My NBTF 2022 experience

Ben Vareen and Rayonette Crowder

My NBTF 2022 experience
August 10
15:23 2022

By Rayonette Crowder

The year was 1989. This was the place, Winston-Salem, N.C. and this was the beginning of The National Black Theatre Festival. 

The National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF) provides an opportunity to put on the official colors, purple and black, or dress up in whatever makes you feel again ready for theatre, celebrity and celebration. 

The festival was back! The colors purple and black now seem synonymous with the NBTF and solidifies the importance and impact of the theatre in our community. During this week, whenever I would see the wearing of purple and black, I immediately thought there must be a connection with the NBTF and in most, if not all, instances conversations began with total strangers telling of individual associations with the NBTF. 

Everywhere you look there were purple and black ties, suits, dresses, ball gowns, slacks, shirts, tees, wraps, headdresses, shoes, scarfs, fans and of course this year my favorite accessory – the mask. With COVID concerns I wore masks provided to me by Winslow Lowrey and the Ramsey Cathey/Kaisers.

So many celebrities and attendees walk from the Gala at the Benton Convention Center to the beating of the drums and dance. Like in previous years, celebrities are driven in as limo doors open to the flash of cameras. In prior years, we all were entertained by the dance troupes but what seemed unique in 2022 was many celebrities participated in dance. Could it be that COVID-19 with its restrictions and limited interactions incited movement in their moment and moved them to dance?  Rhythm and dance serves as the ultimate introduction to the NBTF prior to the initial theatre experience. This year many celebrities, actors and actresses from film & TV joined in and added an element of entertainment from those who danced in front of  The Stevens Center in Downtown Winston -Salem. Our hometown-born actress, Faye Hauser Price, was one of the first celebrities to do her dance. 

With concerns of COVID, some of the usual interaction with the celebrities was limited but I was thrilled to get photos with the likes of Ben Vereen. I remembered to take the picture quickly and mentioned I was concerned with the look of my eyes on the selfie, so we took one more as he stated, “You have beautiful eyes.” I thought Ben Vereen just told me I had beautiful eyes. That made my night! It was good because in past years there was no reception to meet and greet the celebrities. 

Even with COVID, mask wearing for some, social distancing and caution for all, I am still excited being a resident of Winston-Salem, host city of The National Black Theatre Festival. Larry Leon Hamlin and his wife Sylvia Sprinkle Hamlin were committed to provide professional Black theatre right here in our own community. A real tribute to their legacies. The National Black Theatre continues to be an international celebration of arts and the theatre and affords the opportunity to attend workshops, vendor markets and productions throughout the city. 

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