NBTF record-breaking start reflects on the importance of the biennial festival

Andre De Shields leads everyone in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during the opening press conference of the National Black Theatre Festival.

NBTF record-breaking start reflects on the importance of the biennial festival
August 01
00:10 2019

If you’re strapped for cash and can’t afford to spend $40 or $50 on a ticket to one of the productions during the National Black Theatre Festival, an easy and no-cost way to rub elbows with the stars is to attend the daily press conferences held at The Marriott Hotel.

Each day at noon during the festival, actors, directors, writers, and others with ties to the festival come together to discuss their productions and give the public a taste of what they might see during the festival. During the opening press conference on Monday, July 29, NBTF media director Brian McLauglin, announced that plays this year have sold out faster than ever, which is a testament to the good job the selection committee did when narrowing the productions down to a select few.

“We have sold out shows the earliest we have in festival history. That tells me that the selection committee was awesome,” continued Mclaughlin. “We had so many submissions and they drilled it down to the best. You are in for a treat this week and we are very excited.” 

This year’s festival, which started on Monday, July 29 and ends on Saturday, August 3, will include more than 120 plays from 36 different states and South Africa, and much, much more, such as a film fest, International Colloquium, International Vendors Market, Words & Verses (formerly Midnight Poetry Jam), several workshops and seminars, a National Youth Talent Showcase, and the Larry Leon Hamlin Solo Performance Series, just to name a few.

While the press conference serves as a guide to what’s what at the festival, the celebrity guests use the time to talk about their past experiences at the festival and why they continue to come back. Celebrity co-chairs Margaret “Suge” Avery and Chester Gregory said they were grateful to serve as co-chairs of such an important event.

“I just want to let you know how much we actors and people in theatre appreciate all your support,” Avery said.

Gregory, who is the only actor to headline the National Black Theatre Festival three times, said it felt awesome to be back on Black Theatre Holy Ground. He said since the beginning of his career, the NBTF has given him the support he needed to pursue his goals.

“Since the very beginning you all have been there. This always feels like home and I’ll never forget the first time I had a chance to perform here. I got a chance to meet the great Andre De Shields and he took me under his wing to be my friend and mentor,” continued Gregory. “He told me things that opening night that prepared me for ten-plus years in Broadway musicals.”

Other celebrity guests who joined Avery and Gregory at the press conference were: Andre De Shields, Bill Cobbs, Leslie Uggams, Ted Lange, Keith David, Colby Christina, Qaasim Middleton, Khalil Middelton and several others.

The daily press conference is held in the lobby of the Marriot Hotel, 425 North Cherry Street. The press conference is free, but if you plan on attending, you may want to get there early because seats go fast.

For more information on the National Black Theatre Festival, visit

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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