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Kamilah Forbes

Kamilah Forbes is an esteemed award-winning director and producer for theater and television who currently serves as the Executive Producer at the World Famous Apollo Theater. Kamilah is noted for having a strong commitment to the development of creative works by, for, and about the Hip-Hop generation. In addition to her work at the Apollo, Kamilah’s directing credits include “By the Way, Meet vera Stark,” written by Pulitizer prize-winning writer Lynn Nottage, “Blood Quilt” written by Katori Hall, and “Sunset Baby” MacArthur genius Dominique Morrisseau. She has also worked as associate director for Tony award-winning “A Raisin in the Sun,” and Emmy award-winning “The Wiz Live for NBC.” Additional Broadway credits include “Mountaintop” and “Stick Fly”.

Kamilah’s most recent directorial event “Between the World and Me” premiered as a special event on HBO and HBO Max in November 2020. Her critically acclaimed directorial work on “Between the World and Me” has garnered Kamilah a nomination for best directing for an NAACP Image Award and a Critics Choice Award.

Throughout her career Kamilah has won numerous awards for both directing and producing, including the 2019 NBTF Larry Leon Hamlin Producer Award, a Root 100 Award, an NAACP Image Award, a Helen-Hayes and Barrymore award, and an Audelco. Kamilah’s recent projects include directing the sold-out world premiere, tour, and theatrical adaption of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ New York Times best-selling novel “Between the World and Me.” In addition to her work at the Apollo Theater, Kamilah is set to direct the broadway premiere of “Soul Train” alongside Questlove, Dominique Morrisseau and Camille A. Brown.

Kamilah’s production credits include “Whats Going On”--”the 40th-anniversary celebration of Marvin Gaye’s seminal work (with John Legend as Marvin Gaye, Sharon Jones as Tammy Terrell, Dap, Sonia Sanchex, and others); “One Mic”--monthlong multidisciplinary celebration of Hip-Hop Worldwide; and Nas’ “20 Year Anniversary of Illmatic”---a celebration of the classic hip-hop album, accompanied with 96 players from the National Symphony Orchestra--all staged at the Kennedy Center. Kamilah lends her service and leadership to several Boards including the Yale Swarzman Center Advisory Board as well as the Hi Arts Advisory Board.

Her connection to the arts began as a passion for theater and producing while at Howard University, where she earned a BFA in Theater. Upon graduation, Kamilah invested her time and talent in creating, collaborating, and producing theater. As hip-hop theater came into prominence, so did Kamilah, as the writer/director of Hip-Hop Theatre Juntion’s premiere work “Rhyme Deferred.” A year later the Hip-Hop Theater Festival was born. Presented in

New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, the festival featured the works of nearly 100 artists from the United States and from around the world, including England, Brazil, and Canada. Many new and well-known artistic forces have had their work enhanced under Kamilah’s artistic direction, including OBIE Award-winner Will Power, TONY Award-winner Sarah Jones, Rennie Harris, Nilaja Sun, Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Indio Melendez.

The Hip-Hop Theater Festival grew tremendously from a fledgling project into a groundbreaking nonprofit organization, HiARTS, with a truly national scope leading the charge in hip-hop culture and art. HiARTS received the Union Square Arts Award as well as a special award given by the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers for “its innovative approach to addressing sociopolitical issue in New York City and beyond.”

Kamilah has produced several works for television, most notably the seventh season of the Tony Award and Peabody Award-winning series “Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry on HBO.” She was also a co-excecutive producer on the “Brave New Voices'' documentary on HBO, in addition to executive producing the PDS Special “The Womens List.” She is the proud recipient of the Pollstar Impact 50 award, the Zelda Fichahandler award for excellence in leadership and direction.

Kamilah Forbes is a powerful leader, widely known for her ability and commitment to continue to highlight the ideas, complexities and work of artists in the hip-hop community and beyond.


Kamilah Forbes portrait.
Imagining a Way Forward

Imagining a Way Forward

Discussions on Theatre and Race

30 March 2021

Kamilah Forbes, artistic director of the Apollo Theater, speaks with Wes Jackson and P. Carl about the American theatre being a very slow-moving ship, genre-crossing for artists and organizations, systemic racism in the field, and more.

A logo for the Hip Hop Theatre Festival.
Hip-Hop Theater Festival

Hip-Hop Theater Festival

Making Space in Harlem

29 June 2012

The mission is to bring stories by and about the hiphop generation. Now Hip-hop Theatre Festival is finished with the nomadic lifestyle and have a space to call our own.


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