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Clinton Turner Davis

Theatrical director Clinton Turner Davis was born on April 9, 1949 in Washington, D.C. to Josephine Davis and Clinton Davis. Davis attended McKinley Technical High School, where he performed in plays and was president of the thespian club. He briefly attended Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana, but received his B.F.A. degree in theater from Howard University in 1972.

After being cast in Slaughterhouse Play at the Public Theatre in New York City, Davis began his career with the Negro Ensemble Company in 1972 as the production stage manager for The Great Macdaddy at St. Mark’s Playhouse. Throughout the 1970s, Davis served as the stage manager for a succession of Negro Ensemble Company productions, including Eden, Nevis Mountain Dew, Old Phantoms: A Play in Two Acts, The Sixteenth Round, Zooman and the Sign, Weep Not for Me and Home. In 1982, Davis made his directorial debut with Abercrombie Apocalypse: An American Tragedy at Westside Arts Theatre in New York City. Produced by Negro Ensemble Company and written by playwright Paul Carter Harrison, the off-Broadway drama starred Graham Brown, Timothy B. Lynch, and Barbara Montgomery. Davis would go on to direct Pearl Cleage’s first play, Puppetplay, at Theatre Four in New York City in 1982, and serve as the stage manager for Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music in 1983. Additional Negro Ensemble Company productions directed by Davis in the 1980s included Two Can Play, House of Shadows and That Serious He-Man Ball. In 1986, Davis co-founded the Non-Traditional Casting Project. He then directed his first August Wilson play, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, at Theatreworks in Palo Alto, California in 1989. At the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1993, Davis directed Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, which was the festival’s first produced work by an African American playwright. In 2013, he directed Charles Fuller’s One Night.... Davis was an associate professor of drama at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Davis served as a director for the American Young Playwrights Festival in New York City. He was a guest lecturer at Yale University, Dartmouth College, Columbia University, The Ohio State University, and Howard University; and directed theatrical productions at The Juilliard School, Brandeis University, and Colorado College. Davis received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Howard University, in addition to Dallas Theatre, Bay Area, and Drama-logue Critics’ Awards. In 2015, Davis received the Lloyd Richards Directors Award from the National Black Arts Festival.

Clinton Turner Davis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 25, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.045

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/25/2016

Last Name

Davis

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Turner

Schools

Charles E. Young Elementary School

Barnard Elementary School

Keene Elementary School

MacFarland Middle School

LaSalle-Backus Education Center

McKinley Technology High School

Hanover College

Hunter College

Howard University

First Name

Clinton

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

DAV38

Favorite Season

Spring

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

North Carolina

Favorite Quote

And there you have it. -- It speaks for itself.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

4/9/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

Theatrical director Clinton Turner Davis (1950- ) began his career with Negro Ensemble Company in 1972. He has directed numerous off-Broadway productions, including works by Pearl Cleage, Paul Carter Harrison and August Wilson.

Employment

Colorado College

University of Colorado - Colorado Springs

University of Wisconsin-Madison

University of California, Berkeley

Yale University

Ohio State University

Howard University

Apollo Theater

Colorado Festival of World Theatre/Market Theatre Tre

Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games

Taiyuan Puppet Theatre Artists Residency

Anna Deavere Smith Project

First National Symposium on Non-Traditional Casting

Favorite Color

Green, orange, black

Adam Wade

Adam Wade was born Patrick Henry Wade on March 17, 1935 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Pauline Simpson and Henry Oliver Wade, Jr. Wade was raised by his grandparents in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood and graduated from Westinghouse High School in 1952. He went on to attend Virginia State College, but married his high school sweetheart and soon left school in order to support his young family.

Wade started singing while still in high school. In 1958, he got his first opportunity to record for the Coed Records label in New York City. Two years later, he moved to New York full-time, and within six months, he was singing at the city’s most prestigious club, the Copacabana. Wade’s first hit, “Ruby,” was released that same year. He had three top ten singles in 1961: “Take Good Care of Her,” “The Writing on the Wall” and “As If I Didn’t Know.” Wade had less success after moving over to Epic Records later that year. In the late 1960s, he shifted his focus to acting. Wade began doing commercials and voice-over work. In 1970, he starred in the film Wanderlove. Wade had a number of supporting roles in films in the early 1970s, and he began to be featured on television, in soaps like The Guiding Light and black-oriented sitcoms like Sanford & Son and Good Times.

In 1975, Wade began hosting the television game show Musical Chairs, becoming the first black game show host. In 1978, he restarted his recording career. Wade also starred in an all-black production of Guys and Dolls in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1983, Wade and his wife, Jeree Wade, started their own production company called SONGBIRD’S UNLIMITED PRODUCTIONS. They have produced many African American historical revues, including the off Broadway musical, Shades of Harlem which opened at the Village Gate in New York in 1983 and recently stopped touring in 2005. In the 1980s and 1990s, Wade continued to appear regularly on stage and screen including an episode of Hill Street Blues. In April of 2007, Wade began the national tour of the hit Broadway play, The Color Purple, playing the role of “Old Mister Johnson”. Wade has also taken turns as a director, writer and producer. He has received Audelco and Clio Awards for his work.

Over forty years after leaving college, Wade returned to school, earning his B.A. degree from Lehman College and his M.A. degree from Brooklyn College. He works as an adjunct professor of speech and theater at Long Island University and Bloomfield College.

Wade has been married to his wife, Jeree, for twenty-five years.

Adam Wade was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 27, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.168

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/27/2007

Last Name

Wade

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Westinghouse Academy

Lehman College

Brooklyn College

Virginia State University

John Morrow Elementary School

Larimer School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Adam

Birth City, State, Country

Pittsburgh

HM ID

WAD01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Making Money Is A Habit And There's Nothing I Can Do About It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Birth Date

3/17/1935

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

East Orange

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Creamed Cauliflower

Short Description

Actor, singer, and stage producer Adam Wade (1935 - ) was the first African American to host a game show on television, "Musical Chairs." Wade recorded hit singles as a singer and his television acting credits included, "Sanford & Son," and, "Good Times."

Employment

'The Color Purple'

Jonas Salk polio research team

Kauffmann's

Coed Records

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:820,10:4145,57:4680,68:7150,79:9760,117:11152,145:12196,167:13327,183:19936,257:20440,265:25336,396:26704,424:48466,773:51476,812:56970,832:57795,846:73890,1050:74210,1055:75090,1070:75490,1076:81600,1154:84311,1191:92821,1301:106503,1559:115830,1705:116850,1719:137349,1954:138384,1978:140970,1983$0,0:1650,18:3525,46:3975,58:4425,77:4800,83:21995,370:23660,386:26213,417:28670,428:42878,601:43170,606:51635,709:52963,729:53710,739:54208,748:66310,830:66850,837:78884,943:79572,952:82760,1000:83210,1008:84335,1098:84785,1106:89477,1152:90045,1161:97074,1306:105630,1404
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Adam Wade's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Adam Wade lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Adam Wade describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Adam Wade describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Adam Wade describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Adam Wade describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Adam Wade recalls lessons from his paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Adam Wade describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Adam Wade describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Adam Wade recalls racial discrimination in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Adam Wade describes his involvement in civil rights protests

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Adam Wade describes his early pastimes

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Adam Wade recalls living in foster care

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Adam Wade remembers the entertainment of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Adam Wade remembers the Larimer School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Adam Wade describes his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Adam Wade describes the Negro League in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Adam Wade talks about basketball stars from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Adam Wade talks about basketball stars from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Adam Wade describes his athletic career at Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Adam Wade describes his experiences at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Adam Wade describes his works experiences at Virginia State College

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Adam Wade remembers his departure from Virginia State College

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Adam Wade describes his position on Jonas Salk's polio research team

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Adam Wade describes his early singing career

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Adam Wade remembers his first records for Coed Records, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Adam Wade describes his early singles, 'Tell Her For Me' and 'Ruby'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Adam Wade describes his transition to acting

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Adam Wade recalls his first commercial role

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Adam Wade remembers his mentor, Adolph Caesar

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Adam Wade describes his stage acting career in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Adam Wade remembers his film credits, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Adam Wade remembers his film credits, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Adam Wade reflects upon his favorite acting roles

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Adam Wade recalls his audition for the host role on 'Musical Chairs'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Adam Wade remembers preparing for his role on 'Musical Chairs'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Adam Wade describes the premise of 'Musical Chairs'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Adam Wade remembers acting in the 'Uptown Saturday Night' television pilot

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Adam Wade describes his acting career in the 1980s

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Adam Wade describes his decision to return to college

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Adam Wade describes the Chicago production of 'The Color Purple,' pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Adam Wade describes the Chicago production of 'The Color Purple,' pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Adam Wade describes the Chicago production of 'The Color Purple,' pt. 3

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Adam Wade talks about his interest in writing

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Adam Wade describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Adam Wade reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Adam Wade reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Adam Wade talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Adam Wade describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Adam Wade narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$1

DAStory

4$7

DATitle
Adam Wade recalls his first commercial role
Adam Wade recalls lessons from his paternal grandfather
Transcript
And so, I worked all around the country and all over the world, you know. And, learning, and then I started studying acting, and then I got into commercials. With the commercials, at first, it was kind of redundantly bad, if that's an expression I can use. Because everywhere I went they would say, "Aren't you [HistoryMaker] Adam Wade the singer?" I would say, "Yes." They say, "Well, we're not looking for singers today." They would throw that in my face, you know (laughter). And, I thought, "Let me drag this guy down to the basement in the dark and see if I can dust him up or something (laughter)." But, finally, 'cause I was gonna qui- I was gonna, I was gonna quite, "That's it, I'm going to give this up." But, Vernee Watson [Vernee Watson-Johnson] who played the mother of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith, she was also studying with the Al Fann Theatrical Ensemble and she encouraged me to go. She said, "Just try one more week, and if nothing happens," and she said, "But, you should--don't give up today." And, I didn't. And, two days later I got my first commercial for Getty gasoline [Getty Oil].$$Okay.$$That was terrific, and the commercial was in the car in Central Park [New York, New York], late at night, kissing this girl in the backseat of the car. I said, "Man, this is wonderful, (laughter)."$$You got paid for it (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) You guy, you guys gonna pay me for this, you know. And, it was Laura Greene who is beautiful anyway (laughter). It was like, "Oh, my, my, my (laughter)."$$So, what year is this, is this--?$$That was in nineteen- I guess, '70 [1970].$$Nineteen seventy [1970]. So, you get paid to kiss Laura Greene in the back of a car.$$In the backseat of a convertible for Getty gasoline, my, my, my (laughter), life is grand. Yeah.$$Okay. So, this--did the rest, did more work follow?$$Yes. Actually, it's like anything else, once the door opens, you know, you step across the threshold and you're in the game, you know.$So, tell me this, when you think back on what people have told you, I guess, about your parents [Pauline Nelson Simpson and Henry Wade, Jr.] and reflect on your [paternal] grandparents [Helen Jones Wade and Henry Wade, Sr.], who do you think you take after the most?$$Probably my grandfather in a, in a lot of instances. My approach to work. My approach to business. My grandfather, he believed in independence. And, when I was eleven, he said, "I'm gonna show you what independence is." He said, "And, freedom in America, helps you become independent. But, you can only become independent if you can earn money." So, he said, "Starting now, this is what you gonna do." So, I got a paper route. I was able to shine shoes. I took groceries home for people. In the summertime, he taught me how to shape hedges, how to paint, how to change tires, change the oil in a car. And, it was just one, one thing right after another. But, I was twelve or thirteen years old, I always had money. And, when I went away to college [Virginia State College; Virginia State University, Petersburg, Virginia], it was just so much fun for me because right away I lined up people's cars that I would wash. I would babysit. I could wax the floors, wash the windows. I could sew on buttons. I could iron. You know, so, all these little things, my grandfather taught me along the way, you know, so I always made money, you know.

