undergraduate preparation by combining acting, directing, designing and production with literary, historical, managerial and creative study of drama.”
While this list is far from comprehensive, the HBCUs listed have a wealth of history, educational resources and dedicated support designed to ensure the success of Black students attempting to obtain degrees in Theatre.
Okieriete Onaodowan to Host 3rd Annual Shubert Foundation High School Theatre Festival
Before picking up the accordion for his upcoming run in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan, from the original cast of Hamilton, will host the third annual Shubert Foundation High School Theatre Festival for New York City Public Schools.
On Monday, March 13th at Broadway’s Music Box Theatre (239 West 45th Street) at 7 p.m, more than 100 students from five New York City high schools across the city make their Broadway debuts performing from their selected winter musicals or plays.
Additional guest artist presenters include Shoba Narayan, Nicholas Belton, and Paul Pinto of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, with cast members from Dear Evan Hansen.
A panel of professional theatre artists and theatre educators selected a total of five productions from a pool of 25 schools. Students from the chosen schools will present excerpted scenes and musical numbers from:
The Music Man: Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (Queens)
Almost, Maine: Brooklyn High School of the Arts (Brooklyn)
Company: Susan E. Wagner High School (Staten Island)
Angels In America: Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts (Manhattan)
Into The Woods: Edward R. Murrow High School (Brooklyn)
School principals and teachers, along with student family members, will attend to support their young performers representing four of the five boroughs, along with Philip J. Smith, Chairman of The Shubert Organization and Robert E. Wankel, President of The Shubert Organization.
New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña states:
“Theatre instruction teaches students the importance of rehearsing while building self-confidence and strengthening public speaking skills. These are critical skills that prepare students for college, careers and beyond. That’s why I’m so pleased that we continue to expand access to theatre programs and arts education across the City. In particular, we are committed to leveraging the incredible connections we have to New York City’s rich cultural resources and developing meaningful arts partnerships with organisations like Shubert.”
According to the press release:
“The High School Theatre Festival showcases the ongoing and excellent theatre work currently taking place in NYC public high schools, as well as highlighting the positive effects of theatre study on skills for the stage and in life: collaboration, artistry, discipline, focus, literacy, student voice, self-awareness, presence, active listening and empathy.”
Peter Avery, the Festival’s producer and the Director of Theater for the NYC Department of Education, further expressed the importance of the festival, and the impact it might have:
“How inspiring for our student performers to have such unique support for their Broadway debut of their show excerpts, from a professional tech crew and pit musicians to the broader embrace of the theatre community. Given today’s discourse, it is all the more crucial to celebrate the next generation of diverse, talented artists in our NYC public schools. These young men and women, representing a myriad of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, expand the definition of casting and collaborate to produce meaningful theatre for others.”
Sponsored by The Shubert Foundation in partnership with the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), the festival focuses on the impact a full theatre program might have on students and school communities, and further enables them to see theatre and the arts as a potential career path. Since 2005, The Shubert Foundation has provided more than $4.3 million to the New York City Department of Education for Theatre/Arts programs.
For more information, visit Shubert Foundation.
Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit Visits The Color Purple
Even though we’re out on summer vacation, the proud teacher in me never takes a break. Case in point, last night The Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit paid The Color Purple a visit and didn’t go out quietly. After curtain call the group of extremely talented youngsters SANG for the cast and BABY THOSE HARMONIES!
Thank God for social media, cast member Danielle Brooks reordered the lovely thank you message and tweeted:
— Danielle Brooks (@thedanieb) June 29, 2016
Cynthia Erivo and Heather Headley also offered their gratitude via social media last night as well;
Thank you @mosaicdetroit for a wonderful evening. Good luck with everything, continue to be inspired and inspiring 🙂 😘❤️💜
— Cynthia Erivo (@CynthiaEriVo) June 29, 2016
Your gift to us in the end moved me more than anything. I look forward to handing over our roles to some of you😉! https://t.co/Uh7lB02N5b
— Heather Headley (@heatherheadley) June 29, 2016
What the Mosaic Youth Theatre is doing is such fulfilling and necessary work, them bringing all those kids out to Broadway makes me want to melt. Danielle Brooks summed it up perfectly in her Instagram post:
These are the moments that remind me that I have purpose, to stay selfless and keep a spirit of servitude. Today was a rough one for me, but these kids remind me of why I do this. We become their Lachanze, Jennifer Holliday, James Earl Jones. We become their Lillias White, Audra McDonald, Harry Belafonte. I don’t perform @bwaycolorpurple every night because of the paycheck, but because this story needs to be shared with the world and this generation needs to experience it. 💜 and on that note I’m going to bed. 🍊 tomorrow!! Season 5 begins!
