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Tony F. Sias

Arts administrator and actor Tony F. Sias was born on December 20, 1964 in Jackson, Mississippi to Helen Louise Walker Sias and Leo Sterling Sias, Sr. He attended John W. Provine High School in Jackson, Mississippi. Sias went on to receive his B.S. degree in dramatic arts from Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi in 1988 and his M.F.A. degree in acting from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio in 1992.

While earning his M.F.A. degree, Sias was an intern and resident at the Cleveland Play House in Cleveland, Ohio. After graduating, he remained in Cleveland and began acting in several of the city’s theaters including a production of Kathleen McGhee-Anderson’s Oak and Ivy at the Karamu House in 1993. Sias then went on to work as a program director for the Rap Arts Youth Fellowship Program through The Centers for Families and Children before moving to the Murtis Taylor Human Services System where he ran the Coordinated Arts Program for the Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Centers Association. In 1998, Sias performed in a production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes at the Dobama Theatre in Cleveland. For this performance, Sias and his fellow cast members earned a collective Ensemble Keefer Award. The next year, he returned to the Karamu House to perform in Crumbs From the Table of Joy by Lynn Nottage. Sias made one of his first directing debuts in 1999 at the Cleveland Public Theatre where he directed the world premiere of Keith Josef Adkins’ On the Hills of Black America. Then, in 2000, Sias became the director of arts education for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. While in this position, Sias continued to perform in and direct productions throughout the city including Elevator at the Karamu House in 2001 and the Ensemble Theatre’s one-man show Paul Robeson. In 2003, while still working for the school district, Sias became the director of the All-City Musical and served as the artistic director of the Cleveland School of the Arts. He also began teaching at Cuyahoga Community College. In 2008, Sias served as a delegate from the U.S. Department of State to Istanbul, Turkey as a representative of the Council of International Programs, USA. In 2015, Sias became the president and CEO of the historic Karamu House in Cleveland. There, he continued to direct and create new productions including the Karamu House’s Holiday Jazz Revue

Sias served on the board of trustees of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, Inc. and as a board member of The League of Historic American Theatres, Inc. He was also an advisory board member for Project 1 Voice, Inc. Sias also received several awards for his acting and directing in Cleveland including the Ohio House of Representatives Tribute for Excellent Leadership and the Times Newspaper’s Outstanding Director.

Tony F. Sias was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 25, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.190

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/25/2018

Last Name

Sias

Maker Category
Middle Name

F.

Organizations
First Name

Tony

Birth City, State, Country

Jackson

HM ID

SIA02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Belize

Favorite Quote

Leave Before Your Audience Does, And Be Careful With An Encore.

Bio Photo
Birth Date

12/20/1964

Birth Place Term
Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Arts administrator and actor Tony F. Sias ( - ) was the director of arts and education for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the president and CEO of the Karamu House in Cleveland, Ohio.

Favorite Color

Blue

Pemon Rami

Arts administrator and theater director Pemon Rami was born on August 9, 1950 in Chicago, Illinois to Mary Foster and Harold Ray.
At the age of fourteen Rami started his first theatre company with the support and encouragement of Okoro Harold Johnson. At eighteen, Rami became the associate director of the Southside Center for the Performing Arts formerly the Joe Louis Theatre under the direction of Theodore Ward. The following year, Rami took over Val Gray Ward’s role as director of the Kuumba Theater, one of Chicago’s first African-American independent theaters. In 1973, Rami founded the Lamont Zeno Theater where he served as the artistic and managing director with the Better Boys Foundation. There, Rami directed numerous productions including: The Black Fairy and Young John Henry, written by Chicago-based poet, Useni Eugene Perkins.

The first African American film casting director in Chicago, Rami provided talent for the classic feature films and television movies; Blues Brothers, Mahogany, Cooley High, The Spook Who Sat by The Door, and Uptown Saturday Night. As an actor Rami appeared in the PBS weekly series Bird of the Iron Feather.

After relocating to Los Angeles for over twenty years, in 2004, Rami returned to Chicago and produced Stories from the Soul a TV series for the Black Family Channel and the feature film Of Boys and Men, starring Angela Bassett and Robert Townsend.

Pemon co-founded Productions to Change Lives (P2CL) a training and production model, which focused on integrating art and media through the eyes of teens, in an effort to effect community involvement and positive change. Through the P2CL Teen Talk Radio apprenticeship program implemented at high schools in Chicago, Rami and his wife Masequa Myers mentored over 300 teens and indirectly impacted thousands through live performances and weekly radio broadcasts.