Marjorie Moon

Theatre producer and director Marjorie Moon was born on May 14, 1946, in Kokomo, Indiana. For over thirty years, Moon served as the President and Executive Director of the Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, New York. Moon’s passion for theater began early as she spent time at the Karamu House Theater in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1964, Moon received her diploma from Collinwood High School; around the same time, she became one of the youngest members in the Cleveland Women’s Orchestra. In 1968, Moon earned her B.A. degree from Ohio University and went on to complete her studies at Temple University in 1970 with an M.A. degree.

Moon began her professional career teaching acting at Hampton University. Moving to New York in 1973, Moon became the Executive Director of the Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, a theatre that has provided African American playwrights, set-builders, and other creative individuals an arena to work and nurture their talents.

As a director, Moon has worked on several plays, including Weldon Irvine’s Young, Gifted and Broke, which ran for eight months and won four prestigious AUDELCO Awards. Moon also directed a production of Over Forty at the New Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia. As a producer, Moon produced more than 150 productions. In 1981, Inacent Black, a play originally produced at the Billie Holiday Theatre, opened on Broadway, starring Melba Moore.

Moon received several awards for her work in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. In 2005, the Billie Holiday Theatre received a $900,000 grant for its line-up of new plays.

Accession Number

A2007.030

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/25/2007

Last Name

Moon

Maker Category
Schools

Collinwood High School

Rosedale Elementary School

Ohio University

Temple University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Marjorie

Birth City, State, Country

Kokomo

HM ID

MOO09

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Indiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

We Can Do It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/14/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue (Chicken)

Short Description

Stage director and stage producer Marjorie Moon (1946 - ) served as the president and executive director of the Billie Holiday Theatre, in addition to directing and producing several plays.

Employment

Hampton Institute

Billie Holiday Theatre

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:1999,26:2363,31:2909,38:4183,98:5730,118:6367,127:8551,157:9279,166:12191,270:12555,275:13192,283:30090,518:30430,523:32215,555:32810,563:33150,568:33490,573:34765,597:35275,604:35615,609:38760,663:42460,673:44431,708:44723,713:48446,800:48884,807:58977,897:59253,902:63138,966:74282,1049:83276,1205:88800,1247:91922,1287:92287,1293:92725,1300:96375,1378:97397,1396:98200,1409:99003,1434:100317,1479:105949,1527:106730,1549:111842,1661:115381,1677:116051,1695:116453,1702:132055,1885:132790,1893:133210,1898:134155,1908:139741,1954:140009,1959:140277,1964:140880,1974:144431,2048:145034,2058:147100,2067:147867,2090:150794,2114:151478,2124:152314,2138:153074,2150:153378,2155:153682,2160:153986,2165:154898,2186:156646,2230:157330,2240:158698,2260:159078,2266:159458,2272:159990,2281:160446,2288:169030,2356:171172,2403:181600,2484:182230,2490:185470,2498:187390,2527:187710,2532:188270,2541:188750,2549:192990,2635:193310,2640:193950,2649:195070,2669:202656,2816:203415,2830:205899,2869:207072,2892:211695,2997:212178,3006:212523,3012:212799,3017:217348,3030:217924,3039:222604,3121:223900,3141:224476,3152:225412,3169:228724,3222:229156,3229:229444,3234:229948,3243:235490,3284:235866,3289:239626,3353:252920,3515:253268,3520:256052,3557:260666,3598:261550,3608:262502,3649:263046,3659:263658,3669:263930,3674:264270,3680:265426,3722:266378,3739:266990,3751:267942,3772:268758,3783:269030,3788:269506,3796:269846,3809:272838,3863:273110,3869:273722,3884:273994,3889:274402,3896:275422,3924:284195,4021:284870,4031:286081,4045:286649,4056:287217,4066:288708,4091:288992,4096:289702,4108:289986,4113:290412,4121:290696,4126:298432,4188:300310,4208$0,0:525,10:825,15:2925,61:3525,70:4350,82:5550,110:6225,120:6600,126:12300,256:14625,307:15000,313:15900,338:26000,440:26630,450:28800,491:29080,496:30130,518:34960,679:35380,687:35660,692:35940,697:36290,707:42656,807:44800,847:49423,952:49959,961:52907,1034:55051,1084:55386,1090:55989,1101:65614,1222:66787,1277:68719,1318:69271,1327:70168,1347:71410,1383:73756,1426:77965,1519:78724,1537:80311,1558:80725,1565:91530,1683:91850,1688:93450,1719:93770,1724:94170,1730:94570,1736:99130,1822:100010,1835:102650,1887:103850,1969:105530,1994:105930,2000:113709,2086:120790,2178:121155,2184:126265,2303:126849,2318:132766,2349:133096,2355:134614,2379:134878,2384:135340,2393:140496,2499:145084,2579:145528,2586:148710,2610:149394,2620:151142,2659:151522,2665:153802,2703:158970,2780:159730,2794:160034,2799:160338,2804:161022,2815:162390,2857:163074,2874:164974,2903:165354,2909:170178,2939:170724,2970:174312,3088:174936,3098:175716,3109:177354,3131:179460,3158:181722,3196:183516,3223:184530,3239:188274,3298:188742,3305:189132,3311:190692,3338:195460,3376:195835,3382:196210,3388:207080,3493:208016,3507:210752,3546:211040,3551:211760,3564:224216,3779:230350,3813:230622,3818:231234,3828:231710,3836:232662,3853:232934,3858:233682,3872:235150,3886
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Marjorie Moon's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Marjorie Moon lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Marjorie Moon describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Marjorie Moon describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Marjorie Moon describes her father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Marjorie Moon describes her paternal aunt

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Marjorie Moon talks about her parents' education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Marjorie Moon describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Marjorie Moon recalls attending churches in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Marjorie Moon recalls attending churches in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Marjorie Moon talks about her sister

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Marjorie Moon describes her childhood holidays

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Marjorie Moon remembers her exposure to theater at Rosedale Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Marjorie Moon describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Marjorie Moon recalls the development of her racial identity

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Marjorie Moon remembers playing the double bass in junior high school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Marjorie Moon recalls playing double bass in the Cleveland Women's Orchestra

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Marjorie Moon remembers Collinwood High School in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Marjorie Moon remembers her bass audition for Ohio University

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Marjorie Moon recalls the African American actors at Cleveland's Karamu House

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Marjorie Moon describes her interest in psychology

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Marjorie Moon recalls the image of Emmett Till in Jet magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Marjorie Moon describes her experiences of discrimination in Athens, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Marjorie Moon recalls the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Marjorie Moon recalls her refusal to be cast in a stereotyped role at Ohio University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Marjorie Moon remembers her aspiration to become an actress

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Marjorie Moon recalls teaching at Hampton Institute

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Marjorie Moon remembers the murder of her brother-in-law

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Marjorie Moon recalls her decision to move to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Marjorie Moon remembers her auditions in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Marjorie Moon recalls becoming the director of the Billy Holiday Theatre

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Marjorie Moon recalls directing 'Sunshine Loving' at the Billie Holiday Theatre

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Marjorie Moon talks about African American theater in the 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Marjorie Moon remembers directing 'Inacent Black and the Five Brothers'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Marjorie Moon recalls her Broadway production of 'Inacent Black and the Five Brothers'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Marjorie Moon remembers closing 'Inacent Black and the Five Brothers'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Marjorie Moon describes New York City's African American theater companies

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Marjorie Moon describes the Coalition of Theaters of Color

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Marjorie Moon describes actors who came out of the New York City theater community

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Marjorie Moon describes the role of the Billie Holiday Theatre

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Marjorie Moon talks about African American stage technicians

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Marjorie Moon reflects upon her mission at the Billie Holiday Theatre

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Marjorie Moon describes the planned renovations to the Billie Holiday Theatre

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Marjorie Moon talks about the name of the Billie Holiday Theatre

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Marjorie Moon talks about 'Free the Peoples'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Marjorie Moon talks about the playwrights whose work she staged

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Marjorie Moon describes the Billie Holiday Theatre's community programming

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Marjorie Moon talks about playwright T.R. Riggins

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Marjorie Moon talks about the community of Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Marjorie Moon describes the opportunities for African Americans on Broadway

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Marjorie Moon talks about Ramona King's play, 'Steal Away'

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Marjorie Moon reflects upon her career at the Billie Holiday Theatre

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Marjorie Moon talks about nontraditional casting

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Marjorie Moon shares her hopes for the Billie Holiday Theatre

