image by Plowshare Theatre Company
On September 17th, the great tapestry of Black theater will take center stage as the world celebrates the third annual Black Theatre Day, a day dedicated to increasing the visibility and support for Black theaters nationwide. This important occasion honors the enduring legacy of the African Grove Theatre (AGT) and modern
Black theater institutions while highlighting the invaluable contributions of Black artists to the performing arts landscape. Black Theatre Day is an annual, international “Day of Service and Solidarity” initiated by The International Black Theatre Summit, under the visionary leadership of Dr. Monica White Ndounou, Associate Professor of Theater at Dartmouth College and founding Executive Director of The CRAFT Institute. It serves as a rallying cry for individuals and communities to come together in support of Black theaters, showcasing an environment of unity and shared appreciation for the rich cultural heritage and artistic innovation they represent.
The roots of this celebration extend back to the African Grove Theatre (AGT), a trailblazing company of Black American and Afro-Caribbean artists founded in New York City in 1821 by William Alexander Brown. As a pioneering actor, playwright, producer, and free Black man from the West Indies, Brown etched his name in history by establishing the AGT, which made its theatrical debut on September 17, 1821, with a performance of William Shakespeare’s “Richard III.” Despite its short existence, the AGT holds the distinction of being the first known professional Black theater in the United States, leaving a powerful mark on the cultural landscape.
Erich McMillan-McCall, Founder/CEO of Project1Voice and a member of the Black Theatre Day Planning Committee, underscores the significance of Black Theatre Day in these tumultuous times. He aptly describes it as an act of resistance, resilience, reclamation, and, above all, Black joy. At a time when headlines often spotlight trauma and microaggressions, Black Theatre Day offers a powerful reminder of the healing and transformative power of the arts.
This September 17th, let us all join hands in celebration and support of Black theaters across the nation. Together, we can ensure that the spotlight continues to shine brightly on the incredible talent and profound stories that Black theater brings to the world, not just on this day but every day.
Video by: Project 1 Voice