In 2011, Pemon became director of educational services and public programs at The DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago. After five years with DuSable, Rami returned to filmmaking and produced the feature film 93 Days in Lagos, Nigeria starring Danny Glover for which he was nominated for an African Academy Award and received the Visionary Award in 2016 at the Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival.

Rami served on the Joseph Jefferson Awards committee from 2016 to 2018. He was selected one of the Chicago Defender’s “50 Men of Excellence,” as well as to the Wendell Phillips High School Hall of Fame. Rami has also been recognized with awards from numerous organizations including: Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in. Community Leadership at the Black Harvest Film Festival, American Advertising Federation, International Television Association, the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP (Best Theatre Director Award), Proclamation from the Los Angeles City Council, Key to the City of Detroit and the Life Time Achievement Award from the Chicago African American Arts Alliance.

Pemon Rami was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 13, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.141

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/13/2018

Last Name

Rami

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
First Name

Pemon

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

RAM03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Tobago

Favorite Quote

Greatness Shouldn't Be Determined By Name Recognition But By The Lives That We Touch And The People That We Share With.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/9/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States of America

Favorite Food

Catfish, Spaghetti

Short Description

Arts administrator and theater director Pemon Rami (1950 - ) director of educational services and public programs at The DuSable Museum of African American History and produced Of Boys and Men, Nineteen and A Day: The Life and Times of D-Jef, and 93 Days.

Favorite Color

Brown

Patricia Cruz

Arts administrator Patricia Cruz was born on January 1, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois to Nelson Marshall and Myrtle Smith. She graduated from Hirsch High School in Chicago, Illinois and attended Columbia College in Chicago and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois where she studied theater. Cruz went on to graduate from the Goodman School of Theater.

Cruz worked as an actress and theater producer in Chicago, she later moved to New York City, where she met her husband, artist Emilio Cruz. She accepted a position as deputy director for programs at the Studio Museum in Harlem. In 1998, Cruz accepted a position as executive director at Aaron Davis Hall Inc., an arts non-profit in Harlem that commissioned, staged, and supported emerging artists. Her responsibilities included overseeing programing, administrative management, and fundraising. Cruz helped to raise over $26 million to renovate the Gatehouse which became the new home for Aaron Davis Hall Inc., and was rebranded as Harlem Stage in 2006. Cruz worked to expand programming and introduced a major commissioning program, known as, WaterWorks, to commemorate the original function of the Gatehouse as the historic conduit for clean water from the Croton Aqueduct. In addition, Cruz also expanded programming at Harlem Stage, introducing Uptown Nights, and Harlem Slide and commissioned numerous artists including Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer and Stew, while serving thousands students annually and collaborating with a number of nonprofits including Harlem School for the Arts, Repertorio Espanol, Manhattan School of Music and Carnegie Hall.

Cruz served as a board member of the Urban Assembly and was a member of the CalArts board of overseers. She formerly served on the boards of the Andy Warhol Foundation and was the president of The New York Foundation for the Arts. Cruz also serves as a member of the Tony Nominating Committee and the Brendan Gill jury on the Municipal Arts Society. In 2014, Harlem Stage was awarded the Charles Dawson Award for programmatic excellence and sustained achievement in programming from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

Patricia Cruz was interviewed by TheHistoryMakers on December 8, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.214

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/8/2017

Last Name

Cruz

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Martha M. Ruggles Elementary School

Southern Illinois University

Columbia College Chicago

First Name

Patricia

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

CRU04

Favorite Season

All Times

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Nevis & Egypt

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

1/11/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Favorite Food

Meat

Short Description

Arts administrator Patricia Cruz (1947-) was the executive director of Aaron Davis Hall, Inc. and Harlem Stage.

Employment

Harlem Stage

Studio Museum in Harlem

Chicago Council of Fine Arts

Urban Gateways

Favorite Color

Earth Tones

Stephanie Hughley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accession Number

A2006.014

Sex

Female

Interview Date

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

Last Name

Hughley

Maker Category
Schools

Mckinley High School

Washington Elementary School

Henry S. Martin Elementary School

Hartford Avenue School

Kent State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Stephanie

Birth City, State, Country

Massillon

HM ID

HUG05

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Sapello Island, Georgia

Favorite Quote

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

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

10/16/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Salad

Short Description

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

Employment

Negro Ensemble Company

Theatre Management Associates

New Jersey Performing Arts Center

Cultural Olympiad

National Black Arts Festival

Favorite Color

Yellow

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DAStories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

5$8

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

Barbara Ann Teer

Founder and CEO of the National Black Theatre, Inc., Barbara Ann Teer was born in East St. Louis, Illinois on June 18, 1937, to a family of educators and leaders in the field of community development. After graduating magna cum laude with her degree in dance education from the University of Illinois, Teer moved to New York City to begin her career as an actress, dancer, and director.