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

5$6

DATitle
Marjorie Moon recalls the development of her racial identity
Marjorie Moon talks about the playwrights whose work she staged
Transcript
Before we move on to your high school years [at Collinwood High School, Cleveland, Ohio], can you tell me when it was that you remember either being told or becoming aware that you were black, in a sense that, you know, you're black (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Oh I know exactly when, I was six years old at Rosedale [Rosedale Elementary School, Cleveland, Ohio]. I had two friends, Rhonda [ph.] and Kenneth [ph.]. And every May 23rd, I'll wake up and say, "Oh Happy Birthday Rhonda and Kenneth." And--and they were white. And, so one day we were walking home from school. They lived two blocks from where I lived and so we could walk the same way. And about six really big guys, I think they were high schoolers. You know, when you're six years old, you don't have to be but so old to be bigger than what we were at the time. And they surrounded us. They surrounded us and it looked like they had a gun. I--I really didn't know what a real gun looked like, so. "Ah, okay. We'll keep the nigger, let's let these other two go. We'll keep the nigger." I got so happy, I got so happy, "Oh my name's Margie [HistoryMaker Marjorie Moon], I'm not nigger. My name's Margie. You got the wrong person." You know, and it was the oddest thing, and I was convinced they had the wrong person until they left. I mean, they--in other words I guess it was no fun for them because I was not intimidated, scared by what they were saying, because I thought they had the wrong person, you know. And then, Rhonda and Kenneth said to me as we were walking, as they left us and we walked on--continued to walk on, "You know, Margie we don't think of you as any different. You know, you--you've always been our friend, we don't--." I'm thinking, what are they talking about? And so I went home, "Mommy [Ruth Black Moon] what is a nigger?" Six years old. And the shame. I mean, my friends knew something about me that I didn't know. And--and mother also knew something about it and I'm--I'm not--I'm saying, my goodness, it--it makes you feel extremely insecure because there--there's something that--there's something about you and somehow you feel like it's just you when you're that young too, you know. And--and there's something about you. And the other thing that was really kind of--kind of horrible was that, my mother is very fair. And my father [William Moon] is a little browner then myself and oh, more, yeah browner than me. And so, then I began to get into the color thing. Just instantaneously, all of that began to seem to happen and I became aware of it. And it--it--it really is, it's unfortunate. It's a very negative thing.$$How did you become over the color thing, what--explain it to me?$$Well--$$That she was lighter, so she was better than he was because he was darker?$$Well, at least she was getting closer to the, to the color of choice obviously where that was favored. I mean, you know, what did I know? I mean, I'm trying to understand this and I'm not sure why she's like that and my father's different, you know. And--and my mother, in her family too, she has a--her older sister and she look alike, and then she has two very ebony other sisters. And so, I--I began to--to wonder what that was about. And her father [Frank Black] was very fair and had--when I see him he'd have this gray beard and this gray hair, and I thought he was Santa Claus. I mean, you know, I mean in other words he just--because he looked almost white. So, those things, you know, kids, it's amazing what they can think and, and starts germinating. That's why we gotta work with them when they are young and--and try to bring out questions they might have, because you never know what they're thinking and how they can be thinking wrong. But that was a real turning point, which obviously I remember it because there--there was, you know, there was that fear factor that was in there when they first surrounded us as children. And then I'm thinking, what do they mean, they don't see me as different because I had never seen myself as different. It's amazing that perception, that gets in your head and it can really do some damage. Yeah. So, yeah, I--I remember (laughter).$We didn't talk about, and I guess we should, sort of African American playwrights that you may have helped to cultivate their talents? I know you made--or you can just tell me some of the people you've worked with to help cultivate their talents.$$Okay. Well, Joyce Sylvester. She--she's been around for about five years in terms as a playwright and we've done all of her plays, which have been wonderful. She has a unique pulse to the community which is what we're really looking for. Well before that, Samm-Art Williams who wrote 'Home' and even received a Tony [Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre] nomination for 'Home.'$$Right, and 'Home' was what got you back on your feet after the Broadway?$$No, we didn't do 'Home' after that.$$No? Okay.$$No, no, no, no. We have not done 'Home' actually. But, we did two plays of his before he was even--we did his first productions period in New York [New York]. He hadn't been produced anywhere else before Billie Holiday Theatre [New York, New York]. So, and so, he went on, not only did he do 'Home' and got all of those awards and accolades, but he went on to Hollywood and became a television producer with 'Martin,' 'Hangin' with Mr. Cooper,' 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' ['The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'] and just on and on and on. And he's--he's a prolific writer. We've done plays of his since, but we were the first to do his. Another one, John, who's left is John Henry Redwood, wrote 'Old Settler' ['The Old Settler], and that was done in the city and that was also done by HBO and Debbie Allen and Phylicia, her sister, [HistoryMaker] Phylicia Rashad were the two older women in 'Old Settler.' And Debbie also directed it. Well, we did his very first play, which was 'Mark VIII:xxxvi' [John Henry Redwood] and we did that in 1986. He and his wife came to visit me and they said that they wanted to rent the theater [Billie Holiday Theatre, New York, New York]. And I don't know there was something that caught me about them and I said, "Well, why don't you let me read the play?" And so I did and it was about switching babies at birth. Now this had not been in the news at all, and there was a white family and black family. The white family was a senator and his wife, and the black family was a poor family. It was really, it was quite dynamic. It really--you heard about it a lot now, but back then you really hadn't. And so, we did it. It was the first time it had ever been produced and I'm very proud of that. And we produced a couple of others of his since then. And he's passed a couple years ago, but he was a wonderful writer. Weldon Irvine, I must've done about fifteen of his plays, musicals, 'Over Forty.' The book was by Celeste Walker, but Weldon wrote the lyrics and the music, and we took that around the country for a little bit. It was--it was truly wonderful, about women fearing becoming forty years old.$$It's called 'Over Forty' the title, yeah?$$'Over Forty,' yeah, yeah. And Cliff Roquemore, we did his 'Lotto' ['Lotto: Experience the Dream,' Cliff Roquemore] about a family in California winning ten thou- $10 million. A rags-to-riches story that the audience loved, course people love rags-to-riches stories all the time. Did a play that I was really proud to do and it was really quite poignant and dynamic, it's called 'Boochie' [Mari Evans], it was about child abuse. And it was about the--why a woman allowed her man to correct (air quotes), abuse her child. The psychological dynamics in that relationship that she felt that she was supporting him and she didn't wanna tear him down and she wanted to give him the authorization to be a constructive figure to her child in her child's life. And it was--it was dynamic. And--so, and we got to have discussions afterwards. It was a very important subject matter and I was very pleased to be able to do it.

Stephanie Hughley

Stephanie Smith Hughley is executive producer and co-founder of the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the most important African American arts festivals in the world and founded in 1987. Hughley served as its Artistic Program Director until 1992. She returned to Atlanta in 1999 to revive the failing and debt stricken organization. Under her leadership, the festivals have expanded from a bi-annual summer arts festival to a yearly ten-day festival held during the month of July and a year round African arts cultural teaching institution, which includes an annual curriculum for teachers and students.

Hughley was born in Canton, Ohio to Lillie Mae and Robert Lee Smith, Sr. on October 16, 1948. She attended Kent State University with aspirations of becoming a medical doctor. While at Kent State, she was introduced to dance. Hughley moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1969 where she completed her studies and entered the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts. Hughley obtained her B.S. degree in biology from Northeastern University and her M.Ed. from Antioch College at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In 1971, Hughley became a dance instructor and taught at Smith College as well as Northeastern, Brandeis and Harvard Universities. She danced with the Dance Theatre of Boston and the National Center of Afro American Artists. In 1976, Hughley moved to New York City, auditioned for a part in the Broadway production of Bubbling Brown Sugar, studied dance at the Alvin Ailey School of Dance and the Little Red School House and apprenticed under the directorship of Ashton Springer in order to expand her theatre management skills. She became General Manager of the Negro Ensemble Company in 1982. Hughley managed and supervised the production of over twelve Broadway shows including, Your Arms Are Too Short To Box With God, Ain’t Misbehavin’ andBubbling Brown Sugar and toured the United States and Europe as the Company Manager of For Colored Girls.

In 1992, Hughley was Theatre and Dance Producer for the Atlanta Committee for the Cultural Olympiad for the 1996 Olympic Games. In 1996, she was commissioned to serve as Vice President of Programs for the newly formed New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Hughley returned to Atlanta in 1999 to become head of the Black Arts Festival.

Hughley serves on the boards of the Metro Atlanta Arts and Culture Coalition (MAACC) and the Atlanta Convention Center and Visitors Bureau. She has been a member of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers since 1977.

Hughley resides in the Atlanta area with her surviving son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.

Accession Number

A2006.014

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/13/2006 |and| 2/15/2006

Last Name

Hughley

Maker Category
Schools

Mckinley High School

Washington Elementary School

Henry S. Martin Elementary School

Hartford Avenue School

Kent State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Stephanie

Birth City, State, Country

Massillon

HM ID

HUG05

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Sapello Island, Georgia

Favorite Quote

All Things Work Together For The Good Of Those That Love The Lord And Are Called According To His Purpose.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

10/16/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Salad

Short Description

Arts administrator and stage producer Stephanie Hughley (1948 - ) co-founder of the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the most important African American arts festivals in the world. Hughley is also a dancer and has taught dance at several universities. Hughley managed and supervised the production of over twelve Broadway shows including, Your Arms Are Too Short To Box With God, Ain't Misbehavin' and Bubbling Brown Sugar.

Employment

Negro Ensemble Company

Theatre Management Associates

New Jersey Performing Arts Center

Cultural Olympiad

National Black Arts Festival

Favorite Color

Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Stephanie Hughley's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Stephanie Hughley lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Stephanie Hughley describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Stephanie Hughley describes her father, Robert Smith, Sr.

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Stephanie Hughley describes segregation in Canton, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Stephanie Hughley describes her maternal grandmother, Lola Bradley

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Stephanie Hughley describes her maternal grandfather's farm, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Stephanie Hughley describes her maternal grandfather's farm, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Stephanie Hughley recounts stories of World War II and the Great Depression

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Stephanie Hughley describes her paternal grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Stephanie Hughley remembers her maternal grandmother's house

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Stephanie Hughley describes holidays with her family

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Stephanie Hughley lists her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Stephanie Hughley describes the neighborhoods she grew up in

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Stephanie Hughley describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Stephanie Hughley describes her childhood community in Canton, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Stephanie Hughley speculates about her paternal grandmother's heritage

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Stephanie Hughley remembers the schools she attended

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Stephanie Hughley recalls her paternal grandmother's warning about skin color

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Stephanie Hughley remembers the support of her black teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Stephanie Hughley describes her childhood personality

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Stephanie Hughley recalls her family's trips to Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Stephanie Hughley describes her childhood hopes and aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Stephanie Hughley talks about her sister, Sharon Smith Curle

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Stephanie Hughley describes her childhood role models

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Stephanie Hughley describes the sports culture of Canton, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Stephanie Hughley remembers aspiring to be a doctor

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Stephanie Hughley recalls her love of dancing

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Stephanie Hughley recalls attending Kent State University in Kent, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Stephanie Hughley describes the political climate of Kent State University

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Stephanie Hughley remembers the Black Power movement

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Stephanie Hughley recalls the black student union at Kent State University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Stephanie Hughley recalls Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Stephanie Hughley talks about her racial identity

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Stephanie Hughley explains why she moved to Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Stephanie Hughley describes her life in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Stephanie Hughley describes her education in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Stephanie Hughley recalls beginning her career in dance

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Stephanie Hughley recalls moving to New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Stephanie Hughley explains how she earned a living early in her dance career

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Stephanie Hughley remembers the dance classes she took in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Stephanie Hughley recalls her decision to become a manager on Broadway

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Stephanie Hughley remembers working with the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Stephanie Hughley describes the differences between producer and manager

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Stephanie Hughley recalls being asked to manage 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Stephanie Hughley describes touring with 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Stephanie Hughley remembers marrying her second husband

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Stephanie Hughley recalls her theatrical productions' international tours

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Stephanie Hughley remembers managing the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Stephanie Hughley shares the history of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Stephanie Hughley recalls becoming the Negro Ensemble Company's general manager

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Stephanie Hughley remembers her decision to move to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Stephanie Hughley recalls her impression of Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Stephanie Hughley remembers moving to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Stephanie Hughley recalls becoming the National Black Arts Festival program manager

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Stephanie Hughley explains what she learned while planning the National Black Arts Festival

