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Terrence Spivey

Theatrical director Terrence Spivey was born on June 10, 1961 in Kountze, Texas to Lillian Cole and Terry Cooper. He graduated from Lamar High School in 1979, and went on to receive his B.A. degree in theater from Prairie View A&M University in 1984. He then moved to New York City, where he studied the Meisner technique at William Esper Studio in 1988.

Spivey worked as an actor and theatrical director throughout the 1990s. In 2000, Spivey served as the entertainment director for the Gold Pen Awards ceremony, and worked as a playwright workshop facilitator at the Black Writers Conference. The following year, Spivey became the founding director of the Powerful Long Ladder Theatre Company. In 2002, Spivey became the associate director of the Black Girl Ensemble in Harlem, New York; and in 2003, he was hired as the artistic director of the Karamu House Performing Arts Center. While there, he directed productions of The Little Tommy Parker Celebrated Minstrel Show, Bee-Luther-Hatchee, Dream on Monkey Mountain, and Otis Sallid’s Gospel! Gospel! Gospel!. In 2008, Spivey joined Kent State University’s theatre and dance department as an adjunct professor, becoming the theatre director in residence for productions by Kent State University’s pan African studies theatre department in 2012. Spivey was selected as the keynote speaker for the United States Institute for Theatre Technology’s fifty-fifth annual conference in 2015. In 2016, Spivey left the Karamu House, and began working as a freelance director, acting instructor, theater lecturer and career consultant, and speech coach. With the Powerful Long Ladder Ensemble Theater Company in Cleveland, Ohio, Spivey debuted productions of James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner. He also directed productions of Peter Lawson Jones, The Bloodless Jungle and August Wilson’s Radio Golf. In 2017, Spivey worked as a freelance director with the Shore Culture Center in Eucid, Ohio, and served as an artist-in-residence at the Cleveland School of the Arts. That same year, he directed Objectively/Reasonable: A Community Response to the Shooting of Tamir Rice. In 2018, Spivey founded TamiReach, a theatre program at the Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center.

Spivey has served on the board of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, the Cleveland Arts Prize, AUDELCO and the Cleveland Foundation’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame scholarship committee. In 2011, Spivey received a proclamation from Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Councilwoman Mamie Mitchell for his local, regional and national artistic contributions. Spivey also received the 2013 AUDELCO Award for Repertory Company of the Year. In 2017, he received the Best Bold Direction for a Shocking Piece Award for his premiere of Neighbors by Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins. That same year, he was honored by state representative John Barnes, Jr. for his contributions to the arts.

Terrence Spivey was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 27, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.194

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/27/2018

Last Name

Spivey

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Terrence

Birth City, State, Country

Kountze

HM ID

SPI03

Favorite Season

None

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Aruba

Favorite Quote

After Midnight Is When Dogs Turn Into Wolves.

Bio Photo
Birth Date

6/10/1961

Birth Place Term
Favorite Food

Chitlins

Short Description

Theatrical director Terrence Spivey (1961 - ) served as artistic director of the Karamu House Performing Arts Center, and founded the Powerful Long Ladder Theatre Company.

Favorite Color

Red

Lou Bellamy

Artistic director Louis Bellamy was born on March 10, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois to ElVeeda Luckett Bellamy and James Kirk. Bellamy graduated from Saint Paul Central High School in 1962, and received his B.A. degree in psychology and sociology at Minnesota State University, Mankato in 1967. He later earned his M.A. degree in theater arts at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in 1978.

Bellamy founded The Penumbra Theatre Company in 1976 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Under Bellamy’s leadership, Penumbra produced thirty-nine world premieres, including an early production of August Wilson’s Jitney! in 1982. Bellamy went on to work for the theater and dance department at the University of Minnesota in 1979, while continuing to direct Penumbra. Bellamy became an associate professor of theatre at the University of Minnesota in 1994. He taught classes on the history of African Americans in American theatre and contemporary Black theatre, as well as courses in acting, directing and oral communication. Bellamy advocated for the creation of the August Wilson Fellowship in dramaturgy and literary criticism at the University of Minnesota, providing graduate students with support, mentorship and practical experience. Bellamy also directed plays at Arizona Theatre Company, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Signature Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Cleveland Play House, Indiana Repertory Theatre, The Guthrie Theater, The Kennedy Center, and Hartford Stage Company. After thirty-two years of teaching, Bellamy retired in 2011 from his position with the University of Minnesota. In 2014, the board of directors of Penumbra Theatre Company appointed his daughter, Sarah Bellamy, as the theater's next artistic director. Bellamy then served as emeritus artistic director.

Bellamy was honored with the IVEY Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and named Distinguished Artist by the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis in 2006. Bellamy received an Obie Award for directing a 2007 New York production of August Wilson's Two Trains Running. In 2017, he was the recipient of the Kay Sexton Award in recognition for his career as a teacher, mentor, director and promoter of African American literature.

Bellamy and his wife, Colleen Bellamy, are the parents of two adult children, Sarah and Lucas.

Lou Bellamy was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 19, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.126

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/19/2018

Last Name

Bellamy

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

University of Minnesota

First Name

Lou

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

BEL08

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

N/A

Favorite Quote

Aluta Continua

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Minnesota

Birth Date

3/10/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Minneapolis/St. Paul

Country

United State of America

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Short Description

Artistic director Lou Bellamy (1944- ) served as an associate professor at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities for thirty-eight years. He also founded and served as the artistic director of the Penumbra Theatre Company in Saint Paul, Minnesota from 1976 to 2014.

Favorite Color

Green

Nora Brooks Blakely

Artistic director and playwright Nora Brooks Blakely was born on September 8, 1951 in Chicago, Illinois to Henry Lowington Blakely, Jr. and Gwendolyn Brooks, the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Blakely graduated from Chicago’s Hirsch High School in 1969, and received her B.A. degree in education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1972. She then earned her M.A. degree in interdisciplinary arts from Loyola University.

Blakely taught at Copernicus Elementary School in the Chicago Public Schools system from 1972 to 1980. She also performed as a dancer with the Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago in 1977. In 1979, Blakely founded Anchor, an arts organization for children and the precursor to the Chocolate Chips Theatre Company, which Blakely founded in 1982 on the south side of Chicago. In 1987, the Chocolate Chips Theatre Company began a residence at Kennedy-King College. As the company’s producing artistic director, Blakely worked closely with students of Chicago Public Schools and wrote original plays such as Brother Man, A Few of My Sisters, The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, and A Day in Bronzeville: Black Life through the Eyes of Gwendolyn Brooks. Blakely later founded the Aurora Performance Group, a troupe dedicated to honoring Gwendolyn Brooks’ memory through the performance arts. After the death of her mother in 2000, Blakely founded Brooks Permission, a licensing firm for Gwendolyn Brooks’ literary works. Brooks Permissions later expanded to offer merchandise and programming related to the life and works of Gwendolyn Brooks. In 2014, Blakely donated Gwendolyn Brooks’ archives to the Rare Books and Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois. In 2017, Blakely served as an editor for a book about her mother called Seasons: A Gwendolyn Brooks Experience. She also served as an organizer for Gwendolyn Brooks’ International Birthday Party celebration in 2017, and participated in numerous celebrations of her mother’s 100th birthday.

Blakely served on the board of directors for the African American Arts Alliance of Chicago. She also served on the selection committee for the 2017 Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards given by Illinois Humanities organization.

Nora Brooks Blakely was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 1, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.089

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/1/2018

Last Name

Blakely

Maker Category
Middle Name

Brooks

Organizations
First Name

Nora

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

BLA18

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Places She Has Never Been Before

Favorite Quote

Brick Walls Are There To Keep The People Out Who Don't Try Hard.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

9/8/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Favorite Food

Chocolate

Short Description

Artistic director and playwright Nora Brooks Blakely (1951 - )

Favorite Color

Blue

Peter London

Dancer, choreographer and artistic director Peter London was born on May 10, 1960 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago to Dennis Bedeau Stanclaus and Belle Stanclaus. While in Trinidad and Tobago, London studied West African dance. He received a certificate in male elementary ballet from the Royal Academy of Dancing in 1982 and attended the Caribbean School of Dancing before coming to the United States and enrolling at The Julliard School in New York and earned his diploma in dance in 1987.

