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Tell Me Something Good: What Should A Beginner Know About Black Theatre?

The magic and beauty of Black theatre is as enthralling and captivating as any other form of performance art. Unfortunately, many people have simply never been exposed to that magic. Some live in communities that have no Black theatre companies while others simply have never been introduced to the art. I decided to ask a few Black theatre veterans and fans, “If you had one thought to share with a novice regarding Black theatre, what would it be?”  The answers were both thoughtful and heartfelt.

When asked what she would share, Stephanie Lein Walseth, Director of Inquiry and passionate black theatre fan at Penumbra Theatre Company in St, Paul, Minnesota had this to say,

African American theatre has such a rich and vivid history that goes back as early as the 1800’s. People should understand that this is not a new art form. We have been doing this for hundreds of years and people should explore it.

Penumbra Theatre Company is currently running their Summer Institute for the next generation of artist activists, aged 13-18. Performances of the student’s original pieces will run throughout the month of August.

When speaking with Veronique LaShell MacRae, Executive Director for Act Trinity Creative Arts Services and Artistic Director for Act Trinity Performing Arts about information that should be considered essential for someone new to Black theatre, she had this to say,

Black Theatre is not merely entertainment, but a way that we share our stories and the way our voices are heard when it is normally quieted or hushed.

For a management perspective, I caught up with Keith Douglas, Chairman of RKD Talent Management and author of new self-help book, Artificial Intelligence. Keith had the following advice for talent aspiring to become a part of theatre.

Before getting involved in Black Theatre, do your research. Create something no one else has created and go from there. When you have something good, it’s undeniable. Study who is who. Be creators and not duplicators. Come to the table with something authentic and you can’t be denied. People want to become a part of theatre as followers, but sometimes talent alone isn’t enough. You must study first. Live theatre is more demanding then recording in a music studio or acting in front of a camera and you must always be on point. All of the greats, Cicely Tyson and Sidney Poitier. studied to perfect their craft.

Theatre fan and supporter, Gerald Moore summed it up beautifully on Facebook by saying,

Theatre is the height of artistic expression and we, as Black people, by way of our unrivaled flair, are perfect for this genre. In short, we got flava.

The common thread was a feeling of awe and respect for this powerful medium of artistic expression and social commentary. There are a multitude of things that could be shared with someone who is experiencing their first taste of the heady addiction that is Black theatre. I would tell anyone: don’t allow your inexperience to keep you from participating. It starts with your first show. Do a little research, purchase your ticket, and dive in. I promise it’s an experience you won’t regret!

I’d love to hear what you would share. Please drop your comments below!

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