Wondering what it means to feel “MARVTASTIC” ? Then plan to attend the National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF) from July 31 through August 5, 2017. One of the largest and most outstanding theatre festivals in the country, NBTF was founded in Winston-Salem in 1989 by the late Larry Leon Hamlin and is hosted by the North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NCBRC). Every odd year in the late summer months, NBTF welcomes more than 65,000 elite theatre-goers, transforming Winston-Salem into a mega-performing arts centre with more than 100 performances on multiple stages, showcasing more than 70 world-class celebrities. The National Black Theatre Festival is the only festival in the country that offers six consecutive days of performances, seminars, shopping, poetry slams, and more.
NBTF is a storied, international event that brings together Black theatre companies from around the world. The late Dr. Maya Angelou, who made her home in Winston-Salem, was the national chairperson of the inaugural Festival and one of its biggest supporters. According to The New York Times, “The inaugural 1989 National Black Theatre Festival was one of the most historic and culturally significant events in the history of black theatre and American theatre in general.”
The 15th National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF) once again promises to “paint the town purple” with the world’s best showcase of Black and African-American theatrical talent. The six-day festival runs July 31 – August 5, 2017, in downtown Winston-Salem, boasting theatre workshops, films, seminars, a teen poetry slam, and a star-studded celebrity gala.
2017 CELEBRITY CO-CHAIRS
At each National Black Theatre Festival, two celebrities are appointed co-chairs. The 2017 co-chairs are actress Anna Maria Horsford and actor Obba Babatunde. In addition to numerous television and movie roles, the duo is well-known for their roles as Vivenne and Julius on CBS Daytime Soap Opera, “The Bold and the Beautiful.”
More than fifty celebrities of stage, screen and television are expected to attend the Festival. Highlights include the Opening Night Gala, Theatre Productions, Readers’ Theatre of New Works/Plays, International Colloquium (presented by NBTF, Winston-Salem State University, and the Black Theatre Network), the Youth/Celebrity Project and Teen TeenTastic, and the International Vendor’s Market which features vendors and crafts from every corner of the globe and live entertainment to add a little flair to your shopping experience.
PLAN YOUR VISIT NOW
Theatre Festival Play Schedule – A schedule of plays and events is available online at NBTF.org. The schedule will include the play’s title, date, time, location, and play number. Some plays are performed several times during the week, so knowing the number of the play is very important.
Advance tickets may be purchased by calling the Festival box office at (336) 723-7907. These tickets will be mailed up to two weeks prior to the festival or picked up at the Benton Convention Center. Purchase online tickets here.
Where to Stay – Preview a list of festival-friendly hotels here.
Getting Around – Treat yourself like a VIP and plan to ride the free shuttle, available from various locations downtown and selected hotels to get to the productions.
Late Night – Each night after of the plays, social gatherings are held all over the city. Downtown streets and sidewalk cafes are filled with people and music. Celebrity receptions and jazz performances are held at the host hotel and the Midnight Poetry Jam is a major attraction with overflow crowds. The Delta Arts Center offers an elegant late-night Jazz Buffet if you want to break away to a quieter setting.
Make Time – In addition to the performances, enjoy the myriad of cultural offerings in Winston-Salem. Such offerings include Diggs Gallery, St. Philips Church at Old Salem Museums & Gardens, and the Delta Arts Center on the campus of Winston-Salem State University.
HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL BLACK THEATRE FESTIVAL
Founded in Winston-Salem by the late Larry Leon Hamlin in 1989 and hosted by the North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NCBRC), NBTF is a biennial event uniting Black theatre companies from around the world and ensuring the presence of this phenomenal genre. Hamlin described the experience as “MARVTASTIC,” a combination of marvelous and fantastic! With the support of Dr. Maya Angelou, who served as the Festival’s first Chairperson, the National Black Theatre Festival was born.
Ten years prior to starting the National Black Theatre Festival, Hamlin founded another Black theater movement in Winston-Salem. The North Carolina Black Repertory Company is the state’s first professional Black theater company. NCBRC is committed to introducing diverse audiences to Black classics, the development and production of new works, improving artistic quality, and sustaining Black theatre internationally.
NCBRC presents several productions annually featuring members of its ensemble or through collaborations with other theatre companies from around the country. The annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration and the holiday presentation of Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity have become two of the Company’s staples. The critically acclaimed NCBRC production, Mahalia, Queen of Gospel (written and directed by Mabel Robinson, the company’s former Artistic Director) is a National Black Theatre Festival showcase performance.