Before moving to the United States, London was part of the Barataria Folk Dance Group from 1976 to 1983 and joined the Astor Johnson Repertory Dance Theater of Trinidad and Tobago, where he danced as Astor Johnson’s protégé. London also was a dance teacher in Trinidad and Tobago. In 1987, London joined the Limón Dance Company, which he toured with as a principal dancer. London moved to the U.S.; and, in 1988, he was recruited to join the Martha Graham Dance Company as a principal dancer, where he performed with dancers such as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Denise Vales. After Martha Graham’s death in 1991, London took a yearlong break from dancing and began teaching at the New World School of the Arts in Miami, Florida. He was invited to tour with the Martha Graham Dance Company again by Ronald Protas in 1992, which he toured with until 1997.

London returned to the New World School of the Arts that year and served as a professor of dance at Miami Dade College. From 2007 to 2010, London taught at The Alvin Ailey School in New York. In 2011, London received a grant of $120,000 from the Knight Foundation in order to form the Peter London Global Dance Company. London showcased pieces that featured Afro-Caribbean dance, as well as Haitian and Afro-Cuban music. London also served as a mentor to; Jamar Roberts of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Lloyd Knight of the Martha Graham Dance Company, and Robert Battle, artistic director at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Peter London was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 7, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.038

Sex

Male

Interview Date

03/07/2017

Last Name

London

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Piccadilly Government Primary School

Barataria Junior Seconday School

South East Port of Spain Government Seconday School

The Juilliard School

Miami Dade College

First Name

Peter

Birth City, State, Country

Port of Spain

HM ID

LON04

Favorite Season

Christmas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Barbados

Favorite Quote

Can't is not in the dictionary.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

5/10/1960

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Miami

Country

Trinidad & Tobago

Favorite Food

Salt Fish, Cassava, Black Eyed Peas and Rice

Short Description

Dancer, choreographer and artistic director Peter London (1960 - ) was a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company and became founder and artistic director of the Peter London Global Dance Company.

Employment

Miami Dade College

Martha Graham Dance Company

Jose Limon Dance

Shell Chemicals

Favorite Color

Blue

George C. Wolfe

Playwright and artistic director George C. Wolfe was born on September 23, 1954 in Frankfort, Kentucky. His mother, a teacher, was among the first African Americans to study library science through the University of Kentucky Extension Program. Wolfe’s mother became the principal at the private, all-black, Rosenwald Laboratory School, where Wolfe received his elementary education, and discovered an interest in staging and directing. As a teenager, Wolfe attended a summer theater workshop at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and began directing plays. He graduated from Frankfort High School in 1972, where he wrote for the literary journal. Wolfe attended Kentucky State University in Frankfort but, in 1973, transferred to Pomona College in Claremont, California, graduating in 1976 with his B.A. degree in theater.

Wolfe wrote and directed his first play, Up for Grabs, in 1975. In Up for Grabs, Wolfe debuted his sketch framing technique and the motif of passage through doors, which became common elements in his later works. The following year, he premiered Block Party. Wolfe completed a six-month postgraduate artist residency at Pomona College before meeting C. Bernard Jackson, who funded the first production of Wolfe’s Tribal Rites at the Inner City Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Wolfe staged several plays in Los Angeles before moving to New York in 1979, where he graduated with his M.F.A. degree in 1983 from New York University School of the Arts. He premiered Paradise! in 1985, and The Colored Museum in 1986, which garnered Wolfe national attention, as well as the attention of New York Shakespeare Festival founder Joseph Papp. Following the premiere of Spunk (1989), Papp named Wolfe a resident director in 1990. Wolfe won his first Obie award for Spunk’s New York production that same year. In 1992, Wolfe made his Broadway debut with Jelly’s Last Jam at the Virginia Theatre, and achieved widespread recognition when he directed the Broadway premiere of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America in 1993. He was named producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival that year and went on to produce ten seasons. Wolfe also directed the 1997 world premiere of Amistad at the Lyric Opera in Chicago, Illinois. He staged Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed at the Music Box Theatre in New York City in 2016.

In 1975, Wolfe won the Pacific Southern Regional Award for playwriting at the American College Theater Festival for Up for Grabs. The following year, he premiered Block Party, receiving the Pacific Southern Regional Award for playwriting a second year in a row.

George C. Wolfe was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 9, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.127

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/9/2016

Last Name

Wolfe

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

C.

Organizations
Schools

Rosenwald Laboratory School

Frankfort High School

Kentucky State University

Pomona College

New York University Tisch School of the Arts

First Name

George

Birth City, State, Country

Frankfort

HM ID

WOL01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Kentucky

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Amazing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

9/23/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Moqueca

Short Description

Playwright and artistic director George C. Wolfe (1954 - ) was resident director and, later, producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival. He is known for directing Broadway productions of Jelly’s Last Jam, and Angels in America.

Employment

Pomona College

Inner City Cultural Center

Various

City College of New York

Margo Lion

Public Theater of New York

New York Shakespeare Festival/Joseph Papp Public Theatre

Favorite Color

Red

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George C. Wolfe's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George C. Wolfe lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George C. Wolfe describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George C. Wolfe describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George C. Wolfe talks about his paternal great-grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George C. Wolfe describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George C. Wolfe describes his grandparents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George C. Wolfe describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - George C. Wolfe remembers his neighbors in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - George C. Wolfe describes the assertive personalities of his mother and maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - George C. Wolfe recalls his neighborhood in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George C. Wolfe talks about his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George C. Wolfe remembers his early interest in theater

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George C. Wolfe describes his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George C. Wolfe talks about his personality as a young child

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George C. Wolfe remembers Frankfort High School in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - George C. Wolfe describes First Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - George C. Wolfe recalls his decision to attend Pomona College in Claremont, California

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - George C. Wolfe remembers his start at Pomona College

