Arts and Entertainment


What two major theater production companies promoted black theater?

In the wake of the Federal Theater Project, the American Negro Theater was established in Harlem, in 1940, by Abram Hill, Austin Briggs-Hall, Frederick O’Neal, and Hattie King-Reeves. Its objective was to authentically portray black life and give black actors and play wrights a forum for their talents. It provided a training ground for many black actors who later became stars on Broadway and in Hollywood, including Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier. In 1959 Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun opened in March and became one of the most successful all-black plays to appear on Broadway. Its director, Lloyd Richards, was the first black to appear on Broadway in over fifty years.

Perhaps most beneficial to black actors was the founding of the Negro Ensemble Company in New York in 1967. It was the brainchild of playwright/actor Douglas Turner Ward. Its continuing objective is to develop African-American managers, playwrights, actors, and technicians. The company has staged more than one hundred productions, including the work of forty black playwrights, and has provided work for countless aspiring and seasoned black actors.


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