A video posted by Danielle Brooks (@daniebb3) on Jun 28, 2016 at 7:44pm PDT
Broadway Black Gives Back: Help Students From Brownsville See Shuffle Along
I’m the queen of talking about theatre and accessibility, but it’s time I put my (and other people’s) money where my mouth is.
This past school year I’ve had the honor of teaching over 200 amazing students in Brownsville, performing arts (Acting, Singing, Dancing) and as I sat at home, I wondered what I could do to make my class feel more real, more tangible. Sure they’ve had their winter concert, Black History Month show, and soon their Spring musicals but what else can I do? For many of my students this class was out of there comfort zone and over the course of the year I’ve noticed students really breaking out of their shells and discovering a new creative part of themselves.
Then I had this idea. I saw Shuffle Along Or the Making of the Musical Sensation and All That Followed while it was in previews and I was captivated from start to finish. There was a particular moment about William Grant Still that made it all click for me. I had just taught my students about William Grant Still a few weeks prior and here he was being presented in this amazing show. It came to me, I have to take some of my students to see this show, I must. So I thought long and hard about who would go and how I can make this possible. I came up with a list of 12 amazing, talented students that are I personally feel would benefit from seeing this show. Not only would they enjoy the dancing, singing, acting, lighting design, set design, orechestrations, but I picked students that would care about the history and the story being told. Students that would understand that it’s because of people from the past in the original Shuffle Along and the people in the present currently on stage performing at The Music Box that allow them, the people of the future, to be able to continue where they left off.
Check out one of my students KILLING “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway Musical RENT!
This was powerful to me and I want my students to be able to see something that will hopefully inspire them to continue to be creative, to continue to strive for excellence in the arts, continue to grow and know there is a place for them in the theatre. I remember my High School Drama teacher taking me to see Broadway shows that forever changed the trajectory of my life and my career. It’s important for these students to see a show that tells a story that would otherwise be forgotten. It’s important that the story lives on and what better way to ensure that than with the next generation. My students. So I created a GoFundMe with the hope that people understand what I’m trying to do and feel inspired by it. Whether it be $5 or $50 this is a show that I fully expect to change these little performers lives. More info on the GoFundMe campaign can be found here.
Two of the 12 students singing a bit of @hamiltonmusical with me after school! These are the kids you’re helping!!!! gofundme.com/LPBVMAShuffle A video posted by Jazmine Harper-Davis (@themelaningawd) on
Through the generosity of some amazing donors, we have met our goal, in only FIVE days. I honestly didn’t expect to meet it so soon, however because of this I’ve gotten word there are people who are still willing and wanting to give.
So we’re going to open the trip to add (4) more students (yay!) Any additional funding we receive will be used to take more students to see the show.
Once again from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU all who donated and shared with family and friends, this wouldn’t have been possible without any of your help.
Here’s a quick thank you in the form of some of the 6th grade students performing “Steppin To The Bad Side” from Dreamgirls!
BB Kids: Zaris-Angel Hator Makes West End Debut In Matilda
Remember in 2013 when Broadway Black posed the question, Could Matilda ever be black on Broadway???
Could Matilda ever be black on Broadway???
— Broadway Black (@BroadwayBlack) May 2, 2013
The final consensus amongst our followers was unanimous, she absolutely could be. And when that day came, we would lose our minds. Well, the day has arrived and we’ve done just that.
Matilda The Musical is now in its fifth year in London with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Earlier this year it was announced that Zaris-Angel Hator, Clare Read and Emily-May Stephenson will alternate the role alongside the most recent Matilda Evie Hone. On March 31st Zaris-Angel made history and had her first performance as Matlida in her West End debut. This makes the 12-year-old the first black Matilda of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Amazingly enough, Zaris-Angel taught herself to dance through YouTube and television after being inspired by Michaela DePrince and her book, Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina. #BlackGirlMagic
Tonight we welcome Zaris-Angel into the role of Matilda. Wishing her the best of luck for her first performance! pic.twitter.com/bNWzzvkSmJ
— Matilda The Musical (@MatildaMusical) March 31, 2016
From the looks of Twitter and Facebook, Zaris-Angel absolutely killed her performance and even inspired many who loved that there was a little black girl who looked like their daughters on the stage. Further proof that representation matters. This performance shows to many other black girls, they too could be Matilda, if they choose. The West End has the right idea, so how about it Broadway?