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

5$2

DATitle
George C. Wolfe talks about his paternal great-grandfather
George C. Wolfe remembers his early interest in theater
Transcript
Let's talk about, (audio disturbance) give your father and his year of birth and what you know about him?$$Oh my god, I don't--oh my god, I don't know what (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) That's okay, don't worry, you don't have to worry.$$Yeah, I can figure out my father--$$But, but your middle name is--$$Costello, which is his name, and, and his father's name was George, so I'm named after my, my grandfather, George Wolfe. George, what's very interesting, so my father's name is Costello Wolfe, he had a twin sister named Estella [Estella Wolfe] who, who was incredibly very fussy, very, very, very, very, very consuming personality and he and my--he, she, and my father fought all the time--they're twins. They just fought all the time. His, his sister--he has another sister, Florence [Florence Wolfe], who just turned ninety-eight and lives in St. Louis [Missouri] and rides the bus and he has another sister [Norma Wolfe] who's ninety-five who mows her own lawn in Providence, Kentucky and so they're like--it's so, it's really, really fascinating and their, their father, on, on, on and their father was a man named, was George Wolfe and George Wolfe's parents were named Sam Wolfe and Mary Wolfe. Mary Wolfe died when she was 106. She was--there's an article written about her 'cause she, it ended up--I believe she was living in Muncie, Indiana at the time, which is where they ended up, which is a fascinating story and she remembers as a slave serving Jefferson Davis and she also when you--she, there are stories of that her--and she was born into slavery as was Sam Wolfe and then George Wolfe had a brother named Sullivan Wolfe. Sullivan Wolfe in 1930, I believe he was thirty-eight years old was evidently incredibly smart, very charismatic and a leader. They lived in Providence, Kentucky, which was a coal mining area and so he tried to organize a union, a black and white mine--an integrated union. Some men knocked on his door on a Saturday at four A.M., told him to come with them and they were black and white men, interestingly enough, as the story goes, and he said, "I need to go put on my shoes," and they said, "You're not going anywhere," and when he turned to put on his shoes they gunned him down. Now the thing that's really--and this was in Providence, Kentucky. The thing that's really fascinating about this--well, one of the things--everything about it is fascinating, what's really fascinating is the paper the next day or whatever day, the next day the paper came out, it said, the headline was "Negro Leader Slain." The fact that they used Negro and the fact that they used leader is astonishing, is astonishing. His wife [Lillie Gray Wolfe] was watching from the window, she had a coal oil lamp--these are certain, very details that Florence in particular has told me and my father told some of this, this is a huge story and, and it was reported--so that happened like on a Saturday, the newspaper came out and I have a copy of it somewhere, the newspaper came out, there was never a trial, nothing ever came from it and that was that and his wife took her three children and left town. This is just an astonish- there's so many aspects of that story, I mean he could sing, he was so smart, he was just like this, this heroic figure and he was, and he was gunned down at the age of thirty-eight.$You do talk about even dissecting, you know, I think you talked about at the age of five was it? A show, was that, or did I read that right?$$Oh yes, yes, yeah.$$Yeah.$$I remember, yes, I remember very specific- yeah. So at Rosenwald school [Rosenwald Laboratory School, Frankfort, Kentucky], Rosenwald was a very--Rosenwald school, it was a very--the principal of the school was this woman named Minnie J. Hitch, who was very, very severe, but very smart and I realized in many respects was, was probably the first director, (laughter) first theater director I ever knew without knowing it and, and we would put on a Christmas play and at the end of the year we'd put on a school closing play, probably it was like maybe ninety people, mainly kids, maybe who were in eight grades at Rosenwald and we'd put on these enormous plays and she would always direct them and I--there was a part of my brain that was sort of exhilarated by that time. I mean I, as early as I can remember I was obsessed with theater, which is an odd thing because, I mean obsessed with it, very, very, I mean (audio disturbance) from the very, from the very beginning before I could remember it. I remember at one point I got--I was given for Christmas a, a showboat, a showboat that had little scenery pieces that you could put in there and I would just, and I was in heaven with this because there was a backdrop and there were legs and then there were middle ground and foreground, there was a whole stage there and it, it, which, which was, it, it was very, very interesting, so it's you know, I was obsessed, I was obsessed, I was obsessed with, with, with theater from the very beginning but at Rosenwald, she would put on these plays and, and, and, and I remember just--you, I, I remember studying them. I remember when I went, came to New York [New York] and I saw 'West Side Story' [Arthur Laurents] at the State Theater [New York State Theater; David H. Koch Theater], I remember s- I was studying it, I realized--(background noise) and a lot of times I would sit there and watch TV and I would sit on the ground and I was studying the rhythms.

Charles Weldon

Actor and artistic director Charles Weldon was born on June 1, 1940 in Wetumka, Oklahoma to Beatrice Jennings. At the age of seven, his family moved to Bakersfield, California, where he worked in nearby cotton fields until the age of seventeen, when he joined the local doo-wop group, The Paradons.

After the success of their 1960 hit single, “Diamonds and Pearls,” The Paradons dissolved, and Weldon went on to perform with the soul group, Blues For Sale, before discovering his love of acting. Weldon’s sister, actress Ann Weldon, introduced him to the theater group Dialogue Black/White and playwright Oscar Brown, Jr. After appearing in the musical Hair at the Geary Theater in San Francisco, California, Weldon accepted Brown’s invitation to perform in Buck White, appearing alongside Muhammad Ali in his only Broadway appearance. In 1970, Weldon joined the Negro Ensemble Company and performed in Joseph Walker’s Ododo. In 1973, he starred in Paul Carter Harrison’s The Great MacDaddy and played Skeeter in Joseph Walker’s The River Niger. Weldon reprised the role in the 1976 film adaptation with stars James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson. He also appeared in several other films including Who's Minding the Mint? (1967), Serpico (1975), Stir Crazy (1980), Fast Walking (1982), Spike Lee’s Malcolm X (1992), and The Wishing Tree (1999). He appeared in several television mini-series, including A Woman Called Moses (1978) and Roots: The Next Generation (1979). His television credits also include Sanford and Son, Hill Street Blues, Kojak, St. Elsewhere, L.A. Law, and Law & Order.

Throughout his film career, Weldon continued to perform with the Negro Ensemble Company, acting in Charles Fuller’s A Soldier’s Play in 1981. In 2004, Weldon was named artistic director of the Negro Ensemble Company. Additionally, Weldon directed Leslie Lee’s Blues in a Broken Tongue, Jimmy Barden’s Offspring, Samm Art-Williams’ The Waiting Room, and Layon Gray’s WEBEIME. Weldon also produced the Negro Ensemble Company’s Sundown Names and Night-Gone Things.

Co-founder of the Negro Ensemble Company, Inc.’s Alumni Organization, Weldon received the Audelco Award for best supporting actor, the Remy award for best leading actor, and the 2006 Henry Award for the Best Supporting Actor in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean.

Weldon passed away on December 7, 2018.

Charles Weldon was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 24, 2016 and November 7, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.079

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/24/2016 |and| 11/7/2016

Last Name

Weldon

Maker Category
First Name

Charles

Birth City, State, Country

Wetumka

HM ID

WEL05

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Oklahoma

Favorite Vacation Destination

Noossa Heads Australia

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

6/1/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken enchiladas

Death Date

12/7/2018

Short Description

Actor and artistic director Charles Weldon (1940 - 2018) appeared in numerous Hollywood movies and television productions. He was a member of the Negro Ensemble Company since 1970 and its artistic director since 2004.

Employment

The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc.

2nd Stage Theatre

The Asolo Theatre

The Public Theatre

Lincoln Center/American Place Theatre

The Paradons

Favorite Color

Brown

Arthur Mitchell

Dancer, choreographer and artistic director Arthur Mitchell was born on March 27, 1934 in Harlem, New York to Arthur Mitchell, Sr. and Willie Hearns Mitchell. He attended the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. In addition to academics, Mitchell was a member of the New Dance Group, the Choreographers Workshop, Donald McKayle and Company, and High School of Performing Arts’ Repertory Dance Company. After graduating from high school in 1952, Mitchell received scholarships to attend the Dunham School and the School of American Ballet.

In 1954, Mitchell danced on Broadway in House of Flowers with Geoffrey Holder, Louis Johnson, Donald McKayle, Alvin Ailey and Pearl Bailey. He joined John Butler’s dance company in Europe before Lincoln Kirstein, general director of the New York City Ballet (NYCB), invited him to join NYCB’s corps de ballet. Mitchell became the first African American permanent member of a major American ballet company in 1955, when he performed with Tanaquil Le Clercq in Western Symphony. Then, in 1957, famed ballet choreographer George Balanchine choreographed Agon pas de deux, considered to be the first interracial duet in American ballet, for Mitchell and Diana Adams. Balanchine choreographed the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Mitchell, as Mitchell performed in a succession of NYCB productions, including Bugaku and Arcade, throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In 1966, Mitchell organized the American Negro Dance Company, which represented the U.S. at the first World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal. Mitchell then founded the National Ballet Company of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in 1968. Mitchell, with mentor and friend Karel Shook, co-founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1969, the first black classical ballet company, which debuted at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City in 1971. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Dance Theatre of Harlem produced ballets, including Dougla, Troy Game, The Firebird and Creole Giselle. When the Dance Theatre of Harlem performed in South Africa in 1992, it launched its international outreach program, Dancing Through Barriers, designed to educate children in dance through master classes and open rehearsals.

Mitchell received numerous awards. In 1993, he was recognized by the Kennedy Center Honors, and was named a MacArthur Genius Fellow in 1994. President Bill Clinton presented Mitchell with a U.S. National Medal of Arts in 1995. Then, in 1999, Mitchell was inducted into the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, the only U.S. museum dedicated exclusively to dance. He received the Heinz Award in Art and Humanities in 2001, and was featured in a PBS American Masters documentary, Balanchine in 2004. Between 2009 and 2010, the exhibit “Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts” premiered in New York City and Los Angeles. Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library acquired Mitchell’s archives, its first major dance collection, in 2015.

