There are lots of ways to support equity and inclusion on our Triangle stages. One way is to learn about black theater companies in our area, support black and brown artists and theater-makers by showing up to readings, workshops, and productions, or make a donation.
Here is a list of 12 black theater companies in and around the Triangle. This list spotlights solely theater producers and presenters.
Agape Theatre Project – The Agape Theatre Project is a spiritual and community based organization which produces and promotes original plays from predominantly African American playwrights while reaching across social, economic and racial boundary lines. The Agape Theatre Project is determined to provide a venue for aspiring actors /actresses, singers, directors and set designers of all ages, races and economic status so they can gain skills that can lead to meaningful careers and relationships while creating engaging, exciting, transforming theatre. This month, Agape’s Artistic Director Kenneth Hinton is launching a weekly live chat series, with Michelle Saunders, called Theatre Talk Live. Their season opener, Crowns, is scheduled for this August. For more information or to donate to the Agape Theatre Project, visit their website. Listen to RDU on Stage’s interview with Agape Theatre Project’s Kenneth Hinton and Phyllis Morrison here.
Black Arts Theatre Company (UNC – Chapel Hill) – The group was founded last year by Liz Howard (Class of 2021), with the hopes that students of color will have a place to learn more about theatre in order to feel more comfortable on the stage or behind the scenes. According to the group’s Facebook Page: “Black Arts Theatre Company was founded off the principles of prioritizing black stories and black bodies taking space in the theatre community. Inspired heavily by the Black Arts Movement, activism and revolutionary work quite literally live within everything we do.” For more information, visit the group’s Facebook Page. To make a donation, visit the group’s GoFundMe Page.
Black Ops Theatre Company – Founded in 2015 by JaMeeka Hollway-Burrell, this Durham-based theater company creates art by black artists for black artists. The company also hosted the first Bull City Black Theatre Festival in 2018. For more information, visit the Black Ops Theatre Company Facebook Page or visit https://www.jhbdirectedit.com/.
Black Poetry Theatre – Black Poetry Theatre (BPT) was the brainstorm of poet, spoken word artist, host, and playwright Joseph “Church da Poet” Churchwell. Black Poetry Theatre seeks to expand the understanding of spoken word and foster greater appreciation for the power of contemporary poetry by presenting it in traditional theatrical settings, raising cultural awareness through the use of the performing arts and telling necessary stories from within our communities. Donate to Black Poetry Theatre here.
Hay Now! Productions – Hay Now! Theatre Productions was birthed in Goldsboro, North Carolina in 2001 by Charlotte Webb. The mission of Hay Now! Productions is to produce quality productions that the Lord has given as a powerful message that will entertain, encourage, and bring hope, deliverance and salvation to God’s people for effective, positive change. For more information visit the company’s website.
Hidden Voices – Since 2003, Hidden Voices has collaborated with underrepresented communities to create award-winning works that combine narrative, mapping, performance, music, digital media, animation, and interactive exhibits to engage audiences and participants in explorations of difficult issues. Hidden Voices creates venues where stories from those rarely seen and heard by mainstream society take center stage. These life-changing stories provide insight about identity, place, and access. For more information, visit the organization’s website. Hidden Voices is a recipient of Manbites Dog Theater’s Ann Atwater Theater Award.
Li V Mahob – The mission of Li V Mahob Productions is to broaden the legacy of African American and African Diasporic cultures by using Black theatre to inform, challenge intellectually, promote belonging, provide joy, laughter and escape, and transform lives. The company presented Moses T. Alexander Greene’s Pooled at the National Black Theatre Festival last summer. For more information, visit the company’s Facebook Page. Watch the RDU on Stage interview with Moses T. Alexander Greene here.
Mike Wiley Productions – Mike Wiley Productions is a driving force in the development and promotion of documentary theatre. Led by actor and playwright, Mike Wiley, the company’s plays span the worlds of Emmett Till, Henry “Box” Brown, Jackie Robinson and more. Each work in the company’s repertoire is designed to inspire audiences to examine America’s racial history, teach the lessons of the past and encourage the application of these truths to the present. Wiley is scheduled to perform his play Blood Done Sign My Name, adapted from Tim Tyson’s book of the same name, at Temple Theatre in Sanford this October. Wiley is a recipient of Manbites Dog Theater’s Ann Atwater Theater Award. Watch RDU on Stage’s live chat with Mike Wiley here.
MOJOAA – Founded by Monet Noelle Marshall (Founding Artistic Director), MOJOAA believes that the African American community has rich stories that deserve to be told. Past productions include Escape to Freedom. The world premiere of Smoked by Thomas Brazzle was scheduled to open earlier this year but was postponed due to COVID-19. For more information or to donate, visit the company’s website. Marshall is a recipient of Manbites Dog Theater’s Ann Atwater Theater Award.
NCCU University Theatre – North Carolina Central University’s Department of Theatre is listed among the top ten Theatre Schools at a Historically Black College of University by HBCU-Colleges.com. This season, University Theatre produced A Need Fulfilled, Best of Enemies (in which they hosted Osha Gray Davidson, author of The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South), Blues for an Alabama Sky, and Dreamgirls. For more information visit the website. Listen to the RDU on Stage podcast interview with Osha Gray Davidson (recorded at NCCU University Theatre) here.
N.Y.I. Productions – Founded by performance artist, producer, director, and author Naima Yetunde Ince, is a theater and film entertainment company focused on producing independent films and theater that will encourage, educate, illuminate, and entertain diverse audiences by fusing the art of storytelling. Last year, Ince’s play Men Always Leave kicked off Black History Month at The Cary Theatre. Ince’s book Men Alway Leave is available on Amazon.
Prolific Epic Partners – Founded by Edith Berry, Prolific Epic Partners was created to promote and connect with other artists and showcase the fine art of acting, singing, dance, mime, or spoken word. On June 12th, Prolific Epic Partners will present its first virtual event, The Show Must Go On, featuring the artistry of several black performers, including Lynnette Barber (singer), Jordan Farrell (dancer), Shaun Harris (poetry/spoken word), Marcia Mattox (singer), and Bradley Simmons (drummer). For more information, visit the company’s Facebook Page.
Notable too (although outside the Triangle) is National Black Repertory Company. Founded in 1979 by Larry Leon Hamlin, the North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NC Black Rep) is the first professional Black theatre company in North Carolina. 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. The company was scheduled to present the world premiere of Nambi E. Kelley’s play Phenomenal Woman: Maya Angelou earlier this year. That production has been postponed due to COVID-19. In addition, the company produces the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem biennially. For more information or make a donation, visit the company’s website.
At the beginning of every year, The Triangle Friends of African American Arts, brings together several performing arts organizations to showcase the African American plays and musicals that will hit the stages during the upcoming season at Raleigh Little Theatre.
Each fall, North Carolina Theatre, Li V Mahob, and the Raleigh Arts Commission, in conjunction with the African American Cultural Festival, presents Nia Kuumba, an opportuntiy for both AEA and non-AEA theater artists to audition for Triangle-area theaters.
To learn more about black theater artists throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, visit https://blacktheatrematters.org/.
Categories: Features & Interviews