BOSTON, MA – September 10, 2021 – The International Black Theatre Summit, a special initiative of The CRAFT Institute, held this year in collaboration with The Billie Holiday Theatre, will celebrate the inaugural Black Theatre Day with a daylong social media campaign and a virtual Happy Hour on Friday, September 17 at 5pm ET. The event will also recognize the 200th anniversary of the opening night for the African Company, also known as the African Grove Theatre, the first known professional Black theatre company in the United States.
The Black Theatre Day social media campaign is an open call to action to all Black theatre institutions and supporters to join together to amplify the importance of Black theatre institutions by recognizing the 200 year legacy of Black theatre in the U.S.. Individuals can support by sharing, reposting and retweeting content of participating Black theaters while learning more about opportunities to support Black theaters.
On September 17, 1821, the African Theater launched their first season in New York City. They produced multiple seasons including the first extant play by a Black American and launched the career of Ira Aldridge, a Black actor who toured Europe as the greatest Shakespearean tragedian of all times. As the heirs of this illustrious legacy, 21st century Black theaters in the U.S. are still working to build sustainable, institutional wealth. Black Theatre Day is an opportunity to increase the visibility of Black Theatre institutions in support of those efforts.
“We hope to increase the visibility of Black theatre institutions in news, media and society at large in our efforts to gain and maintain economic stability for Black theatres,” said Dr. Monica White Ndounou, the Founder and Executive Director of The CRAFT Institute, “So we invite all who recognize the importance of Black Theatre to mark your calendars on September 17 and participate in our social media campaign to acknowledge Black Theatre Day as an official, annual opportunity to celebrate Black Theatre throughout the United States and around the world. Just as we did with Juneteenth before it was adopted on a national level, let’s celebrate Black Theatre Day.”
“The stories of people of African descent have, in many ways, been a moral compass in America. The Billie has stood with the largest community of African Americans in the nation to ensure those stories are told…for 50 years, in fact,” stated Sabine LaFortune, General Manager of The Billie. “We are honored to support the efforts of the International Black Theater Summit to mark this historic moment in the American theater.”
The International Black Theatre Summit is a biennial convening that brings together Black theatre institutions, film, television and related media companies and Black creatives working across platforms to network and strategize productive paths forward for Black storytelling by reimagining economic, educational and creative models.The International Black Theatre Summit is one of six networks in the cohort funded by The Black Seed Initiative, a first ever national strategic plan to fund Black theatre.
The CRAFT Institute convened The 2018 International Black Theatre Summit (IBTS) at Dartmouth College. This twenty-year anniversary celebration and reconvening of “On Golden Pond,” the 1998 National Black Theatre Summit reinvigorated legendary playwright, August Wilson’s call to action regarding the need to collectively address the lack of funding for Black theatres and support for Black artists in American theatre. Through IBTS and various other programming, The CRAFT Institute aims to activate change-agents that can revitalize the ecosystem of Black Theatre and Performance for a vibrant future.
Read more about The Craft Institute and the International Black Theatre Summit at https://www.thecraftinstitute.org/.
This post was curated by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.