Mitchell passed away on September 19, 2018.

Arthur Mitchell was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 6, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.034

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/5/2016

Last Name

Mitchell

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Organizations
Schools

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

Junior High School 43

P.S. 86

School of American Ballet

First Name

Arthur

Birth City, State, Country

Harlem

HM ID

MIT14

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

The Arts Ignite The Mind. They Give You The Possibility To Dream And Hope.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/27/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken, Collard Greens

Death Date

9/19/2018

Short Description

Dancer, choreographer, and artistic director Arthur Mitchell (1934 - 2018 ) was a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet for fifteen years. In 1969, he co-founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the first African American classical ballet company and school.

Employment

Dance Theater of Harlem

New York City Ballet

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Arthur Mitchell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell describes his childhood in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes his childhood in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell describes his siblings and their children

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes his father's incarceration

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell describes his early activities

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell recalls his audition for the High School of Performing Arts in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell remembers the High School of Performing Arts

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell describes his experiences of racial discrimination in dance companies

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes his role in 'Four Saints in Three Acts'

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers his decision to study with Katherine Dunham

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes his early interest in dance and theater

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell describes his work on 'Shinbone Alley'

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell remembers performing with Eartha Kitt

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell talks about his dance scholarships

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Arthur Mitchell describes how he decided to study ballet

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell recalls the professional dancers with whom he worked in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell describes his decision to leave Katherine Dunham School of Dance and Theatre

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell describes his involvement with New York City dance schools and productions

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes his body type and dance technique

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell describes his experiences of racial discrimination in ballet

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes the production of 'House of Flowers'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell describes his roles with June Taylor and Donald McKayle

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell remembers dancing in European productions

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell describes his perspective on religion

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Arthur Mitchell describes his performance in George Balanchine's 'Western Symphony'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell describes the African American dance community of the 1940s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell describes the School of American Ballet and 'House of Flowers'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon being the first African American dancer in the New York City Ballet

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes how he became a member of the New York City Ballet

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers learning ballet techniques

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell talks about the differences between dance companies

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell recalls Tanaquil Le Clercq's polio diagnosis

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes George Balanchine's interest in Josephine Baker

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell describes his relationship with George Balanchine

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell remembers George Balanchine creating 'Agon'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell describes the production of 'Agon'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell describes George Balanchine's creative process

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell talks about his experiences at the New York City Ballet

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers traveling to Russia with the New York City Ballet

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell remembers dancing for George Balanchine

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell recalls dancing in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes Tanaquil Le Clercq's role at the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell remembers George Balanchine's reputation

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell talks about the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell recalls working with Doris Jones and Claire Haywood

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell recalls founding the National Ballet Company of Brazil

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell describes his ballet, 'Rhythmetron'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers his Broadway roles

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell remembers 'House of Flowers' and Lincoln Kirstein

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell remembers choreographing 'The Cotton Club'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell recalls founding the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his teaching style

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell describes the Dance Theatre of Harlem's repertoire

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell recalls the Dance Theatre of Harlem's debut performance

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell remembers dancing in Spoleto, Italy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the state of the arts in New York City

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers Geoffrey Holder, Katherine Dunham and George Balanchine

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes the Dance Theatre of Harlem's international tours

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell recalls his trips to Russia, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell recalls his trips to Russia, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell describes the funding for the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell describes the faculty of the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his work with the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell recalls an instance of vandalism at the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell remembers purchasing a studio for the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell describes his ballet, 'Creole Giselle'

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell recalls the Dance Theatre of Harlem's principal dancers

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes the television broadcast of 'Creole Giselle'

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the success of the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the Dance Theatre of Harlem's funding, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the Dance Theatre of Harlem' funding, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Arthur Mitchell recalls the Dance Theatre of Harlem strike

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon men and women's patronage of the arts

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Arthur Mitchell talks about the Harlem Homecoming program

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his awards and honors

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Arthur Mitchell describes the Dance Theatre of Harlem's international appeal

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Arthur Mitchell describes his departure from the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon the future of the Dance Theatre of Harlem

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Arthur Mitchell describes his international travels

Tape: 9 Story: 11 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his impact on the black dance community, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 12 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his impact in the black dance community, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 13 - Arthur Mitchell describes his plans for the future

Tape: 9 Story: 14 - Arthur Mitchell describes his choreographic process

Tape: 9 Story: 15 - Arthur Mitchell remembers working with Marian Anderson and Aretha Franklin

Tape: 9 Story: 16 - Arthur Mitchell reflects upon his life

Tape: 9 Story: 17 - Arthur Mitchell talks about his archive

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

10$8

DATitle
Arthur Mitchell describes his performance in George Balanchine's 'Western Symphony'
Arthur Mitchell recalls founding the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City
Transcript
Can we talk about your time at New York City Ballet?$$Yeah (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) And working with Balanchine, because [George Balanchine]--$$Well the (laughter)--$$What?$$When you join a company, the, the small roles and things like that went to the latest dancer and Todd Bolender did a ballet called 'Souvenirs' and they wanted me to be the elevator operator and close the door. I said, "Now let's get, I, no, no, no, no, no, I will get in and close the door, but I'm not wearing white gloves." I, I've always been like, "No, no, no," and I've always fought for what I thought was right. And I started by da- I did 'Western Symphony' [George Balanchine]. Jacques [Jacques d'Amboise] was doing the movie 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' and he was in Hollywood doing the movie so I made my debut doing the fourth movement of 'Western Symphony' with Balanchine's wife at that time, Tanaquil Le Clercq. And it was historic. I mean, and I said to Mr. Ba- I said, "Now Mr. B," or Mr. Bal- not Mr. B, "Mr. Balanchine, I don't want any publicity, take me in the company and I will get everything I got due to my talent and hard work, not that I was gonna be black." So he said, "Oh, black man," I said, "Not a black guy breaks the bonds going to ballet and stuff like that," and that's one of the things I said to Mr. Balanchine, "If you put me in the company, just let me get it on my hard work not because of the black da-da-da-da-da." And I said, "Don't tell anybody that I'm in the company," there was no publicity that, Negro breaks barriers or like that. And I remember dancing opening night and there's this bald-headed guy sitting and when I came out he just shot up in his seat, he said, "Oh my God they got a nigger in the company." And I, and I always danced, when I star- for my mother [Willie Hearns Mitchell], my people and stuff like that. And I said, "Okay. I'm gonna be the best I can," and by the end of the evening, I got a standing ovation. And To- what's his name, John, no, John Martin from The New York Times he said oh, the--there's a terrible article that he wrote, he said the--there was something that, the way he phrased it, the novelty of the we- the novelty of the company, they've got a black guy. He said, "But ballet is not--is alien to the physiology, the psychological thing that, it's just not part of their makeup." I said, "Well I'll prove him wrong." And--and I would do little gigs, I mean I would do little thin- anybody that needed a dancer, I would go dance with them, but it was mostly modern dance. And the company, I had been at the school [School of American Ballet, New York, New York], I was eighteen, now this I was around twenty-one now. See there's so much pressed in all this, it's not like it was ten years at--$$Right, right. That's right.$$--that I was the first to do it. I said fine, I like that, but I want to be a ballet dancer and I want them to treat me right.$Let's go to the beginning of Dance Theatre of Harlem [New York, New York]. So, who, how does this--do you go to--how, how do you co--$$How did it come about?$$Yes.$$I never wanted to start it, I just wanted to get a school and give the young kids in Harlem [New York, New York] a chance to get the classical training. And I knew there was a lot of talent there, but I said now, okay. So I got my first grant from the Ford Foundation [New York, New York] and we had to match the money with earned income and contributions. So out of that, I had to make a company that could sta- a group of dancers, we would go around to the schools, we've got--and get earned income. And we went everywhere. And Tania Leon, our musical director, she came from Cuba and she came one day to play class, and I said, "Oh I'm gonna hire you (unclear)." She said, "Oh." "I want you to conduct." She said, "I don't know." I said, "Just move your hand big, keep the rhythm and da-da-da-da." So she became our conductor. The animosity and, well you can say hatred was, people said that, "[HistoryMaker] Arthur Mitchell's crazy. He's starting a ballet company in Harlem. Black people can't do ballet. They got." And so I said well that's what we're going to do. And I asked Balanchine [George Balanchine] to give me his ballets because it's always said that if you dance Balanchine's ballets you will automatically get better. So we did 'Concerto Barocco' [George Balanchine], we did 'Agon' [George Balanchine], 'Four Temperaments' [George Balanchine], 'Allegro Brillante' [George Balanchine] and I have to honestly say a lot of those ballets we danced them better than everybody else. And it was a very beautiful company. And Balanchine says, "You know my dear, you know my dear, ten years he will have the most beautiful company in the world." And it was.$$It was. So it was almost his dream though too, right, he had. This was the sixteen black--black females (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yeah. And he, he (laughter) he, he was, and we would talk about food, we would talk about clothing, we'd talk about the psyche and things like that, and he liked that 'cause no one I--we became like friends rather than my boss and his student. And he, and he knew that Lincoln [Lincoln Kirstein] liked me. I said, "Mr. Balanchine, I don't get involved with all that foolishness, that, that's silly." I said, "These people think they're gonna sleep their way to the top, it doesn't happen." And so they used to call me the man with the iron drawers. They said, "Nobody's gonna (laughter)." Because they say, "You know, Mitchell," and all the young designers, and such, they all wanted to work with me. And they made my clothes and then I would have things made for Mr. Balanchine. We'd do a ballet, he says, "No, no, no, no, costumes not right." Let me--I'd go home and bring clothes and those became the costumes for New York City Ballet. I mean I was enterprising, you know what I mean. And the Modern Jazz Quartet, Balanchine wanted to do a jazz ballet.$$So, so he blessed you starting the school (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Well yes, in a sense, I, how can I say it. He was carrying over all the attraction that he had with [HistoryMaker] Katherine Dunham or Josephine Baker and he had worked with the Nicholas brothers [HistoryMaker Fayard Nicholas and Harold Nicholas], you know, they can romp, and I can't do that, but he always liked that fact. Like he said, "You know my dear, I do 'Slaughter on Tenth Av- Tenth Avenue' ['Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,' George Balanchine] who can tap." I'd say, "I can tap." "Not that kind of--." And he brought Ray Bolger in to coach me. And Ray Bolger said, "No, you know, it's just (gesture), it's no steps it's just an attitude." I said, "Okay fine." So that's what I did.

