Painting the city purple and black

Painting the city purple and black
July 27
05:00 2017

2017 National Black Theatre Festival comes next week

With the countdown until the 2017 National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF) set at four days, the North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NCBRC), and the city of Winston-Salem are preparing for one of the biggest festivals in history. According to the Southeast Tourism Society, the NBTF is one of the top 20 events in the South. And every two years the festival is held, it seems to get bigger.

Over the weekend thousands of theater enthusiasts, and dozens of well-known celebrities will descend on what has become known as “black theater holy ground,” for eight days filled with plays, live performances, educational seminars, star-studded events, and other exciting events for everyone to enjoy.

Star comedian Sinbad will kick things off with the Pre-Festival Comedy Event on Saturday, July 29, at the Fairground Annex. The festival will officially begin with the Opening Night Awards Gala on Monday, July 31 inside the newly renovated Salem Ball Room of The Benton (formerly the Benton Convention Center).

Since the first festival held in 1989, the awards gala has been known as the most popular event. In 2015, more than 2,000 filed into the ballroom to get to see some of the biggest names in television, film, and theater. Earlier this year, Anna Maria Horsford and Obba Babatundé were announced as the celebrity co-chairs. The duo currently star on the day-time soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

Other celebrities expected to be in the city throughout the week include Louis Gossett Jr., Lamman Rucker, Ron Simmons, Timothy Douglas, Dominque Morisseau, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Alia Jones-Harvey, Antoniette Tynes and countless others.

During an interview in March, Babatundé, who attended the first festival hosted by festival founder Larry Leon Hamlin more than 30 years ago, said he was honored to be back at the festival carrying on the legacy.

He said, “It is important that we continue this legacy and educate the next generation on how important the arts can be.”

One of the many plays gaining a lot of early attention is “Little Girl Blue” produced by Onyx Qube Productions from right here in Winston-Salem. The production is based on the life of Nina Simone and her journey to become a star singer, songwriter, pianist and activist. Another play inspired by Nina Simone, “Black is the Color of My Voice,” also is being offered.

Onyx Qube isn’t the only local production company featured at the festival this year. The University of North Carolina School of the Arts, North Carolina A&T State University, and THE POINTE! Studio of Dance & Elise Jonell Performance Ensemble from Greensboro all have productions in the festival. And of course, the NCBRC will present its original productions, “The Sting of White Roses,” and “Maid’s Door.” The two dramas take a closer look at health and religion in the African-American community. In coordination with the plays, and a special event on Saturday, Aug. 5, NCBRC will present an initiative that will examine health disparities within the African-American community in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer. The initiative will include talk-backs after certain performances featuring doctors and caregivers, as well as breast cancer screenings, Alzheimer’s listening parties and medical consultations. (See Editorial on page A8.)

Ashley Academy for Cultural & Global Studies students will have an opportunity to show their musicals skills during the festival as well. Students from the school will be performing at The Benton on Friday, Aug. 4.

Other production companies featured in the festival include, Kedron Productions, The Layon Gray American Theatre Company, and Blackberry Productions from New York, The Langhart Communications Group from Washington, D.C., Culture Odyssey, Jazz Lion Productions, Brightside Lee Productions, and Ebony Repertory Theatre will represent the West Coast, while Tayo Aluko & Friends from the United Kingdom, and Spirit Sisters Productions from South Africa give the festival a global vibe. Companies from Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are also represented this year.

“I can tell you that selection committee this year went above excellence when choosing the productions for this years’ festival,” said festival media relations director Brian McLaughlin.

If stage productions aren’t your cup of tea, some special events are guaranteed to draw large crowds include the International Vendors Market, International Colloquium, Midnight Poetry Jam, the NBTF Film Fest, and the National Youth Talent Showcase. Legacy Trolley Tours, theatrical workshops and insights into the future National Black Theatre Hall of Fame and Museum also will be provided.

TeenTastic, a program sponsored by the city and the Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks Department is sure to be a hit as well.

For the more mature crowd, The Chronicle will be hosting two events during the festival as well. On Thursday, Aug. 3, Joe Robinson will headline the Jazz Festival at the Hawthorne Inn & Conference Center and the next day, record producer 9th Wonder will be back in his hometown for “The Get Down” at the same location.

The festival is scheduled to end at on Saturday, Aug. 5 with the star-studded parade that will begin at the front of the Marriot Hotel on 425 North Cherry St. and end at the Steven’s Center on Fourth St. around midnight.

Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke said, “we are so blessed to have this festival here in our city.

“Everybody knows my heart has nothing but warmness for the National Black Theatre Festival. Every two years the city manager and his staff, the mayor, and all the elected officials know what this festival does for the revenue in our city, and we are grateful.”

The National Black Theatre Festival is the international outreach program of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company. The festival was founded in 1989 by Larry Leon Hamlin, who died in 2007.

For more information on the festival visit and click on the NBTF tab.

About Author

Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors