The North Carolina Black Repertory Company was honored with the Distinguished Career Award and joined us as a keynote speaker at the 71st annual SETC Convention in Louisville, KY, on Sat., Feb. 29, 2020.
North Carolina Black Repertory Company
Producers of The National Black Theatre Festival
Mission: To engage, enrich and entertain with innovative programming that resonates across the community and challenges social perceptions.
History: Founded in 1979 by Larry Leon Hamlin, the North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NC Black Rep) is the first professional Black theatre company in North Carolina. NC Black Rep is committed to exposing diverse audiences to Black classics, the development and production of new works, improving artistic quality, and sustaining Black theatre internationally. The Company is universally recognized for its artistic and administrative achievements and its international outreach program, the National Black Theatre Festival ® (NBTF). Presented every odd numbered year, the festival hosts upwards of 120 performances, attracts upwards of 65,000 visitors to Winston-Salem, and has contributed over $230 million dollars to the Winston-Salem economy since its inception in 1989.
For additional highlights from the company’s history, please click here.
NBTF Executive Director Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin will join Jackie Alexander for a Q&A session after the keynote address. Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin is the widow of North Carolina Black Repertory Company founder Larry Leon Hamlin
NC Black Rep Director/Playwright
SETC Keynote Speaker
NC Black Rep Executive Producer
SETC Keynote Q&A
Interview with Jackie Alexander
The North Carolina Black Repertory Company was the first professional black theatre company in North Carolina when it was founded 40 years ago. What has been the secret to your success and survival for four decades?
The support of the Winston-Salem community has been the key to the success of both NC Black Rep and the National Black Theatre Festival. Initial funding for the company was garnered through a program called Living Room Theatre, in which company supporters would invite friends into their homes to watch theatre readings/productions to garner support. Forty years later, community support continues to play an integral role in our success. The National Black Theatre Festival regularly enlists over 1,200 volunteers to assist in operations.
What was the idea behind the start of the National Black Theatre Festival and what role has it played in shining a spotlight nationally on black theatre and black theatre artists?
At a 1988 conference in Atlanta, NC Black Rep founder Larry Leon Hamlin heard a discussion on the plight of African American theatres across the country and realized that they all had very similar problems when it came to sustainability. Hamlin realized that uniting these companies would help ensure the survival of black theatre into the next millennium. He created the National Black Theatre Festival as an event where companies would be able to share resources, experience each other’s productions, and raise awareness of the quality and importance of their work.
What types of partnerships do you have with other organizations in the community? And how important have they been?
NC Black Rep partners with Winston-Salem State University, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Wake Forest University and Salem College. Partnerships with these educational institutions are key when it comes to planning venues for the National Black Theatre Festival, which produces upwards of 30 mainstage productions over a five-day period. In addition, these partners provide us with technical assistance and gateways to talent.
Our partnership with the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County is crucial to both the National Black Theatre Festival and NC Black Rep’s yearly season, with the Arts Council providing venues for our seasonal productions at the Milton Rhodes Arts Center and office space for daily operations.
NC Black Rep also has an ongoing partnership with the Forsyth Public Library on a yearly free staged reading series that targets underserved members of the community such as the elderly, the LGBT community, low-income residents and others who may not otherwise have access or the means to enjoy live theatre, and whose stories are often marginalized by society.