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Douglas Turner Ward

Negro Ensemble Company co-founder, actor, director, and playwright Douglas Turner Ward was born Roosevelt Ward, Jr. on May 5, 1930, in Burnside, Louisiana. Ward was a descendant of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the Ku Klux Klan; his great, great, great-grandmother, Elnora, owned as a slave by Forrest, bore a child with him. Ward’s parents, Roosevelt Ward and Dorothy Short Ward were field hands, but they owned their own tailoring business. Raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, and attending Xavier Prep High School, Ward graduated in 1946 at the age of sixteen. Ward entered Wilberforce University in 1946, where he performed in two plays, Thunder Rock and A Shot In The Dark, and discovered his ambition to be a sportswriter. When Wilberforce began to lose its accreditation in 1948, Ward transferred to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he played football in his freshman year; he would later quit the football team. In 1949, Ward decided that he wanted to leave college altogether; at the age of nineteen, he went to New York City.

In New York Ward became politically involved and worked as a journalist. Ward eventually decided to become a playwright and studied at the Paul Mann Workshop in New York City. In 1956, Ward began his off-Broadway career as an actor in Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh; he went on to perform and understudy for a part in A Raisin In The Sun. In 1965, Ward, Robert Hooks, and Gerald Krone formed the Negro Ensemble Company; he made his playwriting debut that same year with the oft produced Happy Ending/Day of Absence. In 1967, the Negro Ensemble Company was officially opened with Ward serving as artistic director; some of the its notable productions include A Soldier’s Playand The River Niger, which became the company’s first play to go to Broadway. The River Niger eventually won a Tony Award for Best Play. Ward went on to write other plays, including The Reckoning and Brotherhood.

As a result of Ward and his colleagues’ hard work, the Negro Ensemble Company went on to produce more than two hundred plays, and to become a place for Black actors to gain experience and prominence in the theatre. Some notable actors who have worked with the Negro Ensemble Company include Louis Gossett, Jr., Phylicia Rashad, and Sherman Hemsley.

Douglas Turner Ward was interviewed by the HistoryMakers on April 28, 2010.

Accession Number

A2005.135

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/10/2005 |and| 9/21/2006 |and| 11/29/2006 |and| 4/28/2010

4/28/2010

Last Name

Ward

Maker Category
Middle Name

Turner

Organizations
Schools

Xavier University Preparatory School

Wilberforce University

Central State University

University of Michigan

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Douglas

Birth City, State, Country

Burnside

HM ID

WAR08

Favorite Season

None

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans, Louisiana, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/5/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Beans (Red), Rice, Gumbo

Short Description

Playwright, stage actor, and stage director Douglas Turner Ward (1930 - ) was a Tony award-winning thespian and the founder of the Negro Ensemble Company.

Employment

'A Raisin in the Sun'

'The Daily Worker'

Negro Ensemble Company

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Douglas Turner Ward's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his maternal great-grandfather, Isaac Short

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about his search for his family's history, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about his search for his family's history, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers asking about his family history

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the lack of educational opportunities in Burnside, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his father's grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes Louisiana history

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his reaction Mardi Gras traditions, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his reaction Mardi Gras traditions, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his father's parents

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his paternal grandmother

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his father's bootlegging

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his parents' meeting

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his extended family

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his family's ghost stories

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his childhood personality

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward recalls his interest in reading while growing up

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the impact of Richard Wright's 'Black Boy' and James T. Farrell's 'Studs Lonigan'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward contrasts his experience with Richard Wright's in 'Black Boy'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his mother's religious influence

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his questioning of the church

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his elementary schools in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes how he advanced through schools in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his maternal great-grandfather's influence

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers men he admired, including boxer Joe Louis

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his interest in African American athletes and sports

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his developing agnosticism

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes extracurricular activities at Xavier University Preparatory School in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward explains his decision to attend Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his surprise at the segregation in Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward recalls watching movies as a child

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his time at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers enjoying Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the schism at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers acting with the Wilberforce Players

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes transferring to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers becoming radicalized at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about moving to New York City

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Douglas Turner Ward's interview, session 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes developing an interest in politics at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers deciding to leave the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about reading Karl Marx

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his influences at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his decision to move to New York City

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes registering for the draft in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward recalls arriving in New York City

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers working for Henry A. Wallace's 1948 presidential campaign

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes President Harry S. Truman's civil rights position

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the fall-out from the 1948 presidential election

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his experience as a Marxist youth leader in the 1950s

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes Harlem nightlife in the 1940s and 1950s

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the acceptance of radicalism in Harlem, New York City

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his arrest in 1951

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his arrest and conviction

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his exoneration

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers returning to New York City after his exoneration

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his path to becoming a playwright

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his early writing

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his decision to pursue playwriting

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes developing as a writer

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the conflict in the Communist Party after Joseph Stalin's death

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his changing political views in the 1950s

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes acting in 'The Iceman Cometh'

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his early stage roles

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers Lorraine Hansberry's invitation to audition for 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his role in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes audience perceptions of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Slating of Douglas Turner Ward's interview, session 3

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the original cast of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the acting methods of the cast of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the rehearsal process for 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers seeing his first plays in New York City

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers touring with 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers giving Lorraine Hansberry advice, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers giving Lorraine Hansberry advice, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Douglas Turner Ward reflects upon the presence of African American actors in the 1940s and 1950s

Tape: 11 Story: 10 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers forming the Manhattan Arts Theater

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes acting in the postwar period

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes expectations for 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the Manhattan Arts Club disbanding

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the positive reviews of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the Broadway run of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes not getting the role of Walter Lee Younger in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes HistoryMaker Ossie Davis and Elwood Smith playing Walter Lee Younger in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands rejoining 'A Raisin in the Sun' on the road

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers a lecture from HistoryMaker Lloyd Richards

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes working with Elwood Smith in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his performance as Walter Lee Younger in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes acting in 'The Blacks' in New York City

Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his acting roles after 'The Blacks'

Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers his first staged play, 'Happy Ending'

Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the early performances of 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence'

Tape: 14 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward recalls the reception of 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence'

Tape: 14 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his writing process for 'Day of Absence'

Tape: 14 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the inspiration for 'Happy Ending,' pt. 1

Tape: 14 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the inspiration for 'Happy Ending,' pt. 2

Tape: 14 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the genesis of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 1

Tape: 14 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the genesis of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 2

Tape: 15 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the process of writing 'Day of Absence'

Tape: 15 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the genesis of 'Happy Ending'

Tape: 15 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about audience responses to 'Happy Ending'

Tape: 15 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the opening of 'Day of Absence' and 'Happy Ending'

Tape: 15 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the legacy of 'Day of Absence' and 'Happy Ending'

Tape: 15 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward describes setting aside time for his family and writing

Tape: 15 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his Haitian trilogy

Tape: 16 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward describes selecting plays for the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 16 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers receiving scripts for the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 16 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes different playwrights' styles

Tape: 16 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about writing for African American audiences

Tape: 16 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the style of theater he cultivated

Tape: 16 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about HistoryMaker Paul Carter Harrison

Tape: 16 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward Douglas Turner Ward describes the Negro Ensemble Company's early plays

Tape: 17 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers deciding not to take 'Ceremonies in Dark Old Men' to Broadway

Tape: 17 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the vision of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 17 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the lack of a national arts policy

Tape: 17 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers taking 'The River Niger' to Broadway

Tape: 17 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the financial goals of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 17 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the success of 'Fences'

Tape: 17 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the role of AUDELCO in creating audiences for African American productions

Tape: 18 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the purpose of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 18 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the financial difficulties of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 18 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the final years of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 1

Tape: 18 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward remembers the final years of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 2

Tape: 18 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his Haitian trilogy

Tape: 18 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about Jean-Jacques Dessalines

Tape: 19 Story: 1 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about the Haitian Revolution

Tape: 19 Story: 2 - Douglas Turner Ward describes the lost potential of Haiti

Tape: 19 Story: 3 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 19 Story: 4 - Douglas Turner Ward describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 19 Story: 5 - Douglas Turner Ward reflects upon his life and legacy

Tape: 19 Story: 6 - Douglas Turner Ward talks about his family

Tape: 19 Story: 7 - Douglas Turner Ward describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$3

DATape

6$14

DAStory

3$6

DATitle
Douglas Turner Ward remembers acting with the Wilberforce Players
Douglas Turner Ward describes the genesis of the Negro Ensemble Company, pt. 1
Transcript
The best thing that happened to me besides the, the things I've already talked about as far as education, two things: I became, my drama interest got sparked, once again, for the wrong, for, for, for, for wrong reasons. I really got involved with drama because, once again, I needed to find something to do because I couldn't play ball because I had gotten injured in, in running track in high school [Xavier University Preparatory School, New Orleans, Louisiana] and my knee hadn't heal, healed sufficiently enough to try out for the team. So I needed some extracurricular activity to do, especially I'm stuck out there in the cornfield, (laughter) you know, with, with not much to do. And I found out that the girls in the, in the drama group could stay out later than, than the curfew. At that time, the freshmen had to be in by 6:00. The, the, the, even the juniors and seniors had to be in by nine or ten or something. I said no, so me and a buddy of mine in, in my dormitory (laughter), we said man, like, let's find, you know, a place here. I said if we find out the girls in the drama group had, you know, could stay out long as they, they, they, they, they, they wanted to, and the drama group was very well situated at Wilberforce [University, Wilberforce, Ohio], interestingly enough, because the sponsor behind the drama group and a fanatic theater person was guess, was guess what, the head of the athletic department, Mack [M.] Greene. Mack Greene was I mean famous. It was, it, this odd thing that here was the, the head of the whole athletic department and, and everything else was a fanatic theater person. And he had been responsible for creating the Wilberforce Players. They didn't have a, you know, a, a formal theater program. So the Wilberforce Players was, was, was it as far as the theater activity, and Mack Greene was behind it. So I mean they, you know, and Mack Greene was very powerful figure there. And at that time when I was there, Leontyne Price was, was, was there. In fact, the year I was there, I was in two productions. In that year they didn't do any musicals, so I remember Lee- Leontyne to sew costumes 'cause there, there was nothing for her to do that particular year 'cause they weren't doing any musical ex--. She used to sing that in, in, in the, you know, the school assemblies and all of that, but there was nothing for the theater group there, 'cause we, we did two plays. And I was--and for some reason they, they, they, they cast me in both of the plays they were doing. And I'm there because of the women. I wasn't (laughter) going there for, for theater purposes.$$Now what plays did they do?$$One was--well, what was the, it was a play that originally had been done in, in, in England? What, what was, what was the, the name of it? Had a lighthouse, it took place in a lighthouse. It'll might, it'll occur to me before I, I finish. And the other one was, was some, a play that had, had originally been a thriller movie, '[A] Shot in the Dark' or something, something like that. I forgot the, the name of it. 'Thunder Rock,' 'Thunder Rock,' 'Thunder Rock Island,' [sic. 'Thunder Rock'] I think, was the name of the, the first play. And, and right away, I'm the youngest. No, nobody knew it, but I was the youngest member of the company. All of--let me see--yes, still, by the time I did that first play, yeah, I still, I'm still sixteen years old, 'cause I went, went to school when I was sixteen. And I'm playing the oldest character in the play, (laughter) I mean 'Thunder Rock Island.' And I'm playing the oldest man in the play. And the next play, the thriller, I, I played my, I play my own age, at least, but (laughter) the other I'm playing the father. I said well, didn't know it at the time that I set my course for being the, the resident old man of black theater (laughter) eventually, always playing characters older than myself. But that was, that was, that was one of the main benefits of being there. And, and, and you know, I loved performing in the plays. I still hadn't committed myself to any, any, any theater career. I still was following my original ambition, that I wanted to become a sportswriter, you know, basically.$So how did that, I mean the 1965 opening, St. Mark's Place [St. Mark's Playhouse, New York, New York], you said led, led to the, the NEC [Negro Ensemble Company]--$$Oh, the, the, the whole, the whole, all of the, the, the, the factors, all of the factors that went into 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence' [Douglas Turner Ward]--$$Which were?$$--turned out to be the germs, the germ, the full-fledged germ of what became the NEC every, every element of it: a black-produced play, [HistoryMaker] Robert Hooks, a black producer, a black writer who's written about the black experience to say, addressed to a black audience, and a company, a 99 percent black company, which includes the veteran actors, 'cause I hired, you know, I had Frances Foster, you know, Moses Gunn, Robert, of course, was, was, was in it 'cause Robert played Junie in the orig- original production and also everybody was, of course, the four of us in, in, in, in 'Happy Ending' were all in, in, in 'Day of Absence,' 'cause 'Day of Absence' had about thirteen people I think, and, but Bobby's group, Bobby's workshop group [Group Theater Workshop], the kids who had trained, the ones I said that originally did 'Happy Ending' in that, in that graduation ceremony. They were also, so I got the generations, all of the, the veterans, the younger generation who were developing, who had also been, been part of a training program. So all of these things became the model. By putting together, in putting together NEC, eventually it didn't take--we, we sat down at the, at, at Orquidea [New York, New York], the, the bar right on the corner from the theater, at that time on 9th [Street] 9th and 2nd Avenue. When we found that we were, we were invited to make a proposal, a full-scale proposal, we sat down, and on a napkin (laughter), I mean on a, on a theater cloth, the white cloth in, over the, over the table, sat down and, and, and almost quickly outlined the ingredients for the NEC, the training program, the professional company, the, you know, the theater, the ambition for the productions, and as I said, the training program, which, which was, was thorough, or, and, and, and, and, and, and my insistence that all of this had to be free. See, all of, all of the NEC, all of the training that the NEC did was tuition-free. Nobody paid us a dime for, for, for the--it was a full-scale training because, hey, we, you know. I, I, just to show the training program, Paul Mann was, was, was--I brought Paul Mann in to train the theater company for, for a compressed intensive period of time before they, before they did the first production at a three-month paid, just like actors being paid, paid on a regular basis. Once I selected the company, they started a training program, and they were being paid full-scale salaries, you know, to come in every day. Paul trained them.

Gertrude Hadley Jeannette

Playwright, producer, director, and actress of the stage and screen, Gertrude Hadley Jeannette, was born in Urbana, Arkansas, on November 28, 1914, to Willis Lawrence Hadley and Salley Gertrude Crawford Hadley. Jeannette was raised in Arkansas where she attended Dunbar High School in Little Rock. Just before her high school graduation, Jeannette decided that she wanted to get married instead of attending Fisk University, as she had previously planned; she and Joe Jeannette, II, a prizefighter and the president of the Harlem Dusters, a motorcycle club, eloped to New York City in 1934.

In New York City, Jeannette learned to drive; in 1935 she became the first woman to get a license to drive a motorcycle. In 1942, because of the shortage of male taxicab drivers caused by the war, Jeannette became one of the first women to drive a cab in New York City. During this time, Jeannette decided to further her education; she took bookkeeping classes in the basement of Abyssinian Baptist Church, and speech classes at the American Negro Theatre in order to remedy her speech impediments. In 1945, Jeannette was cast in the lead role in Our Town; in 1950, she performed in her first play, This Way Foreward. That same year, Jeannette and Fred O’Neil appeared on television in James Weldon Johnson’s Gods Trombone on CBS’s General Electric Hour; she had replaced Pearl Bailey, who was originally cast in that role. As a result, Jeannette continued to work both in the theatre and in film and television; she went on to play roles in Broadway plays such as Lost In The Stars, Amen Corner, and The Great White Hope. Some of Jeannette’s film credits included Shaft, Black Girl, and Cotton Comes To Harlem.

In 1979, Jeannette founded the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players (Harlem Artists Development League Especially for You) in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. The mission of the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players was to give artists a chance to develop their talents and skills in the theatre, and to enrich the cultural life in Harlem. Jeannette went on to direct, produce, and write her own plays, as well as the works of other playwrights.

Jeannette was presented with several awards for her work and accomplishments. In 1991, Jeannette was honored as a living legend at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and in 1998, she was honored with the Lionel Hampton Legacy Award. Jeannette was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1999, and in 2002, she received the prestigious Paul Robeson Award from the Actor’s Equity Association. Jeanette, though retired, remained an active and celebrated member of the New York theater scene well into her nineties.

Jeannette passed away on April 4, 2018 at age 103.

Accession Number

A2005.133

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/9/2005

Last Name

Jeannette

Maker Category
Middle Name

Hadley

Schools

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

College Station Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Gertrude

Birth City, State, Country

Urbana

HM ID

JEA01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Arkansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Go Well And Stay Well.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/28/1914

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Greens (Mixed), Cornbread

Death Date

4/4/2018

Short Description

Actress, stage director, and playwright Gertrude Hadley Jeannette (1914 - 2018 ) founded the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players theater company in Harlem, York City.

