Filed Under:  Arts & Culture, Entertainment, News, Theatre

Southern Black Theater Festival brings out local, national talent

29th October 2012   ·   0 Comments

By J. Kojo Livingston
Contributing Writer

A grueling two-week schedule of performing events, ceremonies and awards dinners marked the third bi-annual Southern Black Theater Festival which ended last week. The festival kicked off with an opening reception that included Afrikan drumming and dance, spoken word and music. It continued with workshops on the arts, cooking, and careers in the arts.

The Southern Black Theatre Festival is an outreach effort of Mahogany Ensemble Theatre. Mahogany Ensemble Theatre is the award-winning resident theatre of the M.E.C.C.A. Foundation (Mahogany Expressions of Culture & Creative Arts), whose mission is to enlighten, enrich, and empower communities by presenting, producing, and promoting quality programs that preserve and advance the rich heritage of the cultural and performing arts traditions of people of African descent while expressing this proud legacy with all of humanity.

The In Living Color Award Dinner recognized three giants in the field of acting. Curtis King received the SBTF Living Legacy Lifetime Achievement Award. King is the founder & President of The Black Academy of Arts & Letters (TBAAL) in Dallas, TX. Formed in 1977, it is the only arts institution and African American organization housed in a major urban convention center in the nation.

The Judi Ann Mason Spirit of Creativity Award went to Haw­thorne James. Best known for his role as “Big Red” in the hit movie The Five Heartbeats James is the dynamic actor/director of stage, television, and film. Mr. James’ film and TV credits also include: Speed, Armistad, Se7en, “Beyond Suspicion,” “Fraiser,” “Martin,” “Charmed,” “NYPD Blue.”

The Trailblazer Award went to Anthony Bean, Founder of the Anthony Bean Community Theater (ABCT) and Co-Founder of The Ethiopian Theater—formed in 1973, the oldest African American theater company in New Orleans, LA.

The Legacy Reception celebrated the contributions for individuals and organizations dedicated to the advancement and preservation of the performing, visual, literary, and cultural arts tradition of African American heritage. This year’s honorees were: Darrel Andrews, Jerry & Tarama Daven­port, Janice Gatlin, Dianne Maro­ney-Grigsby Dr. Hattie Wade, and Thelma Smith Williams.

King charged the community with supporting the work of Mahogany and developing a full-scale performance space for Black artists. “This first-time I’ve come to the festival. I think this festival is an incredible idea. It’s very much needed and I encourage the mayor, the council and the community to really get behind and support an idea like this. It’s an amazing thing that’s needed not just in Shreveport but all around the country.”

Hawthorne James was also concerned, “We need more institutions,” he said“Children need to see the best that their fathers and mothers can do. They get inspiration from that and they learn about themselves, so we’ve got to keep going.”

Anthony Bean expressed shock that Mahogany was able to do the work they have done without a building. “I think it’s wonderful. I didn’t even know that this lady who put this thing didn’t have a building or the community support. That’s unheard of. I think it’s wonderful anytime we can celebrate each other and pat each other on the back and appreciate each other.”

“I feel truly recharged, revitalized and renewed for the next chapter of what the Southern Black Theater Festival and the Maho­gany Ensemble Theater both have for the community. We are truly going to build on this energy as we plan for the future,” said Feaster. “We honored dynamic men this year, but we have an amazing work to do and a charge made by our national honoree, Mr. King. We need to move forward with those marching orders, but it has to come from our community to define and really pull from those Kwanzaa principles. There should never be another generation that has to come into our community to do the work and there’s no place for it to be done. We need a serious performing arts venue and we need to make it happen.”

This article originally published in the October 29, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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