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Tell Me Something Good: What Should A Beginner Know About Black Theatre?

Nicole

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The magic and beauty of Black theatre is as enthralling and captivating as any other form of performance art. Unfortunately, many people have simply never been exposed to that magic. Some live in communities that have no Black theatre companies while others simply have never been introduced to the art. I decided to ask a few Black theatre veterans and fans, “If you had one thought to share with a novice regarding Black theatre, what would it be?”  The answers were both thoughtful and heartfelt.

When asked what she would share, Stephanie Lein Walseth, Director of Inquiry and passionate black theatre fan at Penumbra Theatre Company in St, Paul, Minnesota had this to say,

African American theatre has such a rich and vivid history that goes back as early as the 1800’s. People should understand that this is not a new art form. We have been doing this for hundreds of years and people should explore it.

Penumbra Theatre Company is currently running their Summer Institute for the next generation of artist activists, aged 13-18. Performances of the student’s original pieces will run throughout the month of August.

When speaking with Veronique LaShell MacRae, Executive Director for Act Trinity Creative Arts Services and Artistic Director for Act Trinity Performing Arts about information that should be considered essential for someone new to Black theatre, she had this to say,

Black Theatre is not merely entertainment, but a way that we share our stories and the way our voices are heard when it is normally quieted or hushed.

For a management perspective, I caught up with Keith Douglas, Chairman of RKD Talent Management and author of new self-help book, Artificial Intelligence. Keith had the following advice for talent aspiring to become a part of theatre.

Before getting involved in Black Theatre, do your research. Create something no one else has created and go from there. When you have something good, it’s undeniable. Study who is who. Be creators and not duplicators. Come to the table with something authentic and you can’t be denied. People want to become a part of theatre as followers, but sometimes talent alone isn’t enough. You must study first. Live theatre is more demanding then recording in a music studio or acting in front of a camera and you must always be on point. All of the greats, Cicely Tyson and Sidney Poitier. studied to perfect their craft.

Theatre fan and supporter, Gerald Moore summed it up beautifully on Facebook by saying,

Theatre is the height of artistic expression and we, as Black people, by way of our unrivaled flair, are perfect for this genre. In short, we got flava.

The common thread was a feeling of awe and respect for this powerful medium of artistic expression and social commentary. There are a multitude of things that could be shared with someone who is experiencing their first taste of the heady addiction that is Black theatre. I would tell anyone: don’t allow your inexperience to keep you from participating. It starts with your first show. Do a little research, purchase your ticket, and dive in. I promise it’s an experience you won’t regret!

I’d love to hear what you would share. Please drop your comments below!

Nicole "Blackberri" Johnson is a freelance writer, stage/ film actress, activist and entrepreneur. Mom of three. Blackberri is also a notorious cape thief and unapologetic bacon lover. Follow on twitter @Blackberri

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Events and Happenings

Iconic Entertainer Gregory Hines Honored With a Black Heritage Series Stamp

Drew Shade

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Savion Glover; Maurice Hines, Gregory’s brother; and Daria Hines, Gregory’s daughter Photo courtesy of USPS

The U.S. Postal Service honored iconic entertainer Gregory Hines with a Black Heritage Series stamp in a ceremony on January 28th. As the 42nd entry in the series, the stamp featuring a 1988 photo of a smiling Hines is now available at Post Offices and usps.com. 

At the ceremony Tony Award winner Savion Glover talked about the role Hines played in elevating tap into an art form and the value of his work. Joining him in the celebration were Maurice Hines, actor, dancer, choreographer, and Hines’ brother; Daria Hines, actress, costume designer, and Hines’ daughter; dancers Chloe and Maud Arnold; Tony Waag, the American Tap Dance Foundation’s artistic director, and tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith.

“I don’t exist without this man,” said Glover, “These young people that you see, they aren’t born without this. We are not here today without this.”

The Chief Postal Inspector, Gary Barksdale, who led the ceremony, said “Gregory Hines was an extraordinary artist in every sense of the word. This Forever stamp pays tribute to his life and career as an actor, singer and most importantly, as a performer whose unique style of tap dancing injected new artistry and excitement into a traditional American form.”

Gregory Hines’ Broadway credits include Eubie!, Sophisticated Ladies, & Comin’ Uptown,  all of which garnered him Tony Award nominations. He became a Tony Award winner for his starring role in “Jelly’s Last Jam” in 1992. In 2003 he passed away at 57 years old from cancer.

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Events and Happenings

Casts of Disney’s The Lion King, Frozen, & Aladdin Broadway Celebrate Black History Month

Drew Shade

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Noah Ricketts, Aisha Jackson, Donald Jones Jr. Photo by Darnell Bennett

It’s a beautiful time to be Black on Broadway. For Black History Month, the casts of The Lion King, Aladdin, and Frozen on Broadway came together in a celebratory photo shoot with photographer Darnell Bennett involving 35+ company cast members.

Take a look at the behind-the-scenes video above and the accompanying photos below.

Cast members included The Lion King‘s Tryphena WadeLawrence Keith Alexander, Brian C. Binion, Lidiwe DlaminiDonna Michelle VaughnLaMar Baylor, Kyle Lamar MitchellBradley GibsonJamal Lee Harris, Elisha BowmansRay MercerL. Steven TaylorBongi DumaKimberly MarableSyndee WintersCameron AmandusPearl KhweziJaysin McCollumAngelica EdwardsIndia Bolds, Bonita HamiltonTshidi Manye, & Bravita Threatt.

Also, Noah RickettsAisha JacksonDonald Jones Jr. of Frozen, and Aladdin‘s Tyler RobertsPaige Williams, Deonte L WarrenTiffany EvaristeMajor AttawayAmber OwensJamie Kasey PattersonApril HollowayKathryn AllisonAriel ReidJuwan CrawleyTrent SaundersDennis Stowe, and Stanley Martin.

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