Employment

City of New York

Various Broadway Plays

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gertrude Hadley Jeannette's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her maternal ancestors' life on the Cherokee reservation

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her experiences in grade school

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls her high school experience in Little Rock, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls eloping with Joe Jeannette, II

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes reconciling with her parents after her marriage

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls continuing her education in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette remembers becoming the first female motorcyclist in New York

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette remembers becoming the first female taxi driver in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes joining the American Negro Theater

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls working in summer stock theater

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her experiences with New York City's American Negro Theater

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls her friendship with Frank Silvera

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls appearing in 'Lost in the Stars' on Broadway

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls touring with the musical 'Lost in the Stars'

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls early African American movie stars

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls the McCarthy Era

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes performing in 'The Little Foxes'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette remembers Paul Robeson, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette remembers Paul Robeson, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls appearing in James Baldwin's play, 'The Amen Corner'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette reflects upon her Broadway acting career

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her acting philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes founding the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes running the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players in New York City, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes running the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players in New York City, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her concerns for African American theater

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette recalls African American prizefighters

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette reflects upon her family life

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Gertrude Hadley Jeannette narrates her photographs, pt. 3

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

6$8

DATitle
Gertrude Hadley Jeannette remembers becoming the first female taxi driver in New York City
Gertrude Hadley Jeannette describes founding the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players
Transcript
When was it that you became the first woman to get a (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Taxi driver?$$Yeah, woman taxi driver.$$That was in '42 [1942].$$Okay. Now that's the same--$$You see that was when World War II [WWII] started.$$That's '41 [1941].$$They advertised in the paper, they said that so many men were being taken, and that they were gonna have to train women to drive the cabs (background noise). Women were going into plants and everything else, taking over jobs that men, you know, and I said, "Well I know one thing, I can drive a car. I don't know nothing about working over there in those plants and things." But I went down and got an application, and they gave me a book about the city and whatnot, but I had ridden all over Brooklyn [New York], and everywhere on that motorcycle with my husband [Joe Jeanette, II] and in the cars. I pretty much knew more than the cab drivers knew anyway. But I took the book, and I'm a quick study. I got the main streets in Brooklyn, the main streets and whatnot. So when they came up for the test, I took the oral test and then they--now the men don't have to do this. If they get a driver's license, they don't have to take the test. And you know these drivers, these cab drivers today, they--you have to tell them where to go and how to get there because they don't know anything. But we had to take a test and they would say such and such. "If I'm on Central Park West at 86th Street and Central Park West and I wanna go to 120 Broadway. How would you get there? What is the nearest way?" And I would--I would tell 'em. I said, "If you wanna go through the city, that will be the nearest way. The quickest way would be to go and get the drive, then go down and you'll come off at South Ferry [Street], and then you go to Broadway, and then you go down to 120." And I passed the test. That day, thirty-two of us took the test and only two of us passed. But the other girl didn't get her license because she had citations on her driver's license. And so I, I was the first. And I made every paper in New York [New York], we had six papers. We had the Journal [New York Journal-American], the [New York Daily] Mirror, The [New York] Times, the New York [Daily] News. I made every paper.$$That's wonderful--$Tell me about the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players. Now when did the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players start, and we know how it got named, right? Those who have heard the first part of this interview know that Hadley is your maiden name and your father's [Willis Hadley] name, right?$$No, well when we organized, when we left the Our Theater and we went over to the place, rented the--over at St. Philip's.$$St. Philip's Episcopal Church [New York, New York]?$$Yeah.$$Okay.$$We got the whole basement down there. And we gonna be closing down for the summer for some new renovations and whatnot. But they said, what are we gonna call this group? Cause we're gonna--this group is--we're gonna hold onto this group. Well I had been teaching in the CETA [Comprehensive Employment and Training Act] program, and when that closed down, I got some of the people, you know, from that to come in with me. And we were thinking of a name. And they didn't wanna use Our Theater. They said, "Ms. Jeannette [HistoryMaker Gertrude Hadley Jeannette], why don't we call it the Jeannette Theater?" I said, "No, we're not gone make it personal. We're gonna make it something that everybody, all of us, it will belong to all of us." They said, "What is your maiden name?" I said, "Hadley." They said, "Why can't we call it the Hadley Theater?" I said, "No, won't call it Hadley." So they said, "Well give us some time to think it over." So they went out and they came back and they said, "How 'bout Harlem Artists Development League Especially for You?" I said I'll buy that.

Arthur Wellesley French

A director and actor who has appeared regularly on and off Broadway and in movies and television for more than forty years, Arthur Wellesley French, Jr. was born in New York City to Arthur Wellesley French and Ursilla Idonia Ollivierre. Educated at Brooklyn College, French worked for the New York City Department of Social Services before he began studying the Strasberg technique with Peggy Feury and acting in community theatre. He also studied with Maxwell Glanville, the founder of the Dramatic Workshop, as well as performing street plays in Harlem for Amiri Baraka's Black Arts Repertory Theater. A role in an off-Broadway satirical play, Raisin' Hell in the Son at the Provincetown Playhouse, launched his career as a professional actor.

In 1965, French appeared in Douglas Turner Ward's Day of Absence, out of which the Negro Ensemble Company evolved in 1967, producing professional theatre using Black artists, performers, writers, directors, actors, and craftspeople. During his career, French has performed in plays by Lonne Elder III, Ron Milner and August Wilson; a list which, including Ward, encompasses many contemporary African American playwrights. While French’s broad body of work in theatre includes acting in everything from Death of a Salesman with George C. Scott and Shakespeare’s King Lear to Melvin van Peebles' Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death, he has also appeared in films including Malcolm X, Crooklyn, Car Wash, Round Midnight, Kinsey, and on television programs such as Law and Order, as well as in commercials. He has directed, among others, the South African playwright Lungelo Mvusi's Just Won't; Marjorie Elliott's Branches from the Same Tree; Clifford Mason's Two Bourgeois Blacks; George Bernard Shaw's The Village Wooing; Steve Carter's One Last Look; Rudy Gray's Chameleon; Estelle Ritchie's Love You to Pieces and Wole Soyinka's Strong Breed for which he garnered two Audience Development Committee (AUDELCO) nominations.

Along with the Audience Development Committee nominations and much critical acclaim, French won the Obie for Sustained Excellence of Performance in 1997. French currently teaches acting at Herbert Berghof (HB) Studio in New York as he continues to direct and to act on stage and in film.

Accession Number

A2005.127

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/7/2005

Last Name

French

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Middle Name

Wellesley

Organizations
Schools

J.H.S 40

The Bronx High School of Science

Morris High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Arthur

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

FRE04

Favorite Season

Winter

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Los Angeles, California

Favorite Quote

Try To Keep Moving Forward.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/6/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pastas, Veal

Short Description

Stage actor, film actor, and stage director Arthur Wellesley French (1949 - ) has appeared regularly on and off Broadway and in movies and television. Along with Audience Development Committee nominations and much critical acclaim, French won an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance in 1997. French also has taught acting at Herbert Berghof (HB) Studio in New York.

Employment

Department of Social Services

Negro Ensemble Company

HB Studios

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Arthur Wellesley French's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his mother's childhood in the British West Indies and her move to the United States

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his paternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French describes how his parents met in New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Arthur Wellesley French shares his earliest childhood aspiration

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his father's work

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Arthur Wellesly French describes his childhood neighborhood in Harlem, New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Arthur Wellesly French describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Harlem, New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Arthur Wellesley French describes memorable figures from his childhood neighborhood in Harlem, New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his home life growing up in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about attending St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Harlem, New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his childhood interests and activities

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his childhood interests in reading and math

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French describes memorable teachers from P.S. 90 and J.H.S. 40 in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about overcoming asthma and playing sports while growing up in the Bronx, New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his early interest in drama in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley talks about his father's death and working to help support his mother

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Arthur French talks about attending The Bronx High School of Science and Morris High School in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about helping his mother with her sewing jobs after his father's death

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his experience at Morris High School in the Bronx, New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about working for the New York City Department of Social Services

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his experiences working for the New York City Department of Social Services

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his early interest in acting

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about working as a stagehand for doo-wop groups in the late 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the Dramatic Workshop and his acting coach, Peggy Feury

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about joining Maxwell Granville's acting group in Harlem, New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about working behind the scenes for the play 'The Blacks: A Clown Show'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Arthur French recalls his first acting role in the play 'Raisin Hell in the Son'

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about marrying his wife in 1961

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley French describes the play 'Raisin' Hell in the Son'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about pursuing acting while working full time

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about acting in three summer stock plays, including HistoryMaker Ossie Davis' 'Purlie Victorious'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French remembers meeting HistoryMaker Douglas Turner Ward

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French describes the plays 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about notable figures who attended the play 'Days of Absence'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the play 'Perry's Mission'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the Negro Ensemble Company's groundbreaking success

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French reflects on the naming of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley French describes the plays produced by Negro Ensemble Company in New York City during the late 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his response to reading theater reviews

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Arthur Wellesley French reflects on the early years and accomplishments of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Arthur Wellesley French explains how his attempt to act in Hollywood, California was derailed

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about applying to The Bronx High School of Science in the Bronx, New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his decision to commit to acting full time

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the opening of HistoryMaker Melvin Van Peebles' play 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the cast of HistoryMaker Melvin Van Peebles' play 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about acting in 'Our Street' and the play 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French remembers stage director Gilbert Moses

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about performing the play 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death' at the Tony Awards

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French describes the powerful ending of 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the controversial aspects of 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death'

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his roles in various productions, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his roles in various productions, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his role in 'Death of a Salesman'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about the play 'The River Niger'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about 'Ceremonies in Dark Old Men' and directing August Wilson's 'Fences' in Vermont

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French remembers playwrights Lonne Elders III and August Wilson

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley describes his acting awards

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French remembers actress Rosetta LeNoire

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Arthur Wellesley French lists his roles in various television shows and movies

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French shares an anecdote about one of his early television performances

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about protests against 'Song of the Lusitanian Bogey' in London, England

