Larry Leon Hamlin founded the National Black Theatre Festival® (NBTF) in 1989. His goal was to unite black theatre companies in America and ensure the survival of the genre into the next millennium. With the support of Dr. Maya Angelou, who served as the Festival's first Chairperson, the National Black Theatre Festival® was born. The '89 Festival offered 30 performances by 17 of America's best professional black theatre companies. It attracted national and international media coverage. According to The New York Times, "The 1989 National Black Theatre Festival® was one of the most historic and culturally significant events in the history of black theatre and American theatre in general." Over 10,000 people attended. It lived up to its theme: An International Celebration and Reunion of Spirit."
The NBTF enables Black theatre professionals to express cultural values and perspectives inherent to the African Diaspora candidly, dramatically and powerfully. Staged components of the NBTF foster the creation and sharing of new works while educational components document and preserve the history and traditions of the genre. Intense week-long interactions focus on renewing their commitment to preserve professional Black theatre and to revitalize its genre.
Held biennially, the NBTF attracts more than 65,000 people during the six-day event. The NBTF celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2009. The 2013 National Black Theatre Festival will be held in Winston-Salem, NC, July 29 - August 3. Festival highlights will include the Opening Night Gala, Celebrity Receptions, Readers' Theatre of New Works, National Black Film Fest, the Youth Celebrity Project, Midnight Poetry Jam, TeenTastic (Collaborative Teen Initiative), International Colloquium, International Vendor's Market, NBTF Fringe, Author’s Pavilion, Artists Networking Showcase, Workshops and Seminars, the Larry Leon Hamlin Solo Performance Series, and 35 Black theatre companies from across the country and abroad offering over 100 performances. More than 50 celebrities of stage, screen and television are expected to attend.
The North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NCBRC) was the first professional Black theatre company in the state when founded in 1979 by Larry Leon Hamlin. The Company’s mission summarized, “…the coordination, promotion and development of educational and cultural activities with emphasis on theatre arts,” continues to be the benchmark by which all projects are measured. The Company is universally recognized for its artistic and administrative achievements and its international outreach program, the National Black Theatre Festival® (NBTF).
NCBRC is committed to exposing diverse audiences to Black classics, the development and production of new works, improving artistic quality, and sustaining Black theatre internationally. Further, NCBRC was founded as a vehicle from which theatre professionals can earn a living through their craft.
NCBRC presents three to four productions annually featuring members of its ensemble or through collaborations with other theatre companies from around the country. The annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration and the holiday presentation of Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity have become two of the Company’s staples. The critically acclaimed NCBRC production, Mahalia, Queen of Gospel (written and directed by Mabel Robinson, the company’s Artistic Director) was a National Black Theatre Festival® showcase performance.
In addition to its productions, the NCBRC is involved in a broad range of community outreach programs and partnerships with the Forsyth County Public Library, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System, Urban League of Winston-Salem, The Children’s Theatre of Winston-Salem and other community organizations. The initial performance of Choices, in colloboration with the Forsyth Adolescent Health Coalition , a production of the NCBRC Teen Theatre further emphasize NCBRC’s mission to develop, train and showcase the theatrical talent of local teens.
The NCBRC is a non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors that includes prominent professionals from the community. It is a funded member of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and receives support from the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of North Carolina and the National Endowment for the Arts.