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Stephanie Hughley's interview, session 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Stephanie Hughley describes the creation of the National Black Arts Festival

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Stephanie Hughley describes her friend, LaTanya Richardson

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Stephanie Hughley remembers contributors to the National Black Arts Festival

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Stephanie Hughley remembers the National Black Arts Festival parade

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Stephanie Hughley remembers the success of the first National Black Arts Festival

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Stephanie Hughley recalls the artists at the first National Black Arts Festival

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Stephanie Hughley explains the difference between African and European dance

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Stephanie Hughley describes the challenges faced by the National Black Arts Festival

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Stephanie Hughley remembers working on the 1996 Cultural Olympiad

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Stephanie Hughley narrates her photographs

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Stephanie Hughley remembers introducing homeless students to a Norwegian poet

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Stephanie Hughley remembers the dance troupes she recruited for the Cultural Olympiad

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Stephanie Hughley remarks upon the variation in African arts

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Stephanie Hughley remembers the Celebrate Africa festival, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Stephanie Hughley remembers the Celebrate Africa festival, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Stephanie Hughley recalls consulting on the New Jersey Performing Arts Center

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Stephanie Hughley remembers leaving the Cultural Olympiad planning committee

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Stephanie Hughley shares her memories of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Stephanie Hughley describes the ethnic communities of New Jersey

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Stephanie Hughley describes the New Jersey Performing Arts Center's success

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Stephanie Hughley remembers organizing the Africa Exchange program

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Stephanie Hughley recalls organizing festivals for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Stephanie Hughley talks about the importance of cultural exposure

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Stephanie Hughley remembers returning to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Stephanie Hughley recalls returning to the National Black Arts Festival

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Stephanie Hughley describes the educational component of the National Black Arts Festival

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Stephanie Hughley describes her hopes for the National Black Arts Festival

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Stephanie Hughley remembers the September 11 attacks

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Stephanie Hughley talks about the effects of the September 11 attacks

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Stephanie Hughley remembers the Diverse Voices, Collective Spirit holiday celebration

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Stephanie Hughley talks about the frequency and location of the National Black Arts Festival

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Stephanie Hughley recalls the themes of recent National Black Arts Festivals

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Stephanie Hughley talks about the National Black Arts Festival's twentieth anniversary

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Stephanie Hughley talks about celebrating African American pioneers

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Stephanie Hughley talks about her family's white ancestry

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Stephanie Hughley explains why she decided to share her story

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Stephanie Hughley offers advice to young people

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Stephanie Hughley describes her hopes for the African American community

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Stephanie Hughley describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Stephanie Hughley reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Stephanie Hughley talks about the importance of The HistoryMakers

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Stephanie Hughley narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

5$8

DATitle
Stephanie Hughley recalls being asked to manage 'For Colored Girls'
Stephanie Hughley explains what she learned while planning the National Black Arts Festival
Transcript
Okay, so what happened next? Where did you go from there (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Well, here I was in this union [Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers (ATPAM)]. And this young woman by the name of [HistoryMaker] Ntozake Shange had written a play called 'For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf.' And they had taken the play from California, I think they found it in the San Francisco [California] area, in the Bay area [San Francisco Bay Area, California], and brought it down to first Henry Street [Henry Street Settlement, New York, New York], Woodie King [HistoryMaker Woodie King, Jr.] was involved with it. And then they were--then they took it to The Public Theater [New York, New York] to the Shakespeare Festival [New York Shakespeare Festival; Shakespeare in the Park], Joseph Papp was the producer there. And he was working with a general manager by the name of Manny Azenberg [Emanuel Azenberg]. And they decided to take the show to Broadway. But Ntozake had told them that she wanted a black woman company manager. Well they weren't able to--there were, there were none 'cause the only black woman company manager [Carolyne A. Jones] was doing 'Bubbling Brown Sugar' [Loften Mitchell]. And they opened the show on Broadway and they decided that they were gonna take a company out on the road. And Ntozake told them that they were absolutely not taking out that company without a black woman manager. So I had met Joe Papp. He was certainly the impresario of Broadway. And he and Manny Azenberg took me lunch one day and asked me would I consider taking this show out on the road as the company manager. And I said, "Well, I'm only an apprentice." And they said, "Well, we'll hold the contract, we're in the union, we'll hold the contract. And you'll go take the show out." Now my union got wind of this and they were like you can't take a show out on the road, you're only an apprentice, you've only been an apprentice for a year and you have to apprentice for three years. And Joe and Manny, they said, "Listen, they can't stop you." And so I decided to take the show. So I went out on the road with the first national company. I got trained in New York [New York] at the Broadway theater, the Booth Theatre. And we had auditions there and hired all the women. But I went out on the road as the first, the first national company of 'For Colored Girls.' I was the company manager. It was funny too because at first I said to them, "Are you paying me the full salary?" And they said, "Well, but you're not really in the union." And I said, "But I'm doing the work." And they said "Okay."$$So they paid you.$$They paid me the full salary. And my goodness, this was in 1977. And you know my goodness, they were making like, I forgot like seven hundred dollars a week. Good grief, I went from poverty to, you know, to the big house.$$You're not joking. That was (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) That was serious.$$--good money.$$Those girls were making more than that. The actresses were making outrageous sums of money, plus per diem, you know, two, three hundred dollars a week per diem. So we were all in heaven. And the show as a phenomena. It--nobody knew what it was. We went all over this country, to all the A cities, Washington [D.C.], Philadelphia [Pennsylvania], Chicago [Illinois], Detroit [Michigan], you know, Wilmington [Delaware], all over the country. And nobody knew what it was. They couldn't pro- they couldn't even pronounce the title. We would go to the box office and collect all of the names. The box office treasurer would write down the names of all the names people, 'For Black Girls who Killed Themselves,' you know. But we had a phenomenal company.$$And how long did you stay on the road with it?$$We stayed on the road--well I stayed on the road with them over a year. And then I actually met my second husband [Thomas Hughley, Jr.] touring through Chicago. And one of the lead actresses, LaTanya Richardson, introduced me to him. They had gone to Spelman [Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia] and Morehouse [Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia] together. And I met him and he proposed to me and I left the company and actually married him some months later. But that was a pretty amazing tour. It was, it was a phenomena, that's all I can tell you. In every city we made more money. It was outrageous.$You talk about finally getting connected to my African centeredness. I think the National Black Arts Festival did that more than anything else in my life.$$And how so would you say that occurred?$$Well, there was a man by the name of Worth Long who lives here still.$$And it's Worth, W-O-R-T.$$W-O-R-T-H Long, L-O-N-G. He has since been named a Heritage [National Heritage Fellowships] award winner from Smithsonian [sic. National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)]. But I met Worth Long, and Worth Long started to teach me about African American history. He took me over to the Sea Islands. He took me down in the backwoods of Mississippi and Alabama. I met people that were playing spoons and one string guitars and I learned about shape note singing and lining in--$$What note singing is that?$$Shape note singing and lining in hymn singing. Shape notes, do, do, do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do, do-do, re-re, you know, shape note singing. I learned about lining in hymn singing, that that's what my [maternal] grandfather [Ciscero Bradley] and all those people down in--on that Alabama farm in Luverne, outside of Luverne, Alabama. Rural route box number. And that old church when one person would start singing--and then everybody would sing right behind him. I learned so many things from Worth Long. From folks at the Smithsonian Institution [Washington, D.C.], you know, about African American history. I knew my grandmothers, but I didn't know my grandmothers' grandmothers', and where they came from, and, and I didn't under--I didn't know about the Great Migration, you know. I didn't know about--I didn't even care to know about all that history going back and how a slave owner had raped the enslaved women in the house and, and how my family went from dark, dark black to white. I didn't even care about any of that until I got into the National Black Arts Festival and I started to meet the people who were rooted and grounded in the history. And I was amazed at how many people who live in Atlanta [Georgia] have never been to the Sea Islands. They didn't know about the African retention of culture in those Sea Island people. And so I saw this incredible opportunity to bridge Africa and African American history in a way that had not been really done in this country before, through music, dance, theater, film, visual art, performing art, literary art and folk art. People came from all over the world, and they came from all over this country. And they converged around this incredible celebration. I started working March or March of 1987 and we did the first festival in July of 1988. It was the end of July, beginning of August. And boy, we decided the first festival was gonna focus on the Harlem Renaissance. And it was funny because when they decided to call the National Black Arts Festival, the only thing I would have still done differently with that title. A lot of people say you shouldn't call it black, you should, you know. Only thing I would have changed would have been the International Black Arts Festival. Because there's no way that you could tell the story about African American people and not begin in Africa. So I have these incredible opportunities to travel to Africa for the first time. I got off that plane and kissed the ground in Ghana and in Senegal where I saw the people who were looking like my [paternal] grandmother's [Zella Smith] people who I decided were from Sapelo Island in Georgia, all the way up to today. I saw the continuum of African people, and I realized that we as African Americans, we were the most ignorant about it all because we had been so brainwashed into believing that Africa was the dark continent. When I got there, it was the brightest continent I'd ever seen in all of my travels. It was the most colorful, the most brilliant, the most, the most incredible sounds and smells and, and I realized that this festival was important. That it was important for us to do it. It was important for us to have this moment in time to go back and reflect and, and build the bridge. And build the bridge not only from African to this country, but from this country into our everyday lives. To bring the art back to the people. And I realized that art was just this very marginalized term in this country. That art was a picture on a wall. An artist was a singer or a painter. But in fact art was just one expression of culture, and that this was really about culture and creativity. If you boil it all down to its basic common denominator, it's about culture and creativity. 'Cause everybody has culture and everybody has creativity. And art was just one manifestation of those two things. And so for me you know, that's why I took on the National Black Arts Festival and I guess that's why I'm still here.

Robert Hooks

Distinguished actor Robert Hooks was born Bobby Dean Hooks on April 18, 1937, in Washington, D.C. He was the youngest of five children. Hooks’ father died while working on a railroad track. His mother supported the family by working as a seamstress. Hooks attended Stevens Elementary School. He performed in his first play, The Pirates of Penzance, at the age of nine. After graduating from Francis Junior High School, Hooks attended Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C. His mother remarried and moved the family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Hooks attended his first integrated school at West Philadelphia High School. Hooks soon joined the drama club and began acting in plays by such authors as William Shakespeare and Samuel Beckett.

Hooks moved to New York City in 1959 to become an actor. That year, he debuted as Bobby Dean Hooks in a touring production of Raisin in the Sun. He made his Broadway debut in 1960 in Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, and became well known for his role as Clay in LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka's Dutchman in 1964. With this play, Hooks became known as Robert Hooks. Also in 1964, Hooks formed the Group Theater Workshop, offering training in the arts to underprivileged youth. In 1967, Hooks founded The Negro Ensemble Company with Douglas Turner Ward and Gerald Krone. This important theater company has gone on to produce plays by Peter Weiss, Derek Walcott, Wole Soyinka, and many other playwrights.