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about being typecast as older characters

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about current and future projects

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Arthur Wellesley talks about the theme of passing in the film 'Bellclair Times'

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about his training in method acting

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Arthur Wellesley French talks about continuing challenges in African American representation in film

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Arthur Wellesley French describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Arthur Wellesley French reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Arthur Wellesley French reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Arthur Wellesley French remembers his mother, Ursilla Ollivierre French

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Arthur Wellesley French shares his thoughts about discrimination and historical misrepresentation

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Arthur Wellesley French describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

7$4

DATitle
Arthur Wellesley French talks about the Negro Ensemble Company's groundbreaking success
Arthur Wellesley French talks about the cast of HistoryMaker Melvin Van Peebles' play 'Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death'
Transcript
From around the country, black people--when other black folks get involved in the theater they look to the Negro Ensemble Company--$$Right.$$--as the place to be.$$Well--$$Did you have a sense of that, being in it?$$Well, at first, well, after, this was after 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence.' So, I don't say I had a sense of it. I was very happy to be part of it. And I'd worked with Doug [HistoryMaker Douglas Turner Ward] before. The same people who were the head people at the Negro Ensemble Company were the same three people who produced 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence,' which was [HistoryMaker] Robert Hooks, Douglas Turner Ward, and Gerald Krone. So, I was happy to be there with this company. I knew every black actor in the city [New York, New York] wanted to be part of this, so I felt privileged to be part of it. I think what happened is that we were there and we were in the same theater [St. Mark's Playhouse, New York, New York] where we did 'Happy Ending' and 'Day of Absence.' And we opened, our first play was 'Song of the Lusitanian Bogey' by Peter Weiss. Well, what happened, and I guess it was surprising, is that we did our first play. And we just did a play, and I'd done plays before. And almost overnight it seemed, you know, when we got reviewed, suddenly we would read about being compared to the Moscow Art Theater, and being compared to great theaters of the past. There were lines around the block, mostly all white, coming to see us. So, there was that immediate--it was just, just happened. So one day we were a group of people putting on a play, and the next day we were kind of getting all this publicity and a lot of press. And we became--like international press. So it was, it was--but Doug kind of kept us. Doug would let us enjoy that for about twenty-four hours. And then he would say, "Okay, now we've got to start, we've got to start rehearsing the next play." So, we went on and moved on to the next thing. But suddenly that became the place to be. Every reviewer was there. I mean everyone wanted, you know, to find out what these black people were doing, how did this happen? So, we were known throughout, you know, the country almost immediately. I mean it was, I don't think--I personally didn't understand or was aware of the scope of it at the time--$$Now, how--$$--of how far reaching it was. To say it was known all over the world in a very short time.$What role did you play in 'Ain't Supposed to Die [a Natural Death,' Melvin Van Peebles]?$$Well, we didn't have names. I opened both the first act and the second act (laughter). But it was, the experience of that--it was--how serendipitous the whole business is--it's that when the auditions came up, being in my usual ignorance, I wasn't really aware of the 'Ain't Supposed to Die' album. I was doing a series out of Baltimore [Maryland], a television series called 'Our Street' with Whitney LeBlanc. I don't know if you know Whitney. Did you ever interview Whitney? Whitney LeBlanc, and who was down there? The young Howard Rollins was down there. And when the auditions came up I'd just gotten a contract, like ten out of twelve weeks in Baltimore. So, I was about to quit anyway my job. I don't think I'd quit then yet. Anyway, I couldn't go to the audition. And the agreement was, it was like you're going to be there ten out of twelve weeks, but we'll tell you which two weeks you can take off. So, I missed the auditions. But after the first week they said, "We have to go back and shoot an episode before your character was introduced. So, you're off next week." I'd only worked one week. So I came back and kind of called the agent. They said, "We're seeing people on callbacks." But they saw me, and they got me, I got me in and I got a part in the show. I didn't have to go to a callback. But if I hadn't had that week off, I'd never been in it. So I opened the show singing, 'It Just Don't Make No Sense.' And it was a period of songs and street scenes and what not. And then I opened the second act singing, 'Good Morning Sunshine.' It was a great cast. Garrett Morris was in the cast; Dick Anthony Williams; B Winde [Beatrice Winde]; who else? Phylicia Rashad came in after. I'm trying to think of the people--Sati Jamal. It was a big cast, lots of wonderful people, Albert Hall. And I'm going to forget somebody. But don't print it, don't say any names, because I'll never remember them all. But anyway that was, that was, you know, my first Broadway experience. We ran for like eight months.

Oz Scott

Director and producer Oz Scott was born Osborne E. Scott, Jr. September 16, 1949 in Fortman Row, Virginia. His father was Army chaplain Brigadier General Osborne Scott, Sr. and his mother, Jean Sampson Scott, was the president of the Schomburg chapter of the African American Genealogical Society. Raised in Japan and Germany until he was twelve years old, Scott attended Baumholder School and Bad Kreuznach American School. In Mt. Vernon, New York he attended Graham School, Pemberton School and graduated from Mt. Vernon High School in 1967. Starting at Friends World College, he transferred to Marlboro College where he started doing theatre before earning his B.A. from Antioch College in 1972. Already working with Back Alley Theatre and Arena Stage, he received an MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1974.

Scott began his theatrical career at Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage where he managed The Living Stage. In New York, Scott staged and took to Broadway, for colored girls who considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange in 1977. He also directed Sonia Sanchez’ Sister Sonji; Richard Wesley’s The Past is the Past; and Fences by August Wilson. A director with writing skills, Scott started his television work in 1976 with The Jeffersons and Archie Bunker’s Place. In the 1980’s Scott directed episodes of Hill Street Blues, Gimme a Break! Scarecrow and Mrs. King, The Cosby Show, 227, L.A. Law, and Dirty Dancing. In the 1990s it was Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Picket Fences, Party of Five, Chicago Hope, JAG, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Family Law, Time Cop, Get Real and Any Day Now. Since 2000 he has directed Soul Food, Strong Medicine, CSI, Ed, Lizzie McGuire, The Guardian, dr. vegas and was both director and supervising producer to CBS TV’s The District. Scott’s movie credits include: The Cheetah Girls (2003), Play’d A Hip-Hop Story (2002), and Crash Course (1988).

Scott has received the NAACP Image Award, the Drama Desk Award, and a Village Voice Obie Award for off Broadway, Genesis Award and the Nancy Susan Reynolds Award. He serves on the board of directors of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, the Deans Council for California State University at Northridge’s College of Arts, Media and Communication. Scott directed the video that introduced Rev. Jesse L. Jackson to the 1988 Democratic National Convention and the Nelson Mandela Rally for Freedom at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1990.

Accession Number

A2005.109

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/26/2005 |and| 10/2/2005

Last Name

Scott

Marital Status

Married

Schools

Mount Vernon High School

Graham Elementary School

Pemberton School

Bad Kreuznach American High School

Baumholder Middle School/High School

Antioch College

New York University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Oz

Birth City, State, Country

Hampton

HM ID

SCO04

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring, Summer

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Go With The Flow.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

9/16/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken, Salmon

Short Description

Stage director, television director, and television producer Oz Scott (1949 - ) brought, "For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf," by Ntozake Shange to Broadway. Scott has also produced or directed episodes of The Jeffersons, Archie Bunker’s Place, The Cosby Show and 227, among many more.

Employment

Arena Stage

Hollywood - various networks and studios

Favorite Color

Blue, Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Oz Scott's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Oz Scott lists his favorites

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

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Oz Scott describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Oz Scott recalls his maternal grandfather and his mother's early life

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Oz Scott describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Oz Scott recalls his father's service in the U.S. Army

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Oz Scott recalls his father's experience with race relations in the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Oz Scott describes his father's ministry and how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Oz Scott describes growing up with his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Oz Scott recalls his father as a professor at City College of New York

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Oz Scott recalls his parents' association with Leonard Jeffries

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Oz Scott describes his brother, Michael Scott

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Oz Scott describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Oz Scott retells a story about Richard Pryor's experience in the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Oz Scott describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Oz Scott recalls his travels as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Oz Scott recalls his paternal grandfather moving to Germany

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Oz Scott describes himself as a young boy, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Oz Scott describes himself as a young boy, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Oz Scott recalls his mother's treatment with cortisone in the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Oz Scott reflects upon his mother's influence on his artistic pursuits

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Oz Scott recalls his interest in television and its influence on his work

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Oz Scott recalls the schools that he attended

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Oz Scott recalls the plays that he watched as a schoolboy

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Oz Scott recalls his interest in reading

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Oz Scott describes his father's religious affiliation

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Oz Scott recalls his extracurricular activities at Mount Vernon High School

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Oz Scott describes the race demographics of Mount Vernon, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Oz Scott recalls his high school's athletics

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Oz Scott recalls his decision to attend Friends World Institute in Long Island

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Oz Scott describes his experience in Mexico

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Oz Scott recalls attending Marlboro College and Antioch College

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Oz Scott recalls his experience working at Arena Stage