Sylvia Waters

Artistic director and dancer Sylvia Waters was born in New York on January 22, 1940. She began dancing in junior high school and joined an after school dance group when she was twelve years old. Waters went on to attend The Juilliard School, where she studied with Martha Graham, José Limón, and Anthony Tudor. She received her B.S. degree from Juilliard in 1962, continuing her studies at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance.

Waters began dancing with Donald McKayle’s dance company before touring Europe, performing in Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity in 1964. Waters then settled in Paris, France for three years, where she appeared on television and danced in the Paris Opera Ballet under Michel Descombey. After performing at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, in Maurice Bejart’s Ballet of the Twentieth Century, at which Alvin Ailey’s Revelations was also performed, Waters returned to the United States and began touring as a principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company. In 1974, the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, later renamed Ailey II, was founded in order to help Ailey dance students transition into the professional world. A year after its creation, Waters was hired as the director. Ailey II has since toured all over the country as one of the most successful companies in the United States.

Waters has received numerous awards, including an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York at Oswego, the Dance Magazine Award, Syracuse University’s Women of Distinction Award, and the Legacy Award from the twentieth Annual International Association of Blacks in Dance Festival. She has also served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, and has worked as a guest lecturer at Harvard University in 2001.

Waters lives in New York, New York.

Sylvia Waters was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 27, 2010 and October 4, 2016.

Accession Number

A2010.108

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/27/2010 |and| 10/24/2016

Last Name

Waters

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

B.

Schools

The Juilliard School

P.S. 186 Harlem

I.S. 164 Edward W. Stitt Junior High School

Evander Childs High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Sylvia

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

WAT11

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Italy, Turkey

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

1/22/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ice Cream, Vegetables

Short Description

Artistic director and dancer Sylvia Waters (1940 - ) was a principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and served as the artistic director for the Ailey II dance company for 38 years.

Employment

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Ailey II

Harvard University

Favorite Color

Black, Blue, Red, White

Timing Pairs
0,0:1476,15:8700,150:11538,195:11968,201:16268,269:18934,305:19364,312:20482,324:38214,438:43643,491:44533,516:58400,603:59648,624:65186,721:79595,894:86044,954:86504,960:86964,967:88160,984:90644,1013:91196,1020:94835,1044:95285,1051:97385,1098:97910,1107:100235,1157:103235,1211:104210,1226:129919,1527:133713,1548:134101,1557:135400,1567$0,0:2776,35:8640,69:39980,438:50060,611:74420,897:75050,951:78620,1042:78970,1048:108090,1457
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sylvia Waters' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters describes her parents' backgrounds and occupations

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters describes her childhood experiences in Harlem, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters describes her experience on her maternal grandparents' farm in Onancock, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters describes her parents' educations and how they met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters talks about her childhood interest in music and pageantry

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sylvia Waters describes her experience in a modern dance club in junior high school

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sylvia Waters describes her modern dance classes at Evander Childs High School and at the New Dance Group Studio

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sylvia Waters describes meeting Alvin Ailey and seeing him dance

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Sylvia Waters describes auditioning for The Juilliard School in New York City, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sylvia Waters describes her teacher's and friend's reactions to her acceptance at The Juilliard School in New York City, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters describes her experience at The Juilliard School in New York City, New York and performing with pickup companies

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters remembers the first performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters describes The Juilliard School in New York City, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters comments on her mentors at The Juilliard School in New York City, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters describes her 1962 graduation from The Juilliard School in New York City, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters describes her jobs after graduating from The Juilliard School in New York City, New York and joining the cast of "Black Nativity"

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sylvia Waters talks about her experience living in Paris, France and auditioning for various film and theater productions

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sylvia Waters talks about the collegial relationships among black performers in the mid-1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Sylvia Waters talks about the black expatriates she met in Europe

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Sylvia Waters talks about meeting Josephine Baker

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Slating of Sylvia Waters' interview, session 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters describes her time in Paris, France

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters recalls meeting Langston Hughes

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters talks about her role in 'Black Nativity'

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters remembers the European tour of 'Black Nativity'

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters describes how she was treated in Europe

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters recalls her work with European dance companies

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sylvia Waters talks about joining the Ballet of the 20th Century dance company in Brussels, Belgium

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Sylvia Waters describes her work with Donald McKayle's dance company

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sylvia Waters talks about living in Paris, France

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters remembers her experiences with racism in Portugal

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters describes a racist American soldier in Portugal

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters recalls labor strikes in Paris, France

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters talks about her opportunities to join the Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters talks about her performances in Mexico City during the 1968 Summer Olympic Games

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters remembers being unexpectedly hired by Alvin Ailey

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sylvia Waters recalls professional dancers at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sylvia Waters recalls tension between the Portuguese and Angolan migrants

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters recalls joining the Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters talks about everyday life as a dancer

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters describes the body types of dancers in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters talks about artistic expression in dance

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters remembers performance venues in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters recalls the disbandment of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Sylvia Waters recalls the U.S. Department of State's intervention on behalf of the Ailey Dance Company

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sylvia Waters recalls the censorship of dance performances when traveling to the Soviet Union

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters remembers her experiences touring in the Soviet Union

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters talks about the Ailey American Dance Theater's return to New York City after touring globally

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters remembers the birth of her son

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters talks about her promotion to director of Ailey II

