Festival opens with revelry, awards and some ‘fireworks’

Festival opens with revelry, awards and some ‘fireworks’
August 06
00:00 2015

In above photo: ESOSA (Emilio Sosa) and Idris Goodwin walk down the runway as people who came to see the stars engage them at the 2015 National Black Theatre Festival Gala on Monday, Aug. 3. (Photo by Donna Rogers)

Some stars urge more money be given to keep community black theater alive

By Tori P. Haynesworth

For The Chronicle

The National Black Theatre Festival kicked off with the Gala and Awards Ceremony on Monday, Aug. 3 at the MC Benton Convention Center on West Fifth Street.

Citizens of Winston-Salem gathered to witness the star studded event that included co-chairs Debbi Morgan and Darnell Williams, Jackee Harry, Rain Pryor, and Naturi Naughton to name a few.

Some stars who came, such as Robert Hooks, Bill Cobbs and Maurice Hines, were award-winners.

The Carver High School marching band welcomed the celebrities at the entrance way to the convention center.

Mayor Allen Joines, who have been involved with assisting the funding for the NBTF, always enjoy what the black cultural arts has to offer.

“I became one of the financial co-chairs of this festival back in 1993 before I became mayor,” said Joines. “The energy that comes into the city brings a specialness to our community.”

African drum performers and dancers entered the room, while the actors, actresses, directors and playwrights followed down a path like a “red carpet” to take center stage to begin presenting the awards.

Morgan and Williams, co-chairs of the NBTF, led the program and recognized each person who was presenting the awards to the honorees.

Before the awards were distributed, they took a moment to remember the following stalwarts who have died: Winston-Salem’s Dr. Maya Angelou, who helped Mr. Hamlin bring his vision of the NBTF to life; Garland Lee Thompson Sr.; and actress Ruby Dee.

The Winston-Salem Millennium Fund was awarded the Marvtastic Philanthropy Award, accepted by Chairman Ralph Womble.

“We appreciate what the festival has become. From the moment Mr. Larry Leon Hamlin had an acorn idea and planted it squarely in Winston-Salem, we watched it grow into a mighty oak tree, and each year reaching new heights,” said Womble.

The Theatre Arts and Humanitarian Award went to Warren Dell Leggett of Winston-Salem, a longtime NBTF and N.C. Black Rep volunteer and supporter who helped the organizations with his financial acumen.

The Special Recognition Award was given to the Karamu House, based in Cleveland, Ohio and Rachel P. Jackson, the longtime Winston-Salem community advocate who is considered one of the city’s matriarchs.

The Carpetbag Theatre Inc., of Knoxville, Ten., was given the Theatre Longevity Award.

The Living Legend Award were given to the following: A. Peter Bailey, Maurice Hines, Grace Jones, Hattie Winston and Robert Hooks.

Hooks expressed his concern about the arts in the community need to be more in the limelight.

“They [community arts centers] are dying ladies and gentlemen. They’re on their sick beds, some of them are gone, and some are in desperate need of support. That makes me mad,” Hooks said.

He went on to further suggesting to reaching out to the multimillion dollar celebrities who donate money to other charities, to invest into community arts theatres, as well as giving back to the communities from whence they came from.

Jones, president of AUDELCO (Audience Development Committee), which holds an awards ceremony each year that honors the best in black theatre, asked members of the audience to send her $5 each for her organization.

“Don’t worry, I won’t spend it,” she said.

The Larry Leon Hamlin Producer Award was given to Nate Jacobs, who gave his remarks of his relationship with Mr. Marvtastic.

“Little did I know he would wisp me up, fly me to North Carolina, take me under his wings and develop me as a professional,” said Jacobs. “I’m just so fortunate to have had Mr. Hamlin’s Marvtastic light shine on my life and my career.”

Katori Hall, who received the August Wilson Playwright Award, revealed a personal story of having an actual encounter of Wilson which inspired her to become a playwright.

“Mr. Wilson gave me that permission to tell everything I had inside of me and put it on the stage. He paved the way for me and he has paved the way for others,” said Hall.

The main award of that special evening was the Sidney Poitier Lifelong Achievement Award, which was given to actor Bill Cobbs.

“The arts saved my life, they made me somebody,” Cobbs said.

Other awards and recipients were as follows: Emerging Producer Award, Erich McMillan-McCall; Lloyd Richards Director Award, Clinton Turner Davis; Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design, ESOSA; Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design, Allen Lee Hughes; Outstanding Achievement in Scenic Design, Harlan Penn.

NBTF is a biennial program since 1989 of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company, based in Winston-Salem.

Including live shows from critically acclaimed actors, there are other events and seminars, as well as local talents performed by the next generation of performers.

The NBTF will continue until Saturday, Aug. 8.

For additional information and a schedule of events, purchase The Chronicle’s NBTF booklet inserted into the July 30 edition of the newspaper (call 336-722-8624 for more information), go to or call the Festival office at 336-723-2266 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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