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Oz Scott recalls his science studies at Antioch College

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating of Oz Scott's interview, session 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Oz Scott describes his experience as a taxi driver in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Oz Scott describes his decision to join New York University's directing program

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Oz Scott describes his first year at New York University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Oz Scott describes recalls meeting HistoryMaker Ntozake Shange

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Oz Scott describes how he brought 'For Colored Girls' to stage

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Oz Scott recalls meeting his future wife

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Oz Scott remembers realizing his calling as a director

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Oz Scott recalls directing a documentary film in New Orleans

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Oz Scott recalls his first opportunity to direct a Hollywood film

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Oz Scott recalls working on the script for 'Bustin Loose'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Oz Scott describes his experience directing 'Bustin' Loose'

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Oz Scott recalls the cast of 'Bustin' Loose'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Oz Scott describes filming the Ku Klux Klan scene in 'Bustin' Loose,' pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Oz Scott describes filming the Ku Klux Klan scene in 'Bustin' Loose,' pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Oz Scott recalls Vincent Price's acting in 'Bustin' Loose'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Oz Scott reflects upon Richard Pryor's career as an actor

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Oz Scott recalls marrying his wife and starting a family

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Oz Scott recalls his start in directing television shows

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Oz Scott describes the pace of directing television shows

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Oz Scott recalls the TV series that he directed before 'The Cosby Show'

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Oz Scott reflects upon the importance of ratings in Hollywood

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Oz Scott recalls resuming his career as a director after a break

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Oz Scott recalls directing the show 'Picket Fences'

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Oz Scott recalls his involvement in theatre

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Oz Scott recalls his involvement in the 1988 Democratic National Convention

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Oz Scott recalls directing Nelson Mandela's rally in Los Angeles in 1990

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Oz Scott recalls his community affairs involvement in Los Angeles

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Oz Scott recalls directing 'The Old Settler' in Russia

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Oz Scott reflects upon his work as a director, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Oz Scott reflects upon his work as a director, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Oz Scott recalls his experience directing a motion-based platform ride

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Oz Scott reflects upon his goals in television, film and theatre

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Oz Scott reflects upon his career

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Oz Scott reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Oz Scott describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Oz Scott reflects upon making artistic endeavors profitable

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Oz Scott talks about his family, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Oz Scott talks about his family, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Oz Scott describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Oz Scott narrates his photographs

DASession

2$2

DATape

5$6

DAStory

5$6

DATitle
Oz Scott describes recalls meeting HistoryMaker Ntozake Shange
Oz Scott describes filming the Ku Klux Klan scene in 'Bustin' Loose,' pt. 2
Transcript
I survived one year doing it, and the second year [at New York University (NYU), New York, New York] I went to my film teachers, Beta Baca [ph.] who was my camera teacher and Ian Maitland who was editing and I said, "Guys, I gotta make a choice," because they said, "Are you going to stay in film or you going to stay in theatre?" Everybody, both departments were wide open to me and both of them said, "Oz [HistoryMaker Oz Scott], get a good editor and get a good DP [director of photography]. They can help you learn the camera. They can help you learn the techniques that you need." Beta said, "Come and take my color emulsion class, I do it five weeks, five, five seminars. After that, he said, you can learn the camera within a year or two. It's going to take you a lifetime to learn the actors so it's best to start now." And so I stayed in theatre. I mean, that and the fact that theatre program, to get a master's [degree], was a two-year program and film was a three-year program, I figured, two years, and I thought it was very good because I, it was learning the actors, it was working with actors which I still think is a very strong element to my directing. So, so the second year I was doing a lot of stage managing for Joe Papp [Joseph Papp]. I did a play by Miguel Pinero called 'The Sun Always Shines for the Cool' which becomes a whole another story because I got a, I was hanging out with Ifa [Ifa Bayeza], guess what her name, at this, now her name is Ifa Bayeza, who's [HistoryMaker] Ntozake Shange's sister and Ifa introduced me to Ntozake and Ntozake, and Ifa said, "Why don't you take, why don't you give Oz your poems and let him make 'em into a play." And so Ntozake gave me her poems and we set about making them into a play. I said, "Zake, I will make them into a play but you have to get me a venue. Get me a venue, I'll give you a award-winning play." I was very cocky back then and she came back to me the next day and she had gotten a bar on the Lower East Side [New York, New York], a Puerto Rican bar on the Lower East Side without a door between the back room and the bar where they served the fried chicken and they, it was like a block up from where Slugs' [Slugs' Saloon] had been on--in Alphabet City [New York, New York] and we did--Del Monte's was the bar, and we proceeded to do 'For Colored Girls' ['For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When The Rainbow Is Enuf,' Ntozake Shange]. That December, we had two, she had gotten two Saturday nights--.$$Now, now what year is this?$$This is 1975.$$Okay.$$I graduated NYU in 1974 and, I mean, so we ended up doing the first part of 'For Colored Girls' in 1975, December.$Cut to the bus. Again, this is all made up. I don't have a clue what, what's going on. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm just saying, okay, let's try this. The words Richard [Richard Pryor] is coming up with on the spot. I'm just--again, this is sort of like 'Dreamland' back in New Orleans [Louisiana]. I'm coming up with, "Here's the situation, I don't know what you're going to say, but here's the situation." So, it turns out, I had the blind kid sitting in the front seat and Richard pulls the, has the Klansman come on with the hood and the Klansman comes on, Richard comes on behind, and I said, "Okay, oh, I got it, I got it, I got it." I told the blind kid to reach up and grab the sheet off the Klansman and pull it off, de- defrock him; and I said, "Richard," and then I said, "all the kids, you're all blind." And so, so Richard started, he said, "Okay," he, he's like, they start, and he said, "They're blind, they're all blind, they're all blind," and he gets the Klansman off, you know, off the bus and at this point I, I was lost. I said, "Richard, I don't have a clue what you're going to say now. Say something to him, but we've got the scene. I can cut the scene this way," and Richard right there, on the spot, without, was not the night before, we just, I just created that scene right there on the spot. He said, "We're on our way to the Ray Charles Institute for the Blind to get that miracle operation. They've been running it on the Oral Roberts show, and I know they run it in your area," (laughter) and I had this old stuntman as playing the Klansman and he said, "Okay, get back on the bus, get on the bus; we'll give you a push." And Richard looks at him, and this is Richard, and he just says, "You're a great American and great human being. Thank you," and he gets on the bus. The place falls out. The crew is just rolling. I mean it's just a brilliant, brilliant moment and I said to Richard, "Do it again." Richard goes off. "Oh, Mr. Director wants me to do it again. Oh, I'm going to do it again because Mr. Director wants me to do it." And he was furious because he had got it. He knew he had nailed it. So he gets on there, he does the same line, "You're a great American and a great human being," and then he grabs the Klansman by the head and he pulls him to him and gives him a mouth-to-mouth kiss; and the poor Klansman you could just see him, the actor went (makes sound) (laughter) and Richard gets on the bus and the place just, I mean, it erupted with applause. It was just, and Richard turned to me as he walked off the bus and said, "So you knew, fuck you," and he walked to his (gesture)--what I knew was he had to top himself. I didn't know how he was going to top what he had done, which was already brilliant, but he, he did it, he topped it. There are scenes in the film where I have told Richard, when he's walking off the back of the bus, I said, "Oh, Richard, I got this idea, this is great. When you go to get the, I want you to go off the back of the bus," and I said, "somebody give me a shovel, give me a shovel." So I started digging a ditch and I poured water in it and mud and I said, "Richard, when you jump down, you're going to go down into this water and you're going to fall and you're going to flop around and you're going to be all--." "Oh, and you think that's funny. The, I'm going to fall in the mud. You think that's funny." Richard walked, he's walking down the bus talking about, "F him, F you, F you," (makes sounds) and he was talking about me. I kept it in the film. I'm like, and he goes off and he does the whole flopping around and he's great. He's just, you know, so, 'Bustin' Loose' we did that. Richard burnt himself up. Scenes were shot after they were in the film; and that's 'Bustin' Loose.'

Woodie King, Jr.

Award winning theater director Woodie King, Jr., was born on July 27, 1937, in Baldwin Springs, Alabama, to parents Ruby and Woodie King, Sr. Attending high school in Detroit, King graduated in 1956; he then went on to attend Leman College in New York, and later earned his M.F.A. degree from Brooklyn College.

Following his high school graduation in 1956, King worked for Ford Motor Company as an arc welder for the three years. In 1959, King went to work for the city of Detroit as a draftsman. In 1965, King joined Mobilization for Youth, where he spent the next five years working as the cultural director.

In 1970, King founded the New Federal Theatre and the National Black Touring Circuit in New York City, where he remained as producing director throughout his career. King produced shows both on and off Broadway, and directed performances across the country in venues such as the New York Shakespeare Festival; the Cleveland Playhouse; Center Stage of Baltimore; and the Pittsburgh Public Theatre. King's work earned him numerous nominations and awards over the years, including a 1988 NAACP Image Award for his direction of Checkmates, and 1993 Audelco Awards for Best Director and Best Play for his production of Robert Johnson: Trick The Devil; he also received an Obie Award for Sustained Achievement. King was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Wayne State University, and a doctorate of fine arts from the College of Wooster.

