‘Put on your purple and black; the festival is back!’

Photo by Tevin Stinson- Members of THE POINTE! Studio of Dance perform an excerpt from “The Fantasy and Adventure of Oz: The Dance Adaptation of ‘The Wiz’” during a press conference for the National Black Theatre Festival.

‘Put on your purple and black; the festival is back!’
June 08
06:00 2017

The stage has officially been set for the 2017 National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF).

During a press conference held in the Garden Terrace of the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Winston-Salem on Monday, June 5, the North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NCBRC) announced the theatrical productions, celebrity guests, and honorees for the 15th biennial festival designed to illuminate theatrical spirit and shine a light on extraordinary talents that would otherwise go unnoticed.

This year’s festival, scheduled to take place July 31-Aug. 5, guarantees to have something that everyone will enjoy no matter race, age or ethnic makeup. More than 140 different productions will be featured from a variety of theatre companies in North Carolina and across the country. From dramas, comedies, and musicals to choreoplays, the NBTF will have it all.

Media Relations Director Brian McLaughlin said every day they walked through the doors of the NCBRC, festival founder Larry Leon Hamlin challenged everyone to go beyond excellence, and this year the selection committee did just that. 

“This year, the selection committee went well above excellence choosing the shows, the celebrities and participants,” he said. “I am really excited.”

In March, it was announced that Anna Maria Horsford and Obba Babatunde, who star together on the CBS daytime soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful,” would serve as the celebrity co-chairs.

Other well known celebrities joining the co-chairs will include Louis Gossett Jr., Lamman Rucker, Ron Simmons, Timothy Douglas, Dominque Morisseau, Gregory Horton, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Antoniette Tynes, Alia Jones-Harvey, Angela Robinson, Ed Wheeler, Chris Cumberbatch, Cleopatra Soloman and Morocco Omari.

2015 co-chairs Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan will be returning to what is known as “black theatre holy ground.”

While the festival doesn’t officially begin until the celebrity guests make their entrance during the star-studded gala on July 31, this year the NBTF will feature a pre-show event starring actor and comedian Sinbad on Saturday, July 29, at the Fairgrounds Annex. NBTF didn’t forget about the youth; the TeenTastic portion of the festival is back and will be headlined by national recording artist DJ Luke.

Other fan favorites returning this year include the International Vendors Market, Midnight Poetry Jam, National Youth Talent Showcase, and the four-day International Colloquium, where Professor Babfemi Adeyemi Osofisan will deliver the keynote address. The theme of the colloquium is “The Black Theatre: Reflections of Citizenship, Access, Freedom and Criminal Justice.”

During the event, NCBRC Artistic Director Jackie Alexander announced the NBTF will also feature a component that examines health disparities within the African-American community. Alexander said the initiative will feature open discussions with doctors, breast cancer screenings, and other medical consultations.

Before wrapping up the press conference, those in attendance got a taste of what to expect during the festival when performers from THE POINTE! Studio of Dance & Elise Jonell Performance Ensemble from Greensboro performed excerpts from their dance adaptation of “The Wiz.”

After hearing the lineup of productions, celebrity guests, and other excitement, longtime festival supporter Alice Jones said she had already started a list of productions she plans to see. She said, “I can’t wait. It seems as if the festival gets better every year.

“I thought the 2015 was something, but it looks like they’ve outdone themselves,” laughed Jones. “I know I won’t be able to make it to all the productions, but I’ve started my list and I’ve got my purple and black ready.”

The National Black Theatre Festival was founded by Larry Leon Hamlin, who died in 2007, and is the international outreach program of the N.C. Black Repertory Company. Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, Hamlin’s widow, is the executive producer for the festival.

The festival has been known to bring thousands of national and international patrons, professionals and scholars to Winston-Salem to showcase African-American theatre, art and culture.

For more information on the festival and to see a complete list of productions and other events visit

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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