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters recalls her participation in 'Ailey Celebrates Ellington'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters remembers touring with Ailey II

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sylvia Waters recalls her feelings about transitioning to artistic director of Ailey II

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters talks about directing 'Revelations'

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters talks about the challenges of running Ailey II

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters describes touring with Ailey II

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters recalls the death of Alvin Ailey

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters remembers the aftermath of Alvin Ailey's death

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters describes the development of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Sylvia Waters talks about her oral history archival work

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Sylvia Waters recalls successful students trained at Ailey II

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters recalls leaving the Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters reflects on her legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters shares her advice for aspiring dancers

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters reflects upon her life

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$2

DAStory

3$11

DATitle
Sylvia Waters remembers the first performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Sylvia Waters talks about meeting Josephine Baker
Transcript
Okay. Now, at this time, were you aware that Alvin Ailey had formed his own dance company [Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater]?$$Well, in 1958, yes, that was the first performance and I saw the first performance. It was "Blues Suite." He did share that concert with another dancer, Ernest Parham, and, what I remember in particular in "Blues Suite" was "Mean Ole Frisco," a dance for five men and, I mean, "Blues Suite" underwent many incarnations, you know, until he reached the version that it is today, but in that early first version, I remember this singer, Brother John Sellers, and he was the blind man and he was walking through the crowd of dancers on the stage. I remember Jacqueline Walcott, but more than anything I remember "Mean Ole Frisco" and these five men dancing, I-- and such power. I had never seen men dancing like that, first of all, and "Blues Suite" also was very familiar to me; you know, all those summers in Virginia and blues music, because a lot of times you did have musicians coming through and at the juke joints down there; I mean, I wasn't supposed to be in them but sometimes my uncle took me or at the little movie house there would be gospel singers and blues singers performing and also those shows that traveled around. There was always an Indian, a clown, and a barker selling (laughter) snake oil or something and very often they would have blues singers with them. So, the blues was very much a part of my background, and I had a profound understanding of it, so that familiar connection was there from the beginning.$Did you meet-- ever meet Josephine Baker?$$I did. I went to see her perform at the Olympia and it was amazing. I had seen her in the states performing at Carnegie Hall [New York City, New York] before I ever went to Europe and that was one of the most wonderful experiences I've ever had, but when I saw her at the Olympia, that was, I mean I felt even closer to her. I've been a Francophile for a long time, you know, because I was a good French student. I thought I would a linguist. That was another thing I thought I might do. So, knowing French helped a lot, but when I saw her at the Olympia, and I went back stage because I knew someone who was in the show, and there was this person at the call board, these big, huge, thick glasses on this lady, and kind of a dress-type thing, and I said, "Excuse me, I'm looking for my friend so-and-so" and she said, "Oh, she's right down there, just down the hall." I said, "Okay, thank you." And that was Josephine Baker, and I just, I mean she was so different off stage, you know, and she's just a larger than life personage on stage, you know, and that big voice, and she was just beautiful, but offstage, she was this lady with these big, thick, Coke-bottle glasses on and, you know, and a dress and I think she had a turban on or a scarf on her head, and I was so, I said, "Oh, silly, you should have asked her for an autograph." I didn't realize it was she, you know. So, that was my "meeting."

Ricardo Khan

Ricardo Mohamed Khan was born on November 4, 1951, in Washington, D.C., to Mustapha and Jacqueline Khan, a doctor from Trinidad and an American nurse. Khan was raised in Camden, New Jersey. In 1968, as a high school student, he went on a class trip to Broadway and saw an all-black cast perform Hello, Dolly. The trip inspired him to become active in his high school’s drama program, and the next year, he attended Rutgers University, where he studied psychology and theater. Khan earned his B.A. degree in 1973 and his M.F.A. degree in 1977, both from Rutgers University.

Khan and one of his graduate school classmates, L. Kenneth Richardson, were frustrated by the limited opportunities for African Americans in theater; they wanted roles that went beyond conventional stereotypes. In 1978, they came up with the idea for the Crossroads Theatre Company as a place to promote black theater and black artists. With help from Eric Krebs of the nearby George Street Playhouse and a government grant, the company became a reality; its first theater was the second floor of an old factory in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The Crossroads Theatre Company presented their first world premier, One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show by Don Evans in 1981. In 1986, with the premiere of The Colored Museum, Crossroads was established as a distinguished regional company. The next year, Khan and Richardson launched a $1 million campaign to build a new playhouse, though Richardson left the group before the new stage was completed in 1991.

In the following years, the Crossroads Theatre Company became increasingly well-regarded; in a famous 1996 speech, playwright August Wilson described it as a role model for black theaters. Khan won a number of personal awards as well, including induction into the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni; an honorary doctorate from his alma mater; and the New Jersey Governor’s Award. In 1999, the Crossroads Theatre Company received the Tony Award for the Best Regional Theater.

However, lingering financial problems forced the company to make major cutbacks. In 2000, Khan went on sabbatical, traveling in Trinidad and later in Africa. That same year, Crossroads had to close for a season; the next year, it was able to mount a few shows, and it has gradually built back up since. In 2003, Khan returned to his role as artistic director, and in 2008 the Crossroads Theatre Company celebrated its thirtieth anniversary.

Accession Number

A2007.238

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/14/2007

Last Name

Khan

Maker Category
Schools

Friends Select School

Moorestown Friends School

Plymouth Meeting Friends School

Cherry Hill High - West

Rutgers University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ricardo

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

KHA01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

Believe. Hold Fast To Dreams.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/4/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lobster

Short Description

Stage director and artistic director Ricardo Khan (1951 - ) co-founded and was the artistic director of the Crossroads Theatre Company in New Jersey.

Employment

Self Employed

Crossroads Theatre

Comprehensive Employment and Training Act

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:2366,120:4004,172:10054,252:15164,365:15456,370:20795,453:30675,583:30935,588:31325,598:40120,708:46423,744:59669,980:79076,1133:84666,1221:90652,1261:91240,1270:95104,1367:97120,1407:115540,1580:139416,1909:142242,1933:142758,1947:143102,1961:148216,2017:149968,2054:150333,2060:156495,2208:163220,2252:163645,2258:168444,2296:168899,2302:169718,2314:176907,2429:178636,2452:182367,2504:187600,2526:190142,2577:190798,2586:195612,2643:198337,2672:211046,2839:211426,2844:214232,2879:215798,2900:217364,2927:217799,2933:220235,2968:220670,2974:225214,3015:229890,3064:230265,3070:230565,3075:239086,3173:245424,3229:245928,3236:253312,3350:257118,3403:257726,3412:261070,3471:261754,3490:262438,3506:264946,3555:265554,3564:266770,3585:267378,3594:273735,3629:274246,3642:275560,3669:276217,3680:280816,3776:281619,3790:282057,3797:282641,3806:283444,3827:283882,3834:284466,3843:297418,3982:298170,3991$0,0:36038,518:35910,524:36533,533:38224,559:40340,567:42468,610:51470,678:52388,689:54160,713:64090,763:83340,971:87806,1010:88884,1044:94182,1141:95367,1160:106510,1352:107266,1363:109030,1396:110710,1428:117885,1508:126115,1580:126510,1586:127063,1594:127458,1600:127774,1605:130144,1662:132040,1704:132751,1714:133699,1728:135358,1755:139150,1822:139782,1831:141283,1885:141757,1892:143653,1935:163869,2197:164562,2208:165332,2228:167873,2278:172270,2317
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ricardo Khan's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan describes his mother's personality and influence

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan describes his families' businesses

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ricardo Khan describes his parents' education at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ricardo Khan describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ricardo Khan recalls his father's medical residency in Norristown, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan's mother remembers her professors at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan describes his father's personality and career

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan remembers moving frequently during his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan describes his neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ricardo Khan describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ricardo Khan remembers his mother's civic involvement

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ricardo Khan describes his education in Quaker schools