In addition to his directing and producing of theater, King wrote extensively about the theater industry; he contributed to numerous magazines, such as Black World, Variety, and The Tulane Drama Review, as well as authoring a number of books.

Accession Number

A2003.083

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/18/2003

Last Name

King

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Bright Meyer Elementary School

Smith School

Barbour Magnet Middle School

Cass Technical High School

Smith Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Woodie

Birth City, State, Country

Bladwin Springs

HM ID

KIN03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

London, England

Favorite Quote

Because you're in a hurry, it doesn't mean I'm in a hurry.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

7/27/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken Brazalia, Spicy Chinese Shrimp

Short Description

Stage director and theater director Woodie King, Jr. (1937 - ) is an award-winning theater director who founded the New Federal Theatre and the National Black Touring Circuit in New York City. King also writes theater critiques for several magazines.

Employment

Ford Motor Company

City of Detroit

Mobilization for Youth

New Federal Theatre

National Black Touring Circuit

Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Woodie King, Jr. interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Woodie King, Jr.'s favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Woodie King, Jr. discusses his family origins

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Woodie King, Jr. remembers his father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Woodie King, Jr. remembers his mother and male mentors

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Woodie King, Jr. discusses the Detroit, Michigan of his youth

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Woodie King, Jr. discusses his school life in Detroit

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Woodie King, Jr. discusses his gang involvement in 1950s Detroit

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Woodie King, Jr. describes his early interests

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Woodie King, Jr. discusses his occupational choices

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Woodie King, Jr. recalls his foray into the theater arts

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Woodie King, Jr. talks about his drama school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Woodie King, Jr. discusses his first theater company in Detroit and the plays they performed

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Woodie King, Jr. talks about his acting roles in New York and starting a theater company in Harlem

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Woodie King, Jr. describes the beginnings of his New Federal Theatre Project

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Woodie King, Jr. details his other theater-related projects and movies

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Woodie King, Jr. talks about his international network of theater colleagues

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Woodie King, Jr. talks about how plays by black Americans are received internationally

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Woodie King, Jr. discusses black theater and the founders of other theater companies in the U.S.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Woodie King, Jr. talks about fundraising and his business strategy for a successful theater

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Woodie King, Jr. details more of his business strategy

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Woodie King, Jr. talks about financing theater productions and gives his views on community theater

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Woodie King, Jr. shares his greatest challenges as a theater producer

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Woodie King, Jr. talks about the success of the play 'Checkmates'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Woodie King, Jr. discusses his concerns for the black community

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Woodie King, Jr. gives a brief commentary on the people with whom he's worked in the theater community

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Woodie King, Jr. describes two of his most important productions

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Woodie King, Jr. talks about his upcoming projects

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Woodie King, Jr. discusses his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. and Gertrude Jeannette, founder of the HADLEY Players, ca. 1990s

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with Clinton Turner Davis, Rashida Ismaili Abubakr and Elizabeth Van Dyke, ca. 1990s

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Photo - Candid photo of Woodie King, Jr., ca. 1990s

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with Kojo Ade and Adger Cowans, New York, New York, ca. late 1990s

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with actors Charles Weldon and Rony Clanton, New York, New York, ca. mid-1990s

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. and National Black Theatre founder, Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, New York, New York, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with Sonia Sanchez and other actors at the Black Theater Festival, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with Adam Wade, Leslie Uggams and other actors at New Federal Theatre's cast party for 'Black Girl', New York, New York, ca. 1995-1996

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with others at the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers' Conference, Chicago, Illinois, ca. early 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with others at the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers' Conference, Chicago, Illinois, ca. late 1980s

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Photo - Gwendolyn Brooks and others at the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers' Conference at Chicago State University, Chicago, Illinois, 1992

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. receives the Higgs Award from the Henry Street Settlement, New York, New York, ca. 1986-1987

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with scenic designer Eldon Elder at a luncheon at The Players Club, ca. late 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with others at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, New York, New York, ca. mid-1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Candid of Woodie King, Jr., Rochester, New York, 1994

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. and Percy Littleton at a theater conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. receives an award from Margaret Burroughs

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with others at an opening at the New Federal Theatre, New York, New York, ca. 1993

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. and others at an opening at the Lincoln Center Theater Company, New York, New York, ca. 1987

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with Sidney Poitier, William Greaves and others at the 30th anniversary of the New Federal Theatre, New York, New York, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with his son and playwright Laurence Holder at the 30th anniversary of New Federal Theatre, New York, New York, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. and Kim Sullivan at the Abrons Arts Center at Henry Street Settlement, New York, New York, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 17 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. receives a replica of Lorenzo Pace's art installation plan created in honor of Manhattan's African Burial Ground, New York, New York, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 18 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. introduces his son to actors at the 30th anniversary of the New Federal Theatre, New York, New York, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 19 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with producer and playwright, Philip Rose, an honoree at the 30th anniversary of New Federal Theatre, New York, New York, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 20 - Photo - Haki Madhubuti and Amiri Baraka at the 30th anniversary of New Federal Theatre, New York, New York, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 21 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. listens to Susan Taylor at the 30th anniversary of New Federal Theatre, New York, New York, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 22 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. and others at the 30th anniversary celebration of New Federal Theatre, New York, New York, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 23 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. and actor Nick Searcy at the 30th anniversary celebration of New Federal Theatre, New York, New York, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 24 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr., Shaita Miusi and an unidentified at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, 1995

Tape: 5 Story: 25 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. speaking at the Arts Merits Award at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, 1995

Tape: 5 Story: 26 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. receives an Arts Merits Award at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, 1995

Tape: 5 Story: 27 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr., Ken Preston and Amiri Baraka at the 30th anniversary of New Federal Theatre, New York, New York, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 28 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with others at the Abrons Arts Center at Henry Street Settlement, New York, New York, 1992

Tape: 5 Story: 29 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr.'s high school yearbook picture from Cass Technical High School, Detroit, Michigan, 1956

Tape: 5 Story: 30 - Photo - Woodie King, Jr. with New Federal Theatre's Coordinator, Mamie Mitchum in front of their space on East Third Street, New York, New York, ca. 1971-1973

Tape: 5 Story: 31 - Photo - Portrait of Woodie King, Jr. from his book 'Black Theatre Present Condition', 1981

