The National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF), produced by the North Carolina Black Repertory Company of Winston-Salem, NC, celebrated its 20th anniversary the week of August 3, 2009. It was a theater lover’s feast.
Maya Angelou opened a symposium on women with a rousing and inspirational talk. She started the NBTF with Larry Leon Hamlin in 1989. Festival goers were treated to a round the clock theater experience. There were plays that children enjoyed starting at 10 am, matinees at 3 pm, evening performances at 8 pm and play readings at midnight. The readings were supervised by both Garland Lee Thompson Sr., Executive and Artistic Director of the Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop in New York, NY, and Garland Lee Thompson Jr. , a celebrated poet, actor and playwright. If you came with no transportation of your own, there was no need to fret because NBTF had buses to take festival goers to the university auditoriums and theatres. (you could park your car and literally not need it for the rest of the week!). There were so many plays in the schedule that it was impossible to see them all, approximately 18 plays each day. One play that stood out the most to me was Mad At Miles: A Black Woman’s Guide to Truth by Pearl Cleage, an astounding in-your-face experience with incredibly talented actors from A&T in Greensboro, NC. Other stand outs included The Heiress by Ruth & Augustus Goetz, and I Am Who I Am: The Teddy Pendergrass Story by Jackie Taylor.
Now, about the partying! Whoa, Nelly! They had a celebrity reception every night with such stars in attendance as Kim Wayans, Malcom Jamal-Warner, Ella Joyce, Lamman Rucker, John Amos, Kim Brockington, Melba Moore, Janet Hubert, Margaret Avery, and more.
At the end of the day, I closed my eyes to the sound of congas played on the street corners. I think all of Winston-Salem turned out for this magnificent festival.