From Akron School for the Arts at Firestone CLC

Black Theatre History, Barbara Ann Teer
Posted on 02/09/2022
Image of National Black TheatreWhen Barbara Ann Teer founded National Black Theatre in Harlem in 1968, the neighborhood was reeling from the riots that were wreaking havoc across many Black communities after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Her mission was to create a space to celebrate Black liberation through art. Teer was a classically trained dancer and actress who had toured with mostly white companies, but she knew that the best way to use the breadth of her talent was to create something of her own. That is why she decided to anchor herself at 125th and 5th Avenue, which she called the “most recognizable street in the world.” Her theatre still stands there today. Fifty years later, her daughter Sade Lythcott, the theatre’s CEO, carries the torch of creating space for Black people to get free.

Lythcott continues to build upon her mother’s rich legacy, which included world premieres by Amiri Baraka and Ntozake Shange. Along with artistic director Jonathan McCrory, Lythcott continues to put brave, revolutionary work in the limelight by staging works by performers and playwrights including Rain Pryor and Dominique Morisseau. The theatre houses “I AM SOUL” residencies for African American playwrights, directors and producers to help them develop new work or refine existing work. They are also crossing oceanic borders, creating National Black Theatre of Sweden and developing a musical in South Africa, all while raising capital to redevelop the Harlem space.

~ from "Black Theaters in the US: Thriving, Surviving, Thriving" by Kelundra Smith (American Theatre, February 26, 2019).

Image of National Black Theatre
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