His television career began in 1963 with the role of a police detective on the television series East Side/West Side. Hooks’ television career spans over forty years. Some of his other television series credits include The White Shadow, Trapper John M.D., WKRP in Cincinnati, Sister Sister, M.A.N.T.I.S., The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Matters, A Different World, Clueless, Diagnosis Murder, and Seinfeld. Hooks starred in several made-for-TV movies throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. His television movie credits include Carter's Army (1970), Two for the Money (1972), A Woman Called Moses (1978), Madame X (1981), Words by Heart (1985), Appearances (1990), and Abandoned and Deceived (1995).

Hooks passed down his passion for acting to his sons, Kevin Hooks and Eric Hooks. Kevin Hooks is also a film director, and cast his father in two of his films: Passenger 57 (1992) and Fled (1996). Hooks’ other film credits include Airport '77 (1977) and Posse (1993).

Accession Number

A2005.270

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/4/2005 |and| 3/30/2006 |and| 11/21/2006

Last Name

Hooks

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Armstrong Technical School

Stevens Elementary School

Francis Junior High School

Francis-Stevens Education Campus

West Philadelphia High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

HOO04

Favorite Season

Fall

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Laguna Beach, California

Favorite Quote

What's Up?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

4/18/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fruit, Vegetables, Fish

Short Description

Stage producer and actor Robert Hooks (1937 - ) founded the Group Theater Workshop and The Negro Ensemble Company with Douglas Turner Ward and Gerald Krone. The father of film director Kevin Hooks, his theater credits include 'Raisin in the Sun' and 'Dutchman'; he also appeared in many films and television productions over his forty year career.

Favorite Color

Gray, Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Hooks' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Hooks lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Hooks talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Hooks talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Hooks describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Hooks talks about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Hooks talks about the street he was raised on, Newport Place, Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Hooks talks about his mother's work as a seamstress

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert Hooks talks about being bit by a rat when he was seven years old

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robert Hooks talks about his experience at Stevens Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Robert Hooks talks about acting in his first play, 'The Pirates of Penzance'

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Robert Hooks talks about being in his first play when he was nine years old

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Hooks talks about falling in love with the stage at nine years old

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Hooks talks about what he did for fun as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Hooks describes his junior and high school education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Hooks talks about going for a joy ride in a car

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Hooks talks about getting into a fight while in a receiving home for juvenile delinquents for three days

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Hooks talks about his stepfather and step-siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Hooks talks about his experience at West Philadelphia High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert Hooks talks about having a crush on his drama teacher at West Philadelphia High School

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Robert Hooks talks about his first child, Cecelia Ann

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Robert Hooks talks about being shut out of his second daughter, Michelle's, life

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Hooks talks about his teachers at West Philadelphia High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Hooks talks about enjoying jazz in high school and his high school classmate HistoryMaker McCoy Tyner

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Hooks talks about studying at the Bessie V. Hicks School of Drama in Philadelphia from 1957 to 1958

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Hooks talks about seeing 'A Raisin in the Sun' for the first time

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Hooks talks about his first night in New York City, staying in a YMCA and visiting Birdland

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Hooks talks about his first experiences in Harlem, New York in 1959

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Hooks talks about multiple jobs he had when he first moved to New York City in 1959

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert Hooks talks about meeting Yuri Kochiyama and Malcolm X in 1960

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Hooks talks about auditioning for 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Hooks talks about people he met while acting in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Hooks talks about his political activities

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Hooks talks about his first wife Yvonne and his sons Kevin and Eric

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Hooks tells the story of how HistoryMaker Douglas Turner Ward took over the role of Walter Lee Younger, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Hooks tells the story of how HistoryMaker Douglas Turner Ward took over the role of Walter Lee Younger, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert Hooks talks about Claudia McNeil

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Robert Hooks talks about visiting black communities all across the country while on the road with 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Robert Hooks talks about getting a role in the play 'A Taste of Honey'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert Hooks talks about 'Voices of Our People'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert Hooks talks about performing in front of his family and friends in Washington, D.C. in 'A Taste of Honey'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert Hooks talks about his first time singing on Broadway in 'A Taste of Honey'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert Hooks talks about joining the cast of 'The Blacks'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert Hooks talks about the plot of 'The Blacks' and the playwright Jean Genet

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert Hooks describes the plot of 'Dutchman' by Amiri Baraka

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert Hooks talks about fundraising to support civil rights efforts in the South

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Robert Hooks talks about beginning to work with young people in his community, Chelsea, New York, and teaching them about theater

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Robert Hooks talks about the formation of the Group Theater Workshop

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Robert Hooks talks about HistoryMaker Douglas Turner Howard's plays 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert Hooks talks about producing HistoryMaker Douglas Turner Ward's two plays, 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Robert Hooks acts out the plot of HistoryMaker Douglas Turner Ward's play 'Happy Ending'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Robert Hooks compares the work of HistoryMaker Douglas Turner Ward and Amiri Baraka

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Robert Hooks talks about the formation of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Robert Hooks talks about the leadership of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Robert Hooks talks about the success of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Robert Hooks talks about raising money for the Civil Rights Movement with his celebrity friends

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Robert Hooks talks about his friendship with HistoryMaker Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Robert Hooks talks about acting in his first movie 'Sweet Love Bitter' which debuted in 1967, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Robert Hooks talks about acting in his first movie 'Sweet Love Bitter,' which debuted in 1967, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Robert Hooks talks about meeting Harold Curlman, one of the founders of Group Theatre

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Robert Hooks talks about getting a phone call from Otto Preminger to act in 'Hurry Sundown'

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Robert Hooks talks about being shot at while filming the movie 'Hurry Sundown' in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Robert Hooks talks about being kicked out of a restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana while filming 'Hurry Sundown'

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Robert Hooks talks about having the N-word written on his door while filming 'Hurry Sundown' in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Robert Hooks talks about the plays he acted in during the 1960s

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Robert Hooks talks about his admiration for Sidney Poitier

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Robert Hooks talks about the beginning of his television career

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Robert Hooks talks about being approached to star in the television series 'N.Y.P.D.'

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Robert Hooks talks about meeting Whoopi Goldberg when she was young

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Robert Hooks talks about playing Henry the Fifth in the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1965

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Robert Hooks talks about the Group Theater Workshop performing a showcase based on Gwendolyn Brooks' poem 'We Real Cool'

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Robert Hooks talks about actress Ellen Holly

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Robert Hooks talks about director Joseph Papp

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Robert Hooks talks about his busy schedule during the late 1960s

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Robert Hooks talks about raising his son Kevin Hooks

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Robert Hooks talks about moving back to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Robert Hooks talks about beginning a community theater company in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Robert Hooks talks about the need for an African American theater company in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Robert Hooks talks about recruiting Vantile Whitfield as the artistic director for the D.C. Black Repertory Company

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Robert Hooks talks about the first play the D.C. Black Repertory Company performed and Lynn Whitfield

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Robert Hooks talks about Ed Murphy, an important benefactor of the D.C. Black Repertory Company

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Robert Hooks talks about the type of audience the D.C. Black Repertory Company attracted

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Robert Hooks talks about leaving the D.C. Black Repertory Company and moving to California in 1977

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Robert Hooks talks about the early career of his son Kevin Hooks

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Robert Hooks talks about his son Kevin Hooks' success as a director

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Robert Hooks talks about the current projects he is working on, 2006

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Robert Hooks talks about the reasons Hollywood only tells certain types of stories about the African American community, pt.1

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Robert Hooks talks about the reasons Hollywood only tells certain types of stories about the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Robert Hooks reflects on the reasons it is a struggle to produce good films about the African American experience

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Robert Hooks talks about his experience struggling to convince influential African Americans in Hollywood to read his scripts

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Robert Hooks talks about the obstacles in Hollywood for independent African American filmmakers

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Robert Hooks talks about independent African American filmmakers finding alternative ways to complete their projects

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Robert Hooks talks about his idea for a cooperative African American production company

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Robert Hooks talks about African Americans in Hollywood not using their leverage to help other African Americans

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Robert Hooks talks about his tribute to playwright Lonne Elder III

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Robert Hooks talks about his favorite movies in which he has acted

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Robert Hooks talks about his favorite plays in which he has acted

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Robert Hooks talks about the highlights of his career

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Robert Hooks talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$2

DATape

4$6

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Robert Hooks talks about people he met while acting in 'A Raisin in the Sun'
Robert Hooks talks about the formation of the Negro Ensemble Company
Transcript
Not off Broadway, it's on Broadway.$$On Broadway. Now I start rehearsals with the understudy, Ja'net Dubois, or Jene-- Janet Dubois at the time. Ja'net Dubois, Frances Williams, the great old actress who was Claudia McNeil's understudy. Ja'net was understudying Ruby and Diana Sands. Frances Williams was understudying Claudia McNeil, and Ed Hall was understudying the other two guys. And Ed was I guess just happy being an understudy 'cause he should have taken over that role when Lou [HM Louis Cameron Gossett, Jr.] left. I don't know why, but I was happy that he didn't. So now all of a sudden I look in the case in front of the Booth Theater on Forty-Seventh Street, 'A Raisin in the Sun' [Lorraine Hansberry] starring Claudia McNeil, 'cause Sidney [Poitier] had gone. And [HM] Ossie Davis was playing the role that Sidney played. So now here I am up there with Claudia McNeil, Ossie Davis, [HM] Ruby Dee, Diana Sands, Ivan Dixon. Ivan had gone, so I guess Ed was in the show. Ed had taken over Ivan's role.$$Okay.$$And so there I am, Bobby Dean Hooks on the card at the Booth Theater. I'm in heaven, I'm in heaven. That was my first Broadway play and now I'm on Broadway and now I'm in the mix. Now [James] Jimmy Baldwin throws a party for Diana Sands who's going with a friend of Jimmy's [James Baldwin] and the play is a big hit. Lorraine Hansberry comes to the rehearsal and we get to talk and she--I get to talk to her about this character that I'm playing that she created. And so now I'm in the mix with Lorraine Hansberry. And then Jimmy Baldwin, I'm over at Jimmy's house for a party and for dinner. And Jimmy Baldwin and I become good buddies. It's just I'm in heaven, I'm in absolute heaven. And the play is selling to sell-out--is playing to sell-out audiences, standing room only. And we're actually you know, it's--the play is only gonna be on Broadway for another five or six months. Then it's gonna be over. But we're still playing to, to standing room only houses; amazing. Now I'm on--I'm in the play and I'm playing every night on Broadway.$$Right.$Now the--during that transition from the kids doing that 'Happy Ending' [Douglas Turner Ward], to professional actors doing it, the name, the Negro Ensemble was created.$$The N.E.C. [Negro Ensemble Company].$$NEC.$$Right. What happened was the plays opened, big success, big hit, selling out, constantly selling out. The biggest hit, you know, since 'The Blacks' [Jean Genet]. The biggest hit since 'The Blacks'$$Right.$$Well so now Douglas [HM Douglas Turner Ward] got the great reviews. Douglas was asked to write an article. Now he's the fair haired playwright, you know. The New York Times asked him to write an article about theater, black theater. Well Douglas wrote the article and it was scathing. It was called 'Theater in American for Whites Only.' Big, big article in the Sunday Times. And because of that article, now we're in the plays, we're doing the play, eight performances a week and we get a call. I'm producing the play, Gerry Krone, Gerald Krone is the company manager, he and his wife Dorothy Olim were company managers for me. I had brought them on because I had met them when we did 'Dutchman' [Amiri Baraka].$$Right.$$They were handling 'Dutchman' as well. We became friends. So when I produced the play, naturally I went to Dorothy and Gerry. So they came on as the production managers, right. And now Douglas Turner Ward writes the article for the Times. And the Ford Foundation, now remember at the time the streets were--I mean the youngsters and the streets--blacks were just creating havoc.$$Right.$$And you know it was right after the riots. It still was unsettled. Harlem was, you know, half burned down.$$Right.$$You know, the--they were trying to find some way to kind of quell this situation. So the Ford Foundation called Douglas, Gerry and myself in to talk about doing something, creating something to you know, 'cause Douglas's article spoke to the urgency of a autonomous black theater company.$$Right.$$So they said give us, bring us a proposal and we'll fund it. So Douglas and Gerry and I sat in the Orquidea, which was a very popular restaurant one block from the St. Mark's playhouse, which is where we were housed.$$Right.$$That's where 'The Blacks' was, and that's where now we were doing 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence' [Douglas Turner Ward]. So it was home to us. The, the Orquidea was our restaurant. It was a wonderful Russian owned restaurant, Russian lady named Mushka [ph.] owned it. Well we would go there after the shows and people would go there after the shows. The N.Y.U. [New York University, New York, New York] theater people would come in. It was a theater crowd kind of thing. We sat there and on a tablecloth in the Orquidea, we designed what we thought would be the perfect theater company. It had to have longevity, it had to--we had to have a three year space in order to make it work. It just couldn't throw some money in there and try to build a theater company. We had to plan it for some kind of longevity.$$Okay.$$So we put together a three year program of theater, of actor, of, of a theater company, a resident theater company for the first time ever.$$Right.$$Where we would pay them, actors, equity salaries. A company of fifteen actors. We would have workshops for all aspects of theater, producing, acting, directing, choreography, dancers, we had a dance company. And we presented this proposal to the Ford Foundation. We called it The Negro Ensemble Company. And they loved the proposal. And volia! A million and a half dollars for that three year program.

