Honoring Excellence in Black Theater

A Night with Woodie King Jr.

Over the past few years in New York it has been difficult to not get swept up in the wave of passion and creativity that has come from the black theater community in response to not just the changing theater world, but the world as a whole. New outlets for our unique voices such as The New Black Fest, Harlem 9, and The Movement Theatre Company and The Fire This Time seemed to pop up overnight, prompting the word "renaissance" to live in our descriptions of this dynamic movement.

Though we are now living in a time of abundance of action, we cannot forget the figures that have come before us that have made way for this moment. Black art has constantly been evolving, enlightening and influencing our work and community. And this is why I pause, along with my fellow collaborators to humbly pay tribute to Woodie King Jr. who is being inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. Because like his forbearers, he rose to the occasion, and through his example we now rise.

During my tenure as a spoken word artist/neo Soul Bohemian in San Francisco I often stumbled into Marcus Books in the historic Filmore District. It was here that I discovered Toni Morrison, James Baldwin and Woodie King Jr. Woodie had anthologized a collection of short plays called “New Plays for the Black Theater” and it sat proudly among the shelves of Marcus Books. I purchased the anthology with the last of my money and read each and every play religiously. The theater of J.E. Franklin, Pearl Cleage, Oyama, Paul Carter Harrison, to name a few, jumped off those pages and made my mind soar. That anthology, besides Loraine Hansberry and Joseph Walker, taught me the importance of the black voice, exposed me to the varied black experiences preening for the stage, and informed me that this Woodie King Jr. seemed to be the man who knew playwrights, plays and who could bring them altogether. Without knowing him, Woodie King Jr. proudly introduced me to black theater. Without speaking to him, he assured me there was place for me in the American theater. Without consulting him, Woodie King Jr. expressed that the black voice was not only worthy, it was everywhere and he had taken the time to share some of these voices to the masses. Needless to say, honoring the trailblazing Woodie King Jr. is an honor within itself. He kick-started my deep interest in writing for the stage. -Keith Josef Adkins, The New Black Fest

There are so many speculations as to what Black theater is, and why it's needed, and how it is changing or not changing. We don't have all the answers but to come together with the community, and work with like minded people towards a common goal to keep the torch lit is a beautiful, magical, and very powerful thing. It will, to me, always be the step in the right direction and on that journey some of the answers will be discovered. And on that journey it is important to honor black excellence in remembering those who have come before us, those we are creating now, and those who will come after us. Passing the torch and keeping it lit should always be the goal. Woodie King Jr. is responsible for opening many doors for us to step through, and I wanted to be able to give my thanks along my journey towards excellence. -Erin Cherry, With A Cherry On Top Productions

Woodie King Jr. is an extremely important force within the American theater. Over the years, he has opened doors and paved the way for new artistic voices and has helped establish the careers of so many respected artists. Through his work at the New Federal Theatre and beyond, he has gone on to transform the theatrical canon forever. It is this amazing aspect of his illustrious career that inspires The Movement Theatre Company [TMTC] to continue to discover, develop and produce the next generation of diverse pioneering voices. It is an honor to be able to recognize Mr. King's amazing achievements as well as celebrate his induction into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. It is because of his dedication and the hard work of his artistic life that an organization like TMTC can stand taller and reach for the stars. In celebrating Woodie King Jr. we are not just celebrating one man, but the legacy of individuals who inspired him and the people he will inspire through the telling of his story. - David Mendizabal, Jonathan McCrory, Deadria Harrington, Eric Lockley, The Producing Artistic Leadership Team, The Movement Theatre Company

Tune in to #NEWPLAY TV on February 27, 2012 from 7:00-8:30pm EST to celebrate Woodie King Jr.'s induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame through Honoring Excellence in Black Theater:  A Night with Woodie King Jr.

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