DASession

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DATitle
Woodie King, Jr. discusses his occupational choices
Woodie King, Jr. describes the beginnings of his New Federal Theatre Project
Transcript
I graduated [high school] June, 1956, July, I was at Ford [Motor Company]. They came, and they recruited, give you these jobs, you know, really--I was a arc welder and a checker, you know, where all you do is, like, you know, go around and put white chalks on these frames that these old black men welded. And they teach you how to be cruel to old people, you know. You know, you know, it's not--this is not right; do it again, you know. And you watch these old people get laid off. They were worried about getting laid off, and the six of us, man, I guess--from 1956 to 1959, we could work anytime we wanted to. We could work ten hours, twelve hours. I mean can you imagine, like, at that time, making four or five hundred dollars a week, you know.$$That was considered a good job, for somebody black to be able to make--(unclear) (simultaneously)--.$$Oh, yeah, yeah, you know.$$You were doing (unclear) if you were--(simultaneously).$$Yeah, and I worked midnight to--first, I worked from four to midnight. Then I worked from midnight to 8:00 a.m. because then I wanted to go to school. And I went through all kind of hell to get in drama schools and all that cause I, I was enamored, you know. So I would come from work, go direct to the library. And I would stay in the library, go to sleep in the library; wake up and read some more. I had discovered theater, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Fred O'Neill and all the people in Detroit [Michigan] who had migrated from New York. So it was about finding them and touching base with them. It was like a unbelievable discovery, that right there in my midst that people like Elmer Forrest Parks and Len Powell Lindsey, who had left New York, you know. And you see their picture, you know. And early works by Ralph Ellison, you discovered, you know, Richard Wright. You know, one thing leads to another. So, I guess my leaving Ford Motor was, was timely. It was a major explosion, and a lot of people were killed. And, and it was right in the plant, maybe a block from where I was, right, where these frames had gone through this paint. And this paint had chemicals in it while the welding was still hot, and they blew up, killed a couple people. One of them was my friend, you know. And you start saying, wait a minute, is this what I want? Is this what I want at twenty-one years old? No way, man, you know.$Tell us briefly about the old Federal Theatre Project. I think that was like significant to (unclear) (simultaneously)?$$Okay, under the Work Progress Administration (WPA), [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt, they tried to find ways to put blacks on the government payroll. And one way they did was have theater. And that, the unit that, that, what the blacks, would call it 'Negro [Theatre] Unit'. However, the 'Negro Unit' was run by [caucasians] Orson Welles and John Houseman. They had a huge hit in New York, 'The Voodoo Macbeth', but they did a lot of other things in different cities. I think [James] Theodore Ward out of Chicago [Illinois] was a member of it. Certainly, Leonard Depaw (ph.), you know, was a member the run, 'Run Children', Hughes Allison, 'The Trial of Dr. Beck', plays like that, you know. So it was free. All you got to do is go and see it. And people got paid a little amount of money for being in it. So I thought artists should be paid expenses at least, and be on a payroll and supported by the government. I felt that, should have a open-door policy, and that the public should not have to pay to come in. So for the first three years, that's what we did. Again, that had never been done in the theater. So it really jolted the New York establishment and, and they were really open arms for what we were about. So our first play that was a hit was a play called 'Black Girl' by J. E. Franklin, and later made into a movie and brought an unbelievable amount of national attention to the New Federal Theatre. We followed that up with--that was in '70 [1970]--'71 [1971], '72 [1972], '73 [1973] we had a hit with a play called 'The Taking of Ms. Janie' by Ed Bullins, which won the Drama Critics Circle Award. And I think it's the first time a community kind of theater had won a Drama Critics Circle Award. Then our next play was so huge, it went all over the United States for two or three years, a play by Ron Milner called 'What the Wine-Sellers Buy', that we had been nurturing, and Fran from Detroit [Michigan]. And I mean it really worked. And we went everywhere. And the black community across America just embraced us, so in Chicago--.$$(Simultaneously) You're right. It was a big deal and whenever--it came to Columbus, Ohio--Cincinnati [Ohio]. It was all over the place.$$Yeah, yeah, and so the New Federal Theatre's name just spread, spread, you know. So what we thought was, my God, this could be our forever, you know, this could--we could just reach everybody. It was the beginning, and it didn't have, it didn't have anything but positive connotations around it, very positive. And then the next year, we had 'for colored girls [who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf'], which was a hit for three or four years, you know, all over the world. So the New Federal Theatre in reaching out to women writers and those who had not had an opportunity before, started getting scripts from everywhere, all over the world, scripts from London [England], Australia, Canada, in addition to across the United States. So we started getting great scripts in, you know. And we started doing Asian writers, David Henry Hwang, 'The Dance and the Railroad'. We think we were the first to produce him, you know. Don Evans, you know, plays that went on to other things. So, you know, so, so for, for a while, until the white theater world discovered this is the way to do it, by using us as role models, you know. It's like, somebody said, "It's almost like Little Richard singing 'Tutti Frutti' and [singer] Pat Boone coming along after." I said, "Oh, is that all you have to do?", you know. (laughs) So we made mold, and they just came along and said, "Oh, that's all you have to do? We'll do that." And that's how that thing sort of shifted. We're for--we're always reinventing and in, and inventing. And so each time I went out after that, I had to discover a new way to do it.$$Well, why did you have to discover a new way to doing these things?$$Because, you know, the '[What The] Wine-Sellers [Buy]' and 'for colored girls' did so well, the theater owners wasn't gonna let us come to their theater again unless they owned it, you know. It's like if you go to a theater, I mean in those days you could go to a theater, the Studebaker [Theater, Somerville, Massachusetts], and rent it. Not any--you can't go to the Studebaker and rent that theater. You can't rent the Shubert Theater in Chicago [Illinois] anymore. They said, "No, no, no. We'll take a percentage of the gross, and if you fall below a certain amount, you got to give us this amount," which is like, maybe thirty thousand dollars or thirty percent of the gross. So if you gross 400,000 dollars, and they're getting thirty percent of it, you know what I mean. (laughs) So, and you say, "Wait a minute, if they getting thirty percent of this, I got to do everything else out of my seventy [percent]," you know. You can't do that. You can't do it anymore. That's why the so called urban-circuit plays, you know, it's like, I, I sit back and laugh. I know the, the guy's--who put it together, he's the writer, he's the director, he's the lead actor, you know. He's trying to get them churches in there. The play will gross six or seven hundred thousand dollars. He ain't making that. Whoever owns the theater is making that, you know. He may make his hundred, but he's got to rip off everybody he got in the company and pay them nothing if he wants to get in something. You can't, you know, it's very sad, man, it's very sad, you know, what it's come to.

Geoffrey Holder

Artist, dancer, and choreographer, Geoffrey Holder, was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, on August 20, 1930. While in Port-of-Spain, Holder attended Queens Royal College, but received much of his education in dancing and painting from the Holder Dance Company, his older brother Boscoe's dance troupe.

Holder premiered in his brother's dance company at the age of seven, and by 1947, he was in charge of the troupe. After being seen by dancer Agnes de Mille in 1952, Holder was invited to New York to audition; to finance the trip for himself and his troupe, he sold twenty of his paintings. After failing to receive a sponsorship to tour and perform, Holder began teaching at the Katherine Dunham School of Cultural Arts. In 1954, Holder made his first Broadway performance as Samedi in House of Flowers. For the next two years, Holder appeared as a principal dancer on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and continued to work with his own troupe through 1960. Holder also continued to paint, and in 1957 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship; that same year brought his first film role, All Night Long, a modern retelling of Othello. Roles continued to come in, with Holder playing Baron Samedi in the James Bond film Live and Let Die and Punjab in Annie. In more recent years, Holder appeared in the Eddie Murphy film Boomerang.

Not limited to his acting and painting, Holder also directed; his production of The Wiz, an all-black retelling of The Wizard of Oz, earned him Tony Awards for best director and best costume design. Holder also wrote Black Gods, Green Islands, an illustrated collection of Caribbean folklore, and Geoffrey Holder's Caribbean Cookbook. Holder and his wife, dancer Carmen DeLavallade, met and married while Holder was performing in House of Flowers in 1955; the couple lived and worked in New York City.

Holder passed away on October 5, 2014.

Accession Number

A2003.081

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/16/2003

Last Name

Holder

Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Search Occupation Category
First Name

Geoffrey

Birth City, State, Country

Port of Spain

HM ID

HOL02

Favorite Season

None

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France, Haiti, Mexico

Favorite Quote

We're all born mad; some of us remain so.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/20/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

Trinidad & Tobago

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

10/5/2014

Short Description

Dancer, film actor, stage director, and painter Geoffrey Holder (1930 - 2014 ) danced on Broadway, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, and his own dancing troupe. In addition to his dancing activities, Holder had a prolific career in film, acting, producing, costume designing, and directing.

Employment

Holder Dance Company

Katherine Dunham School of Dance and Theatre

Metropolitan Opera Ballet

Favorite Color

Blue, Orange, Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:12477,87:13296,109:15639,120:38985,528:39775,541:44849,607:49710,675:63702,922:73070,1067$0,0:31010,335:31550,343:32630,358:33170,365:59030,658:60305,719:68880,805:80085,933:80385,938:85780,987:107777,1228:109067,1235
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Geoffrey Holder interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Geoffrey Holder's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Geoffrey Holder recalls his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Geoffrey Holder relates how his father and mother met

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Geoffrey Holder describes his parents and siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Geoffrey Holder shares childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Geoffrey Holder illustrates the importance of arts to a child's learning process

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Geoffrey Holder recounts his high school experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Geoffrey Holder remembers how he started painting

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Geoffrey Holder recalls his first dance experience

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Geoffrey Holder details the differences in colonial legacy in the Caribbean

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Geoffrey Holder explains the crucial influence of folklore on art

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Geoffrey Holder recounts taking over his brother's dance company

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Geoffrey Holder relates how he broke into the New York theater scene

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Geoffrey Holder illustrates the value of acquiring knowledge

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Geoffrey Holder remembers his production of 'The Wiz'

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Geoffrey Holder recalls his Broadway production of 'The Wiz'

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Geoffrey Holder explains the role of the costume designer

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Geoffrey Holder recounts how he lost his stammer

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Geoffrey Holder reflects on his singing

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Geoffrey Holder shares his philosophy on combatting fear

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Geoffrey Holder expounds on the significance of art and cultural expression

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Geoffrey Holder discusses the value of learning black history before slavery

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Geoffrey Holder remembers inspirational performers

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Geoffrey Holder shares insights on parenting

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Geoffrey Holder discusses his recent projects

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Geoffrey Holder discusses his TV and film career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Geoffrey Holder considers his legacy

DASession

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DATitle
Geoffrey Holder recalls his Broadway production of 'The Wiz'
Geoffrey Holder reflects on his singing
Transcript
'The Wiz' was a marvelous experience for me, 'The Wiz,' because it gave me a marvelous opportunity for me to create and direct and use all the knowledge that I know in theater and da, da, da, da, da, because I'm really a painter who directs, who choreographs, and all of the arts are very important. They're all married because when you do a Broadway show, you have to get a choreographer, you have to get a director, you have a costume designer, you have to get a da da da. If you get all of it, then you get one great thought based on one idea. You know what I mean? So 'The Wiz' was that. I always liked that. Then I did 'Timbuktu!,' with Eartha Kitt. Of course I did the costumes, choreography, and directed. So I didn't have to argue with myself because many times the director argues with the choreographer and the choreographer argues with his costume designer and you can't afford to argue with too many, too much money up, and you're arguing on the union time and there will be actors waiting, you know? So 'The Wiz' was great for that, and 'Timbuktu!' and--$And what about singing? Now you have such a deep--$$"My romance doesn't have to have a moon in the skies/My romance doesn't need a blue lagoon standing by/No month of May/No twinkling stars. No hideaway/No soft guitars/My romance doesn't need a castle rising in Spain, nor a dance to the constantly surprising refrain/Wide awake I can make my most fantastic dreams come true/My romance doesn't need a thing but you." It's automatic.$$So when did you start to sing? I mean (inaudible) talent.$$No, it's not a talent. If you could speak you could sing because it take the lyrics. If you have a timbre, which I had, that's one thing that's moving a chord. But growing up hearing music--again, the piano in the house, the music and that--and I write music, you know. I do all that. I compose to the ballads that I do, and then you take the lyrics and find the essence of what that man is trying to say and sing with your heart. I only sing songs that I know I could have a good time with, with the words I sing, so. I don't have to sing like this to prove that I have a note and I could sing opera. But I'd much rather sing and seduce. It's all seduction. So when I get a compliment on my voice, I do that [pats self on head] to myself.