Jackie Taylor

Jacqueline Elizabeth Taylor was born on August 10, 1951 in Chicago, Illinois and was raised in the Cabrini Green housing project. She rose from modest roots to become a distinguished actress, singer, director, playwright and theater founder. As the founder of the Black Ensemble Theater, she has created a strong institution.

Taylor attended St. Joseph Elementary School, where she started writing plays, poetry and stories from the age of eight. She gained recognition for her talents, and in seventh grade began directing. Continuing her education, she earned a B.A. in 1973 from Loyola University, where she majored in theater with an education minor. That year, she began working with Free Street Theater. Taylor got her first film break in 1975's Cooley High. Producing and starring in television and film - as well as in theatrical productions with such companies as the Goodman Theater, Organic Theater and Victory Gardens Theater - Taylor came to the realization that Hollywood would continue to present African Americans negatively. Taylor decided to try to control some of the images herself and so, in 1976, founded the Black Ensemble Theater. She serves as producer and director with a mission of producing plays that cut across racial and cultural lines, bringing people together. She has written and produced more than 100 plays and musical biographies, including The Other Cinderella and The Hootchie Cootchie Man: Muddy Waters, which Taylor co-wrote with Jimmy Tillman.

Taylor cares about contributing to the lives of youth. She has taught in the Chicago Public Schools through organizations like the Illinois Arts Council and Urban Gateways, where she served as assistant director of special projects. As a teacher, she likes the challenge of working with troubled students. Through a program called "Strengthening the School Through Theater Arts," she has shared her skills by showing teachers how to use theater to focus students' energy and creativity. As a testimonial, the Boys and Girls Club of America awarded her for her work with youth.

Taylor serves as the president of the African American Arts Alliance. She previously served as artistic director for the Regal Theater and vice president of the League of Chicago Theater. She has consulted with major cultural organizations. The City of Chicago honored her by naming a street after her. She has one daughter, Tynea.

Sullivan, Barbara. "Jackie Taylor," City Talk. December 8, 2000, pp. 5-6.

Accession Number

A2002.092

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

5/28/2002

Last Name

Taylor

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

St. Joseph Catothlic School

St. Michael Central High School

Loyola University Chicago

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Archival Photo 2
Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Jackie

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

TAY03

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $500 - $1,000

Favorite Season

Winter

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada

Favorite Quote

Smile and be happy.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/10/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Spinach Salad

Short Description

Stage actress, stage director, and stage producer Jackie Taylor (1951 - ) has produced more than 100 plays and musical biographies, including, "The Other Cinderella," and, "Muddy Waters." Taylor also founded the Black Ensemble Theater in 1976, amd contributes to the community by teaching troubled students, and serving as the president of the African American Arts Alliance.

Employment

Free Street Theater (Chicago, IL)

Victory Gardens Theater (Chicago, IL)

New Regal Theatre (Chicago, IL)

Black Ensemble Theater (Chicago, IL)

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jackie Taylor interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jackie Taylor lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jackie Taylor talks about her parents origins

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jackie Taylor recalls her father's background and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jackie Taylor talks about her mother's background and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jackie Taylor talks about her Aunt Harriet

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jackie Taylor reflects on the sights and sounds of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jackie Taylor talks about the struggles she experienced growing up in Cabrini Green housing project

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jackie Taylor recalls her educational experiences in a Catholic high school

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jackie Taylor recalls the two adults that served as mentors during her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jackie Taylor details how Sister Celestine helped channel her creativity in grade school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jackie Taylor talks about how she selected her high school

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jackie Taylor reflects on her high school experiences in Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jackie Taylor talks about her decision to attend Loyola University in Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jackie Taylor talks about her early acting career with Free Street Theater

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jackie Taylor talks about juggling motherhood with her acting career

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Jackie Taylor discusses her involvement with Chicago theater companies in the 1970s

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Jackie Taylor talks about her role in the movie 'Cooley High' and the roles for black women in the 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jackie Taylor talks about the founding of the Chicago Black Ensemble Theater

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jackie Taylor details the controversy around Black Ensemble Theater's debut of 'The Other Cinderella'

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jackie Taylor talks briefly about other motion pictures in which she appeared

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jackie Taylor talks about finding a permanent home for the Black Ensemble Theater

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jackie Taylor details Black Ensemble Theater's outreach programs

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jackie Taylor talks about the activities at their Beacon Street location in Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jackie Taylor talks about her activities as President of the African American Arts Alliance

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Jackie Taylor discusses her experiences with taking the Black Ensemble Theater on tour

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Jackie Taylor talks about the subject matter she chooses for the Black Ensemble Theater to perform

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jackie Taylor details how she researches for her productions and her working relationship with her Musical Director

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jackie Taylor talks about her legacy and the career choices she made

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jackie shares her final thoughts about oral histories and what her parents would think of her accomplishments

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Photo - Jackie Taylor's portrait from her teaching assignment at Henry H. Nash Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1980

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Photo - Jackie Taylor on vacation in the Bahamas, ca. 1987

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Photo - Jackie Taylor's sister, Harriet Taylor Day, and an unidentified woman, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Photo - Jackie Taylor's sister, Augusta 'Gussie' Taylor Ross, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1977-1978

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Photo - Jackie Taylor's daughter, Tyne Wright, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1982

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Photo - Jackie Taylor's portrait from her teaching assignment at Leslie Lewis Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1985

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Photo - Jackie Taylor with her ex-husband, Phil Wright, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1968

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Photo - Jackie Taylor with her high school friends, Chicago, Illinois, 1969

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Photo - Jackie Taylor's brother, Joseph Taylor, performing at a family Christmas party, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1977

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Photo - Jackie Taylor's mother, Lucille Ward Taylor and her brother, Gus Lewis Taylor, Jr., at his wedding, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1975

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Photo - Jackie Taylor in a newspaper clipping from the 'Chicago Sun-Times', Chicago, Illinois, 1974

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Photo - Local actors visiting Jackie Taylor at Henry H. Nash Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1980

Tape: 4 Story: 16 - Photo - Jackie Taylor and other actors in Organic Theater Company's production of 'ER', Chicago, Illinois, 1983

Tape: 4 Story: 17 - Photo - Jackie Taylor and other actors in the Goodman Theatre's production of 'Death and the King's Horseman', Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1979-1981

Tape: 4 Story: 18 - Photo - Jackie Taylor as Adele in Victory Gardens Theater's production of 'Ceremonies in Dark Old Men', Chicago, Illinois, 1978

Tape: 4 Story: 19 - Photo - Jackie Taylor with her second grade class at St. Joseph Catholic School, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1958

Tape: 4 Story: 20 - Photo - Jackie Taylor playing a guitar in her living room, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1971-1972

Tape: 4 Story: 21 - Photo - Head shot of Jackie Taylor, ca. 1980-1981

Tape: 4 Story: 22 - Photo - Jackie Taylor and other actors in Victory Gardens Theater's production of 'Eden', Chicago, Illinois, 1978

Tape: 4 Story: 23 - Photo - Jackie Taylor in a publicity photo for Victory Gardens Theater's production of 'Eden', Chicago, Illinois, 1978

Tape: 4 Story: 24 - Photo - Jackie Taylor in a brochure highlighting Victory Garden Theater's past productions, Chicago, Illinois, 1979-1980

Tape: 4 Story: 25 - Photo - Publicity shot of Jackie Taylor by Jennifer Gerard, 1990

Tape: 4 Story: 26 - Photo - Candid photo of Jackie Taylor, ca. 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 27 - Photo - Jackie Taylor's graduation portrait from St. Michael School, Chicago, Illinois, 1969

Tape: 4 Story: 28 - Photo - Jackie Taylor with Esther Rolle in a scene from Victory Gardens Theater's production of 'Dame Lorraine', Chicago, Illinois, 1982

Tape: 4 Story: 29 - Photo - Jackie Taylor and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs in a movie still from 'Cooley High', Chicago, Illinois, 1975