You go Zaris, over across the pond at Broadway Black we are rooting for you. Keep on shining!
First Lady Michelle Obama Celebrates Black Women & Dance
First Lady Michelle Obama is all about celebrating black women & today is no different as she invites several black women leaders in dance to The White House.
This year, the theme of Black History Month at the White House is “Honoring the Past While Celebrating the Present; 7 Years of Living African American History.” As part of this celebration, First Lady Michelle Obama will highlight the contributions African American women have made to dance by hosting a day-long dance workshop for local students.
The First Lady will welcome 51 local Washington, D.C. students to the White House. These students will work with iconic leaders in dance, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Judith Jamison, Debbie Allen, the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Virginia Johnson, and Hip-Hop choreographer Fatima Robinson. Each of these women have played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of African American women and girls in dance.
12:30pm ET – In the afternoon, the First Lady will join Judith Jamison, Debbie Allen, Virginia Johnson, and Fatima Robinson for a panel discussion. The panelists will take questions from the students in the audience on a variety of topics including self-confidence, health, hard work, and overcoming adversity.
4:15pm ET – Later In the evening, the First Lady will deliver remarks and introduce a student presentation. As a culmination of the workshops, these young dancers will tell the story of African American history and culture through dance.
#ALVINAILEY dancer Jacqueline Green leads a group of young ladies in Mr. Ailey’s signature movement from his “Revelations.” @whitehouse @jagreen711 Stay tuned for more photos from @michelleobama’s #DanceattheWhiteHouse #BlackHistoryMonth celebration! #AILEYinDC #instaAILEY #AILEYontour
A photo posted by Alvin Ailey (@alvinailey) on
11 Year Old Twins Receive Scholarships to the American Ballet Theatre
Eleven-year-old Canadian twins Nia and Imani Lindsay are making a name for themselves in the ballet world. They were awarded scholarships to the American Ballet Theatre’s annual “Young Dancers Summer Workshop” in the summer of 2014 (they were 10 years old at the time). According to ABT’s website, the workshop “provides an opportunity for serious young dancers, ages 9-11 and 12 year-olds at the beginning pointe level, to actively flourish in a professional, yet nurturing environment. The outstanding faculty members of ABT will provide unparalleled instruction, while remaining sensitive to the developmental needs of younger dancers.” Not only do they continue to develop their skills and talent with some of the best, they are making their students well-rounded, educated ballerinas by offering sessions in nutrition, ballet terminology, dance history, classroom and rehearsal etiquette, and injury prevention.
During an interview with Urban Bush Babies, the young ladies showed off how insightful they are at their young age. They discussed being awarded a scholarship, what it means to work hard, and one of their idols Misty Copeland. saying “I went to meet her,” said Nia. “She was really nice. She’s humble, a good dancer, and not cocky.” “And she’s a good influence,” Imani chimed in. “She’s not like Miley Cyrus at all.”
In a time when Black youth are rising in the arts and their voices are more prevalent in the fight for justice, Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love Of All” is quite true: the children are the future. These two young ladies are proof of that, continuing to break the mold and exist in spaces that traditionally aren’t “for us.” It’s a good reminder to see when the youth do something positive and groundbreaking. It’s our responsibility to lift them up and to encourage them to never give up on their dreams. This one is for you Nia and Imani. Broadway Black always has your back.
Check the talented duo in a video below! For more, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel here!
About Broadway Black:
BroadwayBlack.com is dedicated to highlighting the achievements and successes of African-American theatre artists on and off the Broadway stage. For so long, our voices have been skimmed over inside and outside of The Great White Way. However, we know we have experiences to share that are essential. BroadwayBlack.com serves as a collective of things we all care for. It is a platform for all things Black theatre. Created for the child in all of us who looked up to the stage searching for the faces that looked like ours. Celebrating the dedication of those who hand over their life to give all they have to the stage, shining light on those that continue our journey, & paying tribute to those who blazed the way for our story to be told, seen, and heard on The Great Way.
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