Douglas Alan-Mann

Accomplished stage performer and director Douglas Alan-Mann was born in Chicago on June 10, 1952, to Malinda, a homemaker, and Donald, a truck driver. He attended Chicago public schools growing up, but graduated from Bangor High School in Bangor, Michigan, in 1970. During high school, Alan-Mann was very active in theater, performing in various plays and productions. This passion grew into a successful career in the arts.

Alan-Mann has been involved with numerous Chicago-based plays and productions as an actor, director and stage manager, and has also worked as the production manager for the X-BAG Theater and later as the artistic director of the Chicago Theater Company. He has played roles in such plays as No Place to Be Somebody, Our Town and Ceremonies in Dark Old Men and also appeared in the film Mahogany. In 1998, Mann worked on a theatrical production, A Red Death, written by David Barr, based on the Walter Mosley novel. He has worked on many productions making poignant commentaries about problems in our society.

In 1999, Alan-Mann directed another Barr play, The State of Mississippi vs. Emmett Till, presented by the Pegasus Players. The play was based on the tragic historical events of 1955 - during the civil rights movement - when fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was brutally murdered while visiting his cousins in Mississippi. In an eye-opening case that revealed much of the ugliness of racism in America, the two men responsible for this heinous crime were found innocent. Also in 1999, Alan-Mann adapted a highly acclaimed original play, The Journal of Ordinary Thought, dramatizing everyday life for African Americans in Chicago neighborhoods. In 2001, he directed another Barr creation, Billy, based on a novel by Albert French. This play relays the story of a ten-year-old African American boy convicted and executed for killing a white girl in self-defense.

In 1975, Mann was awarded a Joseph Jefferson Award Nomination for his performance in Where is the Pride, Where is the Joy? at the X-BAG Theater.

Douglas Alan-Mann passed away on April 22, 2011.

Accession Number

A2002.232

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/17/2002

Last Name

Mann

Maker Category
Middle Name

Alan

Organizations
Schools

Bangor High School

John Farren Elementary School

Du Sable Leadership Academy

Vincennes Upper Grade School

Overton Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Douglas

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

MAN03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

6/10/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Soul Food, Beans (Red), Rice

Death Date

4/22/2011

Short Description

Stage actor and stage director Douglas Alan-Mann (1952 - 2011 ) has served as the artistic director of the Chicago Theater Company, has performed in such plays as, No Place to Be Somebody, Our Town, and Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, and appeared in the film Mahogany.

Employment

X-BAG Theater

Chicago Theater Company

Victory Gardens Theater (Chicago, IL)

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:3226,36:9607,105:10511,115:17919,170:18195,175:18540,181:31551,304:43181,447:58302,617:58813,625:62755,703:69593,820:69869,825:84320,996:84674,1003:86208,1040:95326,1152:95736,1158:96228,1165:116328,1434:116867,1445:119023,1472:125320,1526$0,0:5450,48:33640,228:42870,348:43494,363:43878,373:47142,437:47722,443:55158,533:55450,538:56399,561:57056,574:65810,662:69343,689:69769,696:71828,737:72183,743:81290,832:81770,840:86260,911:105444,1188:109524,1207:110604,1232:111396,1244:114852,1325:127840,1432:129740,1437:135746,1511:138296,1550:138704,1555:150544,1689:150979,1695:158485,1744:160015,1765:164760,1800:165288,1807:166080,1818:170123,1872:187468,1995:190584,2057:191040,2065:191420,2071:199622,2108:200482,2128:202890,2160:206760,2217:207104,2222:212780,2317:213296,2327:230113,2485:233620,2498
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Douglas Alan-Mann narrates his photographs

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Douglas Alan-Mann's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about his parents and his grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Douglas Alan-Mann lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes his paternal grandmother, Vivian McPhan

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes his parents and his family's move to Bangor, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about growing up in Chicago, Illinois and in Bangor, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes his favorite grade school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about the grade schools he attended in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Douglas Alan-Mann recalls high school experiences including his prom at Bangor High School

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes his return to Chicago, Illinois and the beginning of his acting career

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about his first paying job, a commercial for the Illinois Bell Telephone Company

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes the beginning of the Chicago Theater Company and his entry into voiceover work

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about the Chicago Theater Company's operations

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about audience reaction to the performances at the Chicago Theater Company

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Douglas Alan-Mann reflects upon his three favorite plays

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Douglas Alan-Mann describes his hopes for the Chicago Theater Company

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Douglas Alan-Mann shares his advice for young actors

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Douglas Alan-Mann compares theater and film

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about the lack of films that reflect African American life

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about his younger sister, Ursula Mann

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about his son, Dealan Mann

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about why he is single

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about writing and directing

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about his relationship with his father and his mother's death

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Douglas Alan-Mann reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about the impact of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Douglas Alan-Mann talks about how he selects pieces to produce

DASession

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DATitle
Douglas Alan-Mann describes his return to Chicago, Illinois and the beginning of his acting career
Douglas Alan-Mann reflects upon his three favorite plays
Transcript
What was the transition back to the city [Chicago, Illinois] like?$$I couldn't wait. It was, it was one great big party is what it was. It's like I'm back. And it was just about having fun and it was about trying to get my career going.$$What steps did you take?$$I guess the first thing that we were trying to do was trying to get involved in a play--was trying to get involved in some kind of theater ,because at that particular time, that's what my knowledge was. Sort of naive, I thought if I got into a play, somebody was going to discover me and I would be whisked away and off to Hollywood. So there were several auditions around and we did--we got involved--we--talk about a friend of mine also that--his name was Michael Forenoy [ph.]. He, he and I, we were going to be actors and we were going to be the best actors ever. So we went to audition for one play and we rehearsed it for a while and for whatever reason the play just never got produced; never saw the light of day. A little disheartened by that, but we kept on looking. And then one morning looking in the paper, they were holding auditions for actors at the Experimental Black Actors Guild, affectionately known as X-BAG, with the founder, Clarence Taylor was there. We went to audition and we got the part. And that was our beginning. And audiences began to discover us. And year after year, you know we were doing play after play after play after play after play. And it was--we were just developing our craft. And that was a lot of fun.$Over the two decades or so you've been with and running Chicago Theater--$$Company.$$Can you tell me your three favorite pieces and why?$$My three favorite pieces and why. Number one would have to be a piece we did called "Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting". And the reason that that is significant for me because I directed that show. And usually the director's job after the show is over and the director is gone. You turn it over to the stage manager and that kind of thing. And I was, I was gone. Maybe four weeks into the run, I come down and I sit and I'm watching the show and I got totally engrossed in it. I mean I had forgotten that I had directed the show. The piece was about Branch Rickey bringing Jackie Robinson into the major leagues. And as I was sitting on the back row totally engrossed in the play, I began to well up inside, you know, listening to and watching the performers. And I was holding it back. And somebody who was sitting on the same row, maybe about six or seven seats down, I heard them sniffle. And they started to cry. And then at that point when they--it was all right for me to do it. But I lost myself in my own production, and it was a very weird feeling. So that was one of the most significant things that I've, you know done. For me we did a piece that was based on a book called "Billy". And "Billy" was about a nine-year-old that accidentally kills a white girl in the South. They tried this young man, they sentenced him to the electric, to the electric chair, and they electrocute him. Very dark story. But it had two young people that played the roles of friends, nine and ten-years-old. And in helping of their development as young actors, it was just amazing to me that they were holding their own on stage with people that had twenty, thirty years more experience than they did. And that really touched me inside, is helping to see them grow that much at such a, such a young age. Another piece that probably was "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men" with the Experimental Black Actors Guild, going back my first experience on stage with X-BAG. And that was--it was my first full-fledged outing as an actor and audiences were coming to see the play and they were responding to what we did on stage, and then again that word-of-mouth was out there. And as a result of that, my name was getting out there as this new, young, bright thespian. I was just loving it at the time, you know. So those are probably my--probably top three for me.

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.