New artistic director looks to widen audience base with productions based on faith and illness

Jackie Alexander

New artistic director looks to widen audience base with productions based on faith and illness
July 21
01:30 2016

Just days following an announcement from the North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NCBRC) appointing Jackie Alexander as their new artistic director, the first professional black theatre company in the state announced its 2016-2017 season.

Founded by the late Larry Leon Hamlin in 1979, the NCBRC is committed to exposing diverse audiences to black theatrical classics, the development of new works, improving artistic quality, and sustaining black theatre internationally. Over the years, NCBRC has been recognized throughout the country and the world as the benchmark by which all projects are measured.

The company’s 38th season titled “The Comfort of Faith” will feature productions that take a look at the role faith plays in finding strength and solace when individuals, family members, and loved ones are confronted by illness. Longtime NCBRC board member Nigel Alston noted, “This year’s productions cuts across all communities.

“We are connecting with everyone with this year,” he continued.” When you are examining something such as faith and illness, that is something that everyone can relate to.
“That was a point of emphasis for us this year. We wanted to make sure there was something that everyone will enjoy,” Alston said.

The three major productions included in the 2016-2017 season are: “The Sting of White Roses,” by Angelica Cheri; “The Right Reverend Dupree in Exile,” by Jackie Alexander; and “Maid’s Door,” by Cheryl Davis. Along with old favorites such as the annual production of “Black Nativity,” and celebrations for Kwanzaa and Martin Luther King’s birthday, the new season will also include a production by The Teen Theatre Ensemble that will address youth drug addiction.

During an interview with The Chronicle, Jackie Alexander, who was named artistic director early last week, said he was honored to be succeeding longtime director Mabel Robinson, who retired last December, and excited about the upcoming season.

Before joining the NCBRC, Alexander served as artistic director for the legendary Billie Holiday Theatre in New York. During his tenure, BHT was awarded the prestigious Mellon Grant funding award, nominated for 17 AUDELCO awards for excellence in black theatre, and took home the top prize nine times.

“It’s a real honor.” he said. “I have worked with the organization in the past, but to be succeeding someone like Mabel Robinson, honored is the only word that comes to mind.”
Alexander said although Robinson has retired, she is still one of the people he goes to when he needs advice.

“She is still around and still very active,” he said. “I am glad that I have someone with her experience on my team who I can go to when I need help.”

When discussing the future of the company, Alexander said he will look to widen the audience base and not only entertain the community, but serve them as well.

“We decided this year we wanted to do more than just entertain,” he said. “Faith plays a major role in this community and illness is something that everyone can relate to, no matter your race, gender, or cultural background.”
Alexander said another goal heading into the 2016-2017 season was to connect the company with other organizations in the area that provide helpful information and care for residents in need.

He noted during this year’s major productions, health care providers, health organizations, and other advocates will be on hand to discuss health concerns, provide information on treatment, and answer any questions the audience may have.

“We are trying to build a relationship with the people in this community,” Alexander said.

“A lot of people know what we do with the National Black Theatre Festival, but we want the community to know that we are here year round and that we have something for everyone,” he said. “I am very excited about the upcoming season and the future of the NBRC.”

The 2016-2017 season will officially kick off with the Marvtastic Bash Celebration on Sept. 24. The annual event and fundraiser is designed to celebrate the life and legacy of Larry Leon Hamlin.

The first major production will run Oct. 7-16 at the Arts Council Theatre located at 610 Coliseum Drive. For more information on the new season or to purchase tickets, call 336-723-2266 or visit

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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