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

9$2

DATitle
Jackie Taylor talks about her role in the movie 'Cooley High' and the roles for black women in the 1970s
Jackie Taylor details the controversy around Black Ensemble Theater's debut of 'The Other Cinderella'
Transcript
Tell us about 'Cooley High' [motion picture] and what--how did that fit in (unclear)?$$Well, 'Cooley High', I made 'Cooley High' in '74 [1974--sic, 1975]. And 'Cooley High' was one of the first major movies that was made here in Chicago [Illinois]. And it was, right, and today it's a cult movie. I, I would have never known, having made it then, that, you know, twenty-eight, twenty-nine years later, 'Cooley High' is still very popular. And people love that movie. Schultz, Michael Schultz was the director of it and I think his ideas were quite new for the time. And the story was a story Eric Monte wrote about growing up in Cabrini [Green public housing project]. And as an actress, I just felt, here was the perfect role for me. I had grown up in Cabrini, and I, I knew the experience. And here was a movie that was going to be shooting. So I told my agent, and she told me I was too old, that they were seeing high schoolers. So I found out who the, who the--I can't think of the, the term, but the casting director [Lauren Jones] was at that time, on the film. And I just pretended that I was somebody else and told them that I had this fabulous actress that I would like for them to see. And they put me, put down my name and said, "Okay, here's her time." And then I called my agent back and told her, "Okay, I have a time." This is my time cause you had to have an agent to go. And I went down. And I, you know, put my little bangs in my head and looked the, looked the age I was supposed to look and went down and got the role.$$Who was in that movie?$$Glynn Turman was the star. Lawrence Hilton Jacobs was my boyfriend. He played 'Cochise'. Those are the two that, because those are the two guys that I worked with the whole time, that I really remember.$$That was a good experience for you?$$That was a fabulous experience. It--Glynn Turman was a fabulous person and is a fabulous person. And he was so giving and loving and nourishing and it was my first film. So I was little, you know, afraid. And Glen assured me, you know, it was absolutely nothing to be afraid of. "You're a wonderful actress, just do your thing." And that was enough, you know, to just calm me down. After that, the producers were really impressed with what I did in the film. So I did get a lot of different offers from that. The problem was I didn't like the parts. They were very degrading for me as a person, as a black person and as a woman. I, I played one film where I was a prostitute. And I realized then when I did the role that if it's not gonna say anything, I can't do it. And I don't want to do it. So I had some difficulty in being able to work on a continual basis. If I had accepted the roles that they gave me, I wouldn't of had a problem. But because I wasn't just gonna do anything, I started garnering a name of being difficult.$Do I remember correctly a Club Misty?$$Club Misty was where I first produced 'The Other Cinderella' on a professional level. That was before I could find a theater, and they gave me--well, they rented me that space. But that, you're right, Club Misty was the very first theater space that I had. And we made that into a theater, right, wow, good memory, Chuck [Smith].$$Tell us about your experience on Wells [Street, Chicago, Illinois], the theater on Wells--was it a theater?$$It was a theater. It was a theater. It was, it didn't have a name. It was a 150-seat theater. I was there two years. It was a struggle because we were just starting out, but we had had controversy. We had had, I was going to produce 'The Other Cinderella', and this guy came to me with a play called, 'Cinderella Brown', and asked me if I would consider, instead of producing my 'Cinderella', to--that he would hire me and my company and pay my rent for five months if I would produce and direct 'Cinderella Brown'. And, of course, I said, "Sure, why not?" You know, this was a way for me to get the company off the ground and get my rent paid and get my actors paid. So, "Yes." We went into rehearsal. We had a backer's audition where he raised a lot of money. And then after the backer's audition, he told me he was gonna take it out to Summit, Illinois and would I please come with him. And I said, "No, please. I would not. The reason that I did do your play was so that you could pay the rent and my company. And if you're going to use my theater, I'm not doing it." At the time, my actors went with him. They said, "Well, you know, we have to go where the money is. You know, you have to understand that." And they went to Summit, Illinois. In the meantime, I used his date that he said he was gonna open 'Cinderella Brown'. I used his flyers. I just changed the name on all those 10,000 flyers. I used his mailing list that he had left at my theater. And I called Irv Kupcinet and said, "Irv, I've got a problem, can you help me?" And he publicized that I was going to be opening 'The Other Cinderella' and that the guy--I won't say his name, had went to the Summit Theater, but the audience could still see 'Cinderella' at the Black Ensemble Theater. And that is how, that, that's what made us work cause that--the play was an instant--it had all that publicity around it. And it was an instant success. So we ran it for two years. And then I got tired of playing 'Cinderella'. (laughs) At the time, I didn't think about a understudy. I just thought about, "Okay, what's the next play?"

Val Gray Ward

Val Gray Ward, actress, producer, cultural activist and internationally known theatre personality, was born Q. Valeria Ward on August 21, 1932 in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, America's oldest all black town. As the daughter of a successful minister, Ward showed an interest early on in performance. She eagerly read poems and did readings for her father's congregation and eventually won various oratorical competitions in school. Above all, she was keenly interested in African American literature.

After graduating from Mound Bayou High School in 1950, Ward dreamed of going to college. Instead, she moved to Chicago in 1951, got married and became Val Gray and a mother to five children. When the marriage failed, Ward went back to school and became active in Chicago's African American cultural activities. She was a regular at the South Side Community Arts Center and the DuSable Museum of African American History as she developed friendships with Dr. Margaret Burroughs, Gwendolyn Brooks, Don L. Lee, Haki R. Madhubuti and Abena Joan Brown.

In 1965 Val Gray met and married journalist, Francis Ward as she continued to make a name for herself as an actress, television host and cultural consultant. Now known as Val Gray Ward, Ward was recognized as part of Chicago's activist Black Arts Movement. In this context Ward founded the nonprofit Kuumba Theatre in 1968. Kuumba is Kiswahili for clean up, create, and build and was dedicated to the revitalization of the black community through the arts.

With Kuumba, Ward has produced and directed such plays as The Amen Corner by James Baldwin, Welcome To Black River by Samm Art Williams, and Five On The Black Hand Side by Charles Fuller. Touring has also been important. Ward took the cast and crew of Useni Eugene Perkins' play, The Image Makers to Lagos Nigeria as part of the FESTAC '77, an international African arts festival. Ward brought Kuumba's musical production, The Little Dreamer: The Life of Bessie Smith to Japan in 1981 and produced Buddy Butler's In The House of The Blues in Montreal, Canada. Ward and the company received Emmy Awards for the PBS television production of Precious Memories: Strolling 47th Street in 1988.

When she is not producing, Val Ward performs one woman shows in the United States and abroad. Performances include Harriet Tubman by Francis Ward, Sister Sonji by Sonia Sanchez and I Am A Black Woman which includes the poetry of Mari Evans.

Over the years, Ward has provided opportunities in the arts for hundreds of inner city youth and adults. All five of her children were or still are active in theatre. Ward currently lives in Syracuse, New York.

Accession Number

A2002.077

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/2/2002

Last Name

Ward

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Mound Bayou High School

John F. Kennedy Memorial High School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Val Gray

Birth City, State, Country

Mound Bayou

HM ID

WAR02

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

No Preference

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $500 - $1,000

Favorite Season

All Seasons

Speaker Bureau Notes

Honorarium Specifics: plus travel and lodging expenses

Preferred Audience: No Preference

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

As We Go Into Ourselves, We Come To Ourselves Naturally.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/21/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish, Greens

Short Description

Artistic director, stage actress, stage director, and stage producer Val Gray Ward (1932 - ) is the founder of the nonprofit Kuumba Theatre, and was dedicated to the revitalization of the black community through the arts. Over the years, Ward has provided opportunities in the arts for hundreds of inner-city youth and adults.

Employment

Kuumba Theatre

Favorite Color

Black, Earth Tones

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Val Gray Ward's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward describes her father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward talks about her father's upbringing in Mound Bayou, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward talks about her father's family's origins in Port Gibson, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward describes her maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Val Gray Ward talks about her maternal grandmother, Anna Mae Moten

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Val Gray Ward talks about how her maternal family ended up in Mound Bayou, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Val Gray Ward describes her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Val Gray Ward describes her earliest memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward describes the sights, smells, and sounds of growing up in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward describes the sights, smells, and sounds of growing up in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward talks about the history of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward talks about the history of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward describes herself as a youth

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward talks about attending the private Alice Morris preschool and B.O. Felder elementary school, and the public Mound Bayou High School

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Val Gray Ward talks about the encouragement she received growing up in Mound Bayou, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Val Gray Ward describes her role in her family growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward describes growing up as a minister's daughter

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward describes herself as a strong-willed child

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward talks about the uniqueness of Mound Bayou, Mississippi as an all-black Southern town

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward describes her move to Chicago, Illinois, where she was molested and became pregnant in 1950

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward talks about her first marriage to John Gray from 1951 to 1957

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward describes meeting her now husband, HistoryMaker Francis Ward

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Val Gray Ward describes her Civil Rights activism in the 1950s and 1960s in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Val Gray Ward talks about her early performances in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward talks about the people involved the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward describes founding Kuumba Theater in 1968, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward describes founding Kuumba Theater in 1968, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward describes the Black Arts Movement in Chicago in the 1960s, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward describes the Black Arts Movement in Chicago in the 1960s, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward talks about creating Kummba Theatre to address issues in the black community

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Val Gray Ward describes Kuumba Theater's Twelve Principles

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Val Gray Ward talks about creating The Ritual at Kuumba Theater

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward describes early performances of The Ritual at Kuumba Theater

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward talks about developing The Ritual at Kuumba Theater

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward describes a performance of The Ritual at Kuumba Theater in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward talks about the influence of Kuumba Theater performances to the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward talks about the various places that housed Kuumba Theater in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward describes the significance of Kuumba Theater, including attending the FESTAC World Festival of Black Arts in Nigeria in 1977

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Val Gray Ward talks about the support that African American business leaders provided Kuumba Theater

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward talks about the support Kuumba Theater received from publisher and HistoryMaker John H. Johnson

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward describes the launch of 'The Amen Corner' at Kuumba Theater in 1989

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward talks about producing 'Precious Memories' at Kuumba Theater and on PBS in 1988

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward talks about the financial support that Kuumba Theater recieved

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward talks about Kuumba Theater's role in black theater

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward talks about her friendship with Hoyt Fuller

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward talks about losing her friend, Hoyt Fuller, when he passed away in 1981

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward talks about losing her friend, Gwendolyn Brooks, when she passed away in 2000

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward describes her friendships with HistoryMakers Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward talks about the status of Kuumba Theater and black theater

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward reflects on the significance of black theater

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward reflects on the significance of Kuumba Theater and its ritual

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward describes the beauty of black people

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward narrates her photographs, pt. 3

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward narrates her photographs, pt. 4