In the 1960s, Teer left show business to begin teaching at Harlem's Wadleigh Junior High School; her methods helped to develop the Group Theatre Workshop, which became the foundation for the world renowned Negro Ensemble Company. In 1968, Teer founded the National Black Theatre with the aim of maintaining and developing African American cultural traditions. In 1983, Teer expanded the purpose and vision of the National Black Theatre by purchasing a 64,000 square foot city block of property on 125th Street and Fifth Avenue, creating the first revenue generating black art complex in the country by housing several entrepreneurial businesses.

In May 1994, Teer was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Rochester, New York; in 1995, she received an honorary doctorate degree of humane letters from the University of Southern Illinois. Teer is included in Who's Who Worldwide, which recognizes her as a global business leader and has received more than sixty awards and citations. Teer passed away on July 21, 2008 at the age of 71. She leaves behind two children: her son, Michael F. Lythcott, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University's Business School and her daughter, Barbara A. Lythcott, is a graduate of New York University.

Dr. Barbara Ann Teer passed away on July 21, 2008, at the age of seventy-one.

Accession Number

A2005.126

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/6/2005

Last Name

Teer

Maker Category
Middle Name

Ann

Occupation
Schools

Dunbar Elem School

Bennett College for Women

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Barbara

Birth City, State, Country

St. Louis

HM ID

TEE01

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Thailand

Favorite Quote

Right On.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

6/18/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Death Date

7/21/2008

Short Description

Arts administrator Barbara Ann Teer (1937 - 2008 ) was the founder and chief director of the National Black Theater, whose mission was to maintain and develop African American cultural traditions. Teer was recognized as a global business leader, receiving more than sixty awards and citations.

Employment

National Black Theatre

Wadleigh Junior High School

Favorite Color

Blue, Pink

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Barbara Ann Teer's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Barbara Ann Teer lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Barbara Ann Teer describes her parents' family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Barbara Ann Teer recalls attending Bennett College for a year

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Barbara Ann Teer describes her training in dance and theatre

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Barbara Ann Teer recalls her sister's activism and her decision to leave acting

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Barbara Ann Teer describes growing up in East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Barbara Ann Teer describes herself as a child and her experience with racism

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Barbara Ann Teer describes her schooling in East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Barbara Ann Teer remembers the pressure to adapt to mainstream culture

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Barbara Ann Teer describes her childhood home in East St. Louis

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Barbara Ann Teer describes her neighborhood in East St. Louis

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Barbara Ann Teer recalls notable figures from East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Barbara Ann Teer describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Barbara Ann Teer recalls attending church and school in East St. Louis

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Barbara Ann Teer recalls traveling in Europe after college

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Barbara Ann Teer recalls her experience at New York City's Henry Street Settlement

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Barbara Ann Teer describes her experience as a theatre actress

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Barbara Ann Teer contrasts her modern dance training to black dance

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Barbara Ann Teer recalls writing for The New York Times

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Barbara Ann Teer describes founding the Group Theatre Workshop

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Barbara Ann Teer describes the beginning of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Barbara Ann Teer describes co-founding the Black Arts Movement in Harlem

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Barbara Ann Teer describes Harlem in the late 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Barbara Ann Teer talks about The Last Poets

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Barbara Ann Teer talks about Amiri Baraka

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Barbara Ann Teer recalls playwrights Historymaker Paul Carter Harrison and Joseph Walker

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Barbara Ann Teer reflects upon black theatre

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Barbara Ann Teer reflects upon her role in the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Barbara Ann Teer describes her experience in Africa

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Barbara Ann Teer reflects upon the spirituality of her work

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Barbara Ann Teer describes her experience at FESTAC in Nigeria in 1977

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Barbara Ann Teer describes her experience visiting Nigeria in 1977 and 1984

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Barbara Ann Teer describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Barbara Ann Teer reflects upon the black arts and theatre community

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Barbara Ann Teer reflects upon her life and career

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Barbara Ann Teer reflects upon the importance of history

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Barbara Ann Teer describes the transformation of Harlem, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Barbara Ann Teer reflects upon the gentrification of Harlem, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Barbara Ann Teer reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Barbara Ann Teer recalls FESTAC in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Barbara Ann Teer recalls meeting Malcolm X