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ricardo Khan describes his experiences of discrimination at the Moorestown Friends School in Moorestown, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan remembers the Friends Select School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan describes the music of his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan recalls the televisions programs of his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan remembers the Moorestown Friends School in Moorestown, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan recalls Cherry Hill High School West in Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan remembers the all-black Broadway production of 'Hello, Dolly!'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan remembers his first role as a director

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan remembers the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan recalls his theatrical involvement at Cherry Hill High School West in Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan describes his decision to attend Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan recalls his theater involvement in Camden and New Brunswick, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan describes his experiences at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ricardo Khan recalls his decision to attend the Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Brunswick, New Jersey

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan recalls Broadway's African American productions

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan remembers the New Federal Theater in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan describes the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan describes the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan remembers founding the Crossroads Theatre Company

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan recalls naming his theater company

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ricardo Khan describes the mission of the Crossroads Theatre

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan describes the Crossroads Theatre's opening season

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan describes the Crossroads Theatre's audiences

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan describes the Crossroad Theatre's awards

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan remembers his directorial influences

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan recalls his production of 'The Darker Face of the Earth'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan describes the Crossroads Theatre's production of 'Jitney'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ricardo Khan describes the Crossroads Theatre's financial difficulties, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan describes the Crossroads Theatre's financial difficulties, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan remembers his departure from the Crossroads Theatre

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ricardo Khan talks about the closure of the Crossroads Theatre

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ricardo Khan describes Crossroad Theatre's funding

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ricardo Khan reflects upon the challenges facing black theater companies

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ricardo Khan describes his return to the Crossroads Theatre

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ricardo Khan reflects upon his reasons for leaving the Crossroad Theatre

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Ricardo Khan describes his hopes for the African American theater community

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Ricardo Khan narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Ricardo Khan narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

6$5

DATitle
Ricardo Khan remembers the all-black Broadway production of 'Hello, Dolly!'
Ricardo Khan remembers founding the Crossroads Theatre Company
Transcript
So you're a junior in high school [Cherry Hill High School West, Cherry Hill, New Jersey] at this point?$$Yeah.$$And so you're in 'Funny Girl' [Isobel Lennart] in this, in this performance?$$That's right.$$And so where are you performing?$$In the high school. It was a (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, I thought it was like a downtown audition.$$No, it was the high school musical--$$I understand. I understand.$$It was the high school musical, and that was the weirdest thing for me. It was like you're going to be a guy in the dancing, words going to get out (laughter). But I just turned it around, I said, oh my god, I love this, I could do this. So that year Benny [Benny White (ph.)] and I were in this musical, 'Funny Girl,' and I'm more into--I tend to like acting, but he always loved dance. But his mother, her name was Peggy White [ph.], god bless her soul, she would always prior to this take us out to see plays, like community theater and stuff like that. There were these things in the Camden [New Jersey] area called the music fairs where there's this big tent and underneath the tent they had seats and they had professional summer stock shows that would come through, musicals and things. She would always take us to these things. Also in Jack and Jill [Jack and Jill of America, Inc.], which is where, we would always go out to these shows and functions and every month was something different. One month it may be to go skiing, one month it may be to--one month we sat with a Black Panther who taught us things about movement at that time and one month in that junior year in 1968, the trip was to go to a Broadway show. Now, none of us had ever gone to a Broadway show before. We lived there in Camden and in Cherry Hill [New Jersey] and we went, got on the bus and it drove us up. All these Jack and Jillers to see a show on Broadway, 'Hello, Dolly!' [Michael Stewart], and what was remarkable about it, we didn't really know anything about it, was when we got in there, 'Hello, Dolly!' had become a big hit. It was produced by David Merrick and Carol Channing, the people that had made it famous. It won all these Tony Awards [Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre] but when we got there it was an all-black cast. Pearl Bailey was the lead and Cab Calloway. Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway and an all-black cast of 'Hello, Dolly!' of all things, 'Hello, Dolly!,' which has nothing to do with our culture at all. It was based on 'The Matchmaker' [Thornton Wilder], it was incredible but it was amazing that we were there doing it. All of sudden Broadway which is the center of theater in the world and the best show on Broadway at the time that we could be that, that we could be the best, no, no, no. Unbelievable what that did to us, these kids who hopped on a bus in Camden, New Jersey to come up to New York City [New York, New York] to see a show on Broadway and look up there and see that these people up there look just like us. Never ever could I come up with the words that properly describe this impact. But there was one thing that happened even more powerful and that was that at the end of the play we get back on the bus to go back to Camden and we're on the bus and a couple of the people from the play--from the show come out onto the bus and look at us kids and say, "You know what, we just wanted to thank you for coming." These guys, they were in this Broadway show and they came onto our bus to thank us for coming and then we asked them questions, they answered us back and all of a sudden there was a dialogue between us and these Broadway people who looked like us. I think that was the most powerful thing for me because it showed me that it doesn't matter how big you are, it doesn't matter how big you are, how bright your star is. Always remember where you came from, always remember that part of your role is excellence on stage or in film or whatever you're pursuing but the other part is to give back and I learned that that day.$But I had a meeting right after that with a friend of mine who by that time was working at CETA [Comprehensive Employment and Training Act], and he gave me the ins and outs of it. I applied, sent in a grant through the George Street Playhouse [New Brunswick, New Jersey] because we needed an umbrella organization; George Street said they'd do it. I wrote the grant, we put it in through George Street, they did some talking, I did some talking, we got a grant for basically--what came up to about $230,000 in 1978 to start what was called the ethnic theater project because we weren't allowed to use the word black (laughter). We got $230,000 and we were allowed to hire about twenty two people with that money. Actors, administrators, production people, public relations, everybody we needed to start a black theater in New Brunswick [New Jersey]. We found this little hole in a wall place it used to be a sewing factory. Half of the second floor was available, it had been vacant for a long time, we got in there, we got the money--the CETA money. The first thing we did was we had to renovate, and while we were renovating we were doing workshops. We sent workshops out in the communities the same way I learned how to do it in that other CETA project, we did it here 'cause I figure you know what, we needed to break down the barriers between the community, which at that time was primarily black and Hispanic, and theater which was formal to them. We also wanted to break down the barriers between the traditional theater going audience which is predominantly white and the black theater which they didn't think they could be a part of. So that's what the workshops are for, we went out and we did workshops everywhere to teach whatever we could to people and let them know we're here. Then we did an open house and fourteen people showed up and then we did it again and I think twenty people showed up, and then we finally were ready to rehearse a show, and now this is in 1979, early part of it. The first show we did was 'First Breeze of Summer' ['The First Breeze of Summer'] written Leslie Lee and we did that show and of course because we had that funding from CETA, we didn't have to charge for tickets, it was all free, and it was a big, big hit and that was what started the Crossroads Theatre Company.

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar

Choreographer and dancer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar was born in 1950 and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. One of six children, Zollar grew up in a family that was steeped in African American culture. She grew up listening to jazz music and imagining movement in her head. Her first dance teacher was Joseph Stevenson, a student of American dance pioneer Katherine Dunham. Having earned her B.A. degree in dance from the University of Missouri in Kansas City and an M.F.A. degree from Florida State University, Zollar moved to New York City in 1980 to study dance with Dianne McIntyre at Sounds in Motion. In 1984, she left McIntyre’s studio to establish the internationally acclaimed dance company, Urban Bush Women in 1984.

Zollar’s dance company, Urban Bush Women, uses live music, cappella vocalizations and movement to interpret the religious traditions and folklore of the African Diaspora. Her work with Urban Bush Women has earned five grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Zollar has also garnered accolades as a teacher and speaker. These include receiving a New York Dance and Performance BESSIE Award in 1992, the Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Missouri in 1993 and Worlds of Thought Resident Scholar at Mankato University in 1993.

Zollar has created works for Alvin Ailey, the American Dance Theater, Ballet Arizona, Philadanco, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and others. Zollar is Artist in Residence at Florida State University. Her other university commissions include Florida A & M University and the University of Maryland, College Park. She has lectured at such prestigious universities as MIT and UCLA. In 1999, she received the Martin Luther King Distinguished Service Award. Zollar’s company was prominently featured in the PBS documentary, Free to Dance. In 2002, Zollar was awarded an honorary doctorate from Columbia University.