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

7$2

DATitle
Val Gray Ward describes Kuumba Theater's Twelve Principles
Val Gray Ward talks about developing The Ritual at Kuumba Theater
Transcript
So what were Kuumba's twelve principles?$$Oh, now you would ask me. One is not to--enough to show a black reality, that we must tell why our art exists, its effect or offer some necessary alternatives. Meaning that, for instance, during black exploitation films, lot of people say, oh, '[Sweet] Sweetback' is revolutionary and we say yeah, really, what is revolution and what is revolutionary about it? Let's look at it. Kuumba had a newspaper. We had forums and we would analyze what made--how was it revolutionary and somebody running from here to Mexico or wherever and having a young boy exposed to older women, how is that revolutionary? What do you mean by revolutionary? So those are the serious things we did. And we brought in--we had panels, up to the time of Colored Girls with the sociologists and psychologists. We'd bring people from Lake Forest [College, Illinois], Northwestern [University, Illinois], [HM] Vernon Jarrett and oooh, I'm sure that you've--Herbert Martin, who's also from Mound Bayou [Mississippi]. You know, and we would talk about it and analyze it and then bring in the playwrights and bring in the people, you know, and that's why we had discussions. But we did, you know, plays that were like [Useni Eugene Perkins] 'The Image Makers'. Their reviews--I was just looking over some reviews at the [Chicago] Tribune did twelve pages, way back when and that was about black exploitation films. So it was not enough to talk about 'em because people would say, oh, these militants--or these troublemakers and I--my house was fire bombed. Oh Jesus, there's all kind of stuff and because of this art, right? And Chicago [Illinois] had a red squad and [HM] Margaret Burroughs said, will you and [HM] Francis [Ward] sign this thing with me 'cause I'm getting dossiers--you getting' what? Dossiers, so she got 'em. And what would it have? I was at the Packing House [Chicago, Illinois] and Stokely [Carmichael, Kwame Ture] would say, I said, for instance, "What shall I tell my children who's black," and I was wearing whatever a description of that on there, and if the three of us, Paul, you and Paul--I mean other people were there--they would just cross out, and you tryin' to think, who else was there and that's all you were doing, creating art. And there were as many whites involved as there were blacks in terms of, you know, the struggle of our people coming, you know, getting involved and so forth.$Let's talk about how The Ritual--how did The Ritual develop and what was The Ritual?$$The Ritual developed out of exactly what I do in the one woman show today. I was doing it prior to the founding of Kuumba, starting off with, you taking my blues notes on commercial theater, with the blues and the spiritual and then the things that I'm tellin' you about either prose and/or poetry or just the story that had taken place in the news--out of the newspaper. You had to--I mean in workshop, I mean we'd work on it and create that. So that you could hold the people while you were telling it--they didn't know you were tellin' a story--and then you give credit to the or whomever had the by-line.$$But The Ritual--was it broken down into a certain number of parts?$$Yeah, it was always--it was 'Destruction or Unity,' that was the name of it. But under 'Destruction and Unity,' we would do church. We would do current events, what was happening. And when I say church, the old church and some of the songs like, we used to take songs like, and this is how we got a lot of the church people involved in it. "Were You There", I don't know if you ever heard (singing)-"were you there when they crucified my Lord?" Well, we would change it, (singing)-"were you there when they shot poor Malcolm [X] down," and Fred Hampton or whatever and we would do all the (singing)-"oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble"--people would just be crying and we'd, you know. You know, we would sing well and we would put it together and so we would take what people already knew and then you could always bring anybody, young or old, black or white, and you didn't have to worry about all that cursing. Because a lot of people wouldn't go to--they say I don't want to go to this black theater because first thing they're doing is shooting their momma and their daddy and they're putting down the church and everybody. No, we would just take the forums that people already knew and create from that and so originally when it's time to change it, somebody change it, you know. Change it, if you're the changer, you're the thing from--I mean to blues and gospel or whatever. It was wonderful.

Vy Higginsen

Producer, author, playwright and radio personality, Vy Higginsen has been instrumental in making a place for minorities and women in the media and the arts. Higginsen was born in Harlem on November 16th, to a minister father and devout Christian mother. Even though her father died when she was an infant, the family continued their involvement in the church where a young Higginsen was profoundly influenced by its sights, sounds and vocal traditions.

Higginsen attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, believing that she wanted a career as a buyer. Not long after, she decided that the fashion industry was not for her and was hired by Ebony Magazine, becoming its first female sales representative. During her tenure there, Higginsen became increasingly interested in radio and enrolled at a school for broadcasting. The well-known radio personality Frankie Crocker recruited Higginsen to WBLS. She became the first woman on prime time radio. During this time, Higginsen also launched a lifestyle magazine, Unique NY.

It was while vacationing in the Caribbean that Higginsen and husband Ken Wydro developed the idea of writing a musical partially based on the life of Higginsen's sister, well-known African American singer Doris Troy. Debuting in 1983, Mama I Want To Sing, became the longest running black off-Broadway musical. Higginsen also co-wrote and produced Sing! Mama 2 and Born to Sing! Mama 3. As an author, Higginsen's published works include: Mama I Want to Sing, This is My Song, and The Positive Zone and Harlem Is.

Higginsen is presently studying for the ministry and serves as the CEO of the Mama Foundation for the Arts, an organization dedicated to the preservation of gospel music and black history.

Accession Number

A2001.036

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/16/2001

Last Name

Higginsen

Organizations
Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Vy

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

HIG01

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

All

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - Negotiable

Favorite Season

Spring

Speaker Bureau Notes

Honorarium Specifics: must cover travel and lodging expenses
Preferred Audience: All

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Esteban, Mexico

Favorite Quote

You lose some of the time what you go after. But you lose all the time what you don’t go after.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/17/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken (Curried)

Short Description

Stage producer and radio personality Vy Higginsen (1945 - ) became the first woman on prime time radio for WBLS. Higginsen also wrote, "Mama I Want To Sing," which, became the longest running black off-Broadway musical. As an author, Higginsen's published works include: "Mama I Want to Sing," "This is My Song," "The Positive Zone," and, "Harlem Is." Higginsen is also CEO and founder of the Mama Foundation for the Arts, an organization dedicated to the preservation of gospel music and black history.

Employment

Ebony Magazine

WBLS Radio

Unique New York!

Mama Foundation for the Arts

Favorite Color

Summer Colors

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Vy Higginsen interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Vy Higginsen states her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Vy Higginsen talks about her father's family and the origins of her surname

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Vy Higginsen explains the changes she made with her surname

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Vy Higginsen talks about her mother's family origins

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Vy Higginsen talks briefly about her mother's upbringing as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Vy Higginsen names her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Vy Higginsen remembers her childhood in the Bronx, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Vy Higginsen recalls her childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Vy Higginsen lists the schools she attended throughout her youth

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Vy Higginsen details the building development occurring in her neighborhood in Harlem

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Vy Higginsen talks about her experiences in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Vy Higginsen recalls her religious upbringing and her spirituality today

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Vy Higginsen discusses her sister, Doris Troy, and what influenced her during her youth

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Vy Higginsen details how she changed her career aspirations from fashion to radio broadcasting

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Vy Higginsen describes how she ended up in radio broadcasting, Part 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Vy Higginsen describes how she ended up in radio broadcasting, Part 2

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Vy Higginsen details the effects of black radio in New York in the 1970s, Part 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Vy Higginsen details the impact of black radio in New York in the 1970s, Part 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Vy Higginsen recalls her first day broadcasting on WBLS-FM radio

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Vy Higginsen describes her first taste of celebrity

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Vy Higginsen talks about radio broadcasting and her foray into magazine publishing

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Vy Higginsen details her transition from radio to television broadcasting

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Vy Higginsen recalls her first encounter with her future husband

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Vy Higginsen recalls the creative process of her musical, 'Mama I Want to Sing'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Vy Higginsen talks briefly about the growing interest in Harlem

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Vy Higginsen remembers the difficulty she encountered trying to stage, 'Mama I Want to Sing', Part 1

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Vy Higginsen remembers obstacles encountered in staging, 'Mama I Want to Sing', Part 2

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Vy Higginsen details how her family joined her in the theater business

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Vy Higginsen comments on her musical's imitators and her formula for success

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Vy Higginsen talks about public response to 'Mama I Want to Sing', and establishing the Mama Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Vy Higginsen comments on gospel music and the belief in prayer

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Vy Higginsen discusses the next phase of the Mama Foundation for the Arts

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Vy Higginsen posits on her mother's response to 'Mama I Want to Sing'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Vy Higginsen expresses her fears the negative influences on black youth

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Vy Higginsen reflects on her achievements and hopes for black America

Abena Joan P. Brown

Abena Joan P. Brown was born on the South Side of Chicago. Brown was one of those rare individuals who was not only passionate about the creative arts, but also shrewd enough to see the need for organization. Over the years, Brown distinguished herself as a masterful businesswoman as well as an artist. With over one hundred-fifty professional theater productions to her credit, in addition to a Master's degree in Community Organization and Management from the University of Chicago, Brown was the driving force behind the 1971 creation of the eta Creative Arts Foundation, the only African American full service cultural arts collective in Chicago and the nation.

Her many honors included an Award of Merit from the Black Theater Alliance, The Paul Robeson Award from the Chicago African American Arts Alliance, the Governor's Award in the Arts and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Joseph Jefferson Committee. Brown was also cited as one of America's Top Business and Professional Women by Dollars and Sense magazine, and she was inducted into the Women's Hall of Fame of Chicago in 1991. Always looking towards the future, Brown was committed to building eta Creative Arts Foundation. Her goal was to always provide a venue where the stories of African American people will be told "in the first voice" for generations to come.

Brown passed away on July 12, 2015 at age 86.

Accession Number

A2000.009

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/27/2001

Last Name

Brown

Maker Category
Middle Name

Joan P.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

University of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Abena

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

BRO02

Favorite Season

All Seasons

Sponsor

Tanqueray

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa

Favorite Quote

It is all in divine order.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

5/8/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Macaroni, Cheese

Death Date

7/12/2015

Short Description

Stage producer Abena Joan P. Brown (1928 - 2015 ) founded of the Creative Arts Foundation in 1971, the only African American full-service cultural arts collective in the country.

Employment

ETA Creative Arts Foundation

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Abena Brown interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Abena Brown lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Abena Brown talks about her family and her childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Abena Brown talks about her Catholic school experiences as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Abena Brown recalls her relationship with her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Abena Brown recalls her early interest in the arts and experiencing racism in college

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Abena Brown talks about her college experience and her start in the theater business

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Abena Brown reflects on her experiences as a teenager growing up in Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Abena Brown discusses the importance and the activities of the social clubs of her youth

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Abena Brown talks more about the racism she experienced in college

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Abena Brown talks about attending the University of Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Abena Brown talks about her experiences at the University of Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Abena Brown recalls her early acting experiences and her participation in the Civil Rights Movement in Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Abena Brown talks about the origins of the ETA Creative Arts Foundation

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Abena Brown talks about the similarities between New York and Chicago theater in relation to the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Abena Brown talks about the current financial state of black theater companies on the East Coast

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Abena Brown details the economic impact of white theater companies

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Abena Brown reflects on the ETA Creative Arts Foundation's twenty-nine year history

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Abena Brown talks more about ETA Creative Arts Foundation's history

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Abena Brown details the future expectations of the ETA Creative Arts Foundation

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Abena Brown details more of the future plans of the ETA Creative Arts Foundation

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Abena Brown talks about the legacy of the ETA Creative Arts Foundation

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Abena Brown recalls her travel to Africa in the 1970s and the influence African Americans have on the arts