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Barbara Ann Teer recalls HistoryMaker Melvin Van Peebles and divorcing Godfrey Cambridge

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Barbara Ann Teer reflects upon the need to re-interpret black history

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Barbara Ann Teer reflects upon the power of theatre

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Barbara Ann Teer reflects upon the sustainability of the National Black Theatre

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Barbara Ann Teer narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Barbara Ann Teer narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

5$2

DATitle
Barbara Ann Teer describes her training in dance and theatre
Barbara Ann Teer describes the beginning of the Negro Ensemble Company
Transcript
So, when I graduated, summa cum [summa cum laude], from the University of Illinois [University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois], I was shipped off to Europe. And I studied there with everybody you can think of because of who I was within the dance profession. Now, I left Europe after Switzerland, and London [England], and, and the whole thing. Now, I came to New York [New York] to work on my master's [degree] at Sarah Lawrence [Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York]. But I was bored with school because I never saw anything that represented where I came from. It was a different, a different kind of culture. And I did well. However, when Pearl Primus came to the University of Illinois with her drummers, and her husband was Percival Borde. All these people are probably dead now--I mean, they're not probably--they are. There were five hundred young women in this gym for this master class of Pearl Bailey--I mean, Pearl, Pearl Primus. Actually, I work with Pearl Bailey. And she started playing the drums, and I just went crazy. And everybody else didn't know what was happening and I did, and I said, oh, I have to go somewhere and do what my heart is pumping. So, I went to Pearl Primus. I came to New York. I stayed at the Henry Street Playhouse [Henry Street Settlement; Henry Street Settlement, New York, New York] with Alwin Nikolais, which was, again, a derivative of Mary Wigman, Martha Graham--all those names. I mean, I was really in that profession until I hurt my knee. My daddy [Fred Teer] was a coach. He came to New York to try to help me with my knee. And I met all these wonderful actors who were in 'Raisin in the Sun' ['A Raisin in the Sun,' Lorraine Hansberry], and because one of the leads in 'Raisin in the Sun' came from St. Louis [Missouri]. The rest is history. Lonne Elder [Lonne Elder III], Lorraine Hansberry, Sidney Poitier, [HistoryMaker] Robert Hooks--all of these people became my friends, and my whatever. And I left the dance profession after travelling with Alvin Ailey, and [HistoryMaker] Louis Johnson, and going to Brazil. I mean, I did a whole lot of stuff. And then, I came into the world of theater and acting, studied with Sanford Meisner, and Philip Burton, and Paul Mann, and Lloyd Richardson. You name it, you name it, you name it, until finally, my instructor at the time was Sanford Meisner, who was the most important acting teacher. And, of course, at that time, everybody was talking about Stanislavski [Konstantin Stanislavski] and the message and, and Lee Strasberg, and all that stuff. And Sandy Knox [ph.] said, "You know, Barbara [HistoryMaker Barbara Ann Teer], you don't need to study anymore, you need to work--"$And it was so powerful 'cause I--first thing I choreographed and designed a piece, which now Ntozake [HistoryMaker Ntozake Shange] calls it choreopoems. But those days, I took a Gwendolyn Brooks poem, which was eight lines, called 'We Real Cool,' and I developed it into a whole evening. Well, Joe Pappa [Joseph Papp] was a big deal at the time. He's now dead too, Public Theater [New York, New York]--he saw it, and he loved it, and he wanted me to come and do something for him. And I said no. But he put 'We Real Cool' on the mobile unit that toured all the boroughs of New York [New York]. So, all my little kids who were 14, 13, so got to get a taste of show business. That was the beginning of the Negro Ensemble Company. So, when Douglas Turner [HistoryMaker Douglas Turner Ward] wrote an article ['American Theater: For Whites Only?' Douglas Turner Ward] for The New York Times about black people in theatre--he called it Negroes--he got a lot of opportunities to get grants. But we were in the Village [Greenwich Village, New York, New York] at St. Mark's theatre [St. Mark's Playhouse, New York, New York], and we were doing Imamu's [Amiri Baraka] plays. And I was just acting all over the place. So, what happened was when they got that first big grant from the Ford Foundation [New York, New York], they changed up on me. It was called the Negro Ensemble Company, and I--that was just offensive to me. It's black, like we're going to call it Negro, you know. It was in the Village. I thought it should be in the black community--like that. And they were picking plays that didn't have anything to do with the culture that I knew. So, I left them--my friends, I left them. I'm always leaving people. I left them and I came to Harlem [New York, New York]. With the reputation of wanting to start an authentic black theatre company, not one in the Village, but one in Harlem.