Urban Bush Women continue to tour extensively throughout the United States and Europe. Zollar resides in Tallahassee, Florida and Brooklyn, New York.

Accession Number

A2006.098

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/2/2006

Last Name

Zollar

Maker Category
Middle Name

Willa Jo

Organizations
Schools

University of Missouri, Kansas City

Florida State University

Central Academy of Excellence

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

No

First Name

Jawole

Birth City, State, Country

Kansas City

HM ID

ZOL02

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Spas

Favorite Quote

Go For What You Know.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

12/21/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Tallahassee

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Arugula

Short Description

Artistic director and dancer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (1950 - ) was the founding artistic director of Urban Bush Women, a performance ensemble and dance company based in Brooklyn, New York.

Employment

Sounds in Motion

Dance Repertory Theater at Florida State University

Florida State University

Favorite Color

Orange

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar explains why she changed her name to Jawole

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her mother's education in Kansas City

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her mother's career as a jazz musician

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar talks about her mother's previous marriages

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes how her parents met and married

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her personality during her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her education in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes the role of religion in her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her childhood community in Kansas City

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her awareness of race as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar recalls facing racial discrimination in Tallahassee, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes classes that influenced her at Central High School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar talks about wearing short, natural hair

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar recalls her experiences at the University of Missouri-Kansas City

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar talks about her influences as a dancer

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her graduate work at Florida State University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar recalls moving to New York City to pursue dance

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar recalls her decision to found a dance company

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes the feminist themes in her choreography

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes what inspired her work in the 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar explains why she chose dance as a career

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her social activism

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar talks about the African American arts community

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar imagines choreography based on her life

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

7$8

DATitle
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar recalls her decision to found a dance company
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes the feminist themes in her choreography
Transcript
When did you, let's say, get your own wings? I mean, did that happen in 1983 when you started--$$Eighty-three [1983] I was starting to think about it, and, but I didn't feel like interestingly enough, I thought, but what role models do I have? Who's been successful? Dianne [HistoryMaker Dianne McIntyre] was having a hard time financially. Alvin Ailey was losing his mind literally, I mean, he'd had had several mental breakdowns that were public and, you know, [HistoryMaker] Eleo Pomare was, you know, had terrible drinking problem and I was like well what makes me think I can do this because this is clearly really hard, so how am I possibly gonna do this? And then I had several events that helped me to do that. One is that I went to a folk art exhibit, a visionary art exhibit at Brooklyn Museum [New York, New York], and when I went to that exhibit, one of the things that struck me is that these were all people who were doing their work not from some idea of being successful, but they were doing their work out of an impulse they had to do it. They had some calling late in life, some revelation, some vision that made them become artists, and when I saw the power of this work and I was like, they're not worried about all those external things, they're just doing their work. And so that was one revelation moment. Another was a dream I had which was a very powerful dream. My mother [Dorothy Zollar Hoover] and father [Alfred Zollar, Jr.] who rarely appeared in the same dream, like almost never, they had both passed away by this time. We were sitting in a circle in the ocean, you know, we were just like sitting, me and my family all in a circle with plates of food like right in front of us. And, you know, we were just sitting there and then my father got up and sang this song to the tune of 'Oh Mary Don't You Weep,' but the vamp was, "Success is not the test, success is not the test." And he sang this song about--you know, because he lost his business eventually through alcoholism and neglect, and he talked about that he got caught up in external things as opposed to looking at, and wanting to prove himself on an external place as opposed to, look, working from an internal place and he was cautioning me against getting caught up in what were external measures of success. And then he--you know, he sang this song and then he sat back down with the family, then this huge wave came and turned over all the food into the ocean, and I knew that dream was really profound. And it was lucid, you know, it was one of those dreams that even though, of course, no, you can't sit in the ocean, it was just--it had a logic to it and it was in vivid color which is usually when dreams come to me like that, they're giving me other information. And so that was like, okay. Then a woman who was working at Sounds in Motion who was Dianne's cousin, Loyce Stuart [ph.], pointed out to me 'cause I was working for Dianne, she said, "Every time you kind of facilitate one of Dianne's concerts, I noticed that you go into a deep depression," 'cause I was having these really deep depressions, and I said, "Yeah." She said, "It's 'cause you're not doing your own work." That you, it's--you need to have your own company, your own work. And so kind of those things then I, I formed the company [Urban Bush Women].$So two things I wanted to talk about. I--in hearing about your past, I hear that you were equally as much influenced by women as men?$$Um-hm.$$I'm wondering why you chose in the work, the dance, to primarily speak about women and women's issues.$$Well, I didn't originally choose to. (Laughter) Originally before I had a name, as I was forming this company and looking for a name, I had men working with me. But, you know, men are more scarce (laughter) in dance, I guess, and so they would--you know, we would be rehearsing and then they'd get a better job and off they were. Then I'd get another man in and we'd get other men in and then they would work with us and then, they were gone--got a better job. And I was really influenced by Sweet Honey in the Rock and Women of the Calabash, and so I thought, well why not have a company of all women? Because there was this group of women who were committed and while the men were, you know, coming in and out, there was this core group of women who were not coming in and out, so I thought, well, why not? So that's how it became all women. And I think the women's issues just came about 'cause that's who we were. Had it been a group of all men that I worked with, it probably would have been different issues but, you know, I had been interested in feminist studies and feminist ideas, so that was part of my education and background as well as I had been--always been a spiritual seeker, so that was part of my background, so that went into the work. The social justice concerns had been a part of my background so that went into the work. So, all of the things, my interest in anthropology, that went into the work. So all of that just went into--so rather than being fragmented, it was the first time I felt like I could do something, make something that was about all of my different interests and I didn't have to keep my feminist side over here and my spiritual side over here and my political side over here.$$So when you are identifying yourself in your own private world, are you black first or woman first?$$I can't do that. I just can't do that. I don't think there's--you know, I can't separate those things. I think that I was aware of double standards very early on. I remember proclaiming to my parents [Dorothy Zollar Hoover and Alfred Zollar, Jr.]--I must have been about ten, and I have no idea where this came from, I said, "I'm never gonna change my last name if I get married 'cause I think it's unfair that," you know, "why should women change their names," (laughter) you know, and I like my name, Zollar [HistoryMaker Jawole Willa Jo Zollar]. What if I married a Smith and I would become a Smith and I have not--I'm not gonna become a Smith for, I'm not gonna lose my name Zollar, so. I somehow--but then I remember, now I'm just remembering my mother used to always say, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." So maybe that put those notions in there early on. So I don't know that I can separate any of those things because they're really tied to my identity.$$When you were coming up with names for the company, and let's just put in periods, the '80s [1980s], Reagan's [President Ronald Wilson Reagan] president, there's a crack epidemic that's starting to spread throughout the country. I mean, dismal days for African Americans. Why Urban Bush Women?$$Well, the name has a history. In 19--late '60s [1960s], there's a jazz musician named Gary Bartz who I really loved his music. He had an album called 'Harlem Bush Music,' and he talked about bush as being this concept of the inner city, you know, that Harlem [New York, New York] was like this--another kind of bush. That instead of being--it was thickly, you know, it was densely populated, it was thick, it was creative, it was dangerous, it was fertile. So that, you know, the inner city was another kind of bush, so he had this album 'Harlem Bush Music.' And so when we were looking for names for the company, and when I was--I was over at a friend's house, John Armwood, and we were, you know, we were talking and drinking and laughing and just, you know, putting on music and just, you know, brainstorming names and I picked up an album by the Art Ensemble of Chicago called 'Urban Bushmen,' and I held it up to him, I said, "Urban Bush Women," (laughter) "Urban Bush Women!" And he knew the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and he called them and said, "I have this friend who wants to, you know, name her company Urban Bush Women, is it gonna be all right?" And they said, "Yeah, yeah, that's fine, that's cool." So, Urban Bush Women.