Companies will discuss issues of support and sustainability
May 14, 2008
By Halley Bondy
The Coalition of Theatres of Color, an alliance of 15
African-American and Latino theatres in New York City and upstate New
York, will host its first town hall meeting May 18 at the Little
Schubert Theatre in Manhattan.
Representatives from seven CTC theatres, including The New Federal
Theatre in Manhattan, The Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, and The
Ujima Theatre in Buffalo, N.Y., will serve as panelists in a
discussion on theatre sustainability and progress made by the CTC
since its inception in 2004.
The CTC was founded by Oscar-nominated actor Ruby Dee (American
Gangster) and her late husband, actor and activist Ossie Davis, to
unify low-budget New York minority theatres. The Coalition welcomes
companies that have existed for 25 years or more and with annual
budgets of about $250,000 or less.
Member services include joint advertisement, alliances with nonprofit
organizations and city officials, and monthly meetings to discuss
common administrative issues including funding and theatre space.
The coalition also includes Spanish-speaking companies such as Thalia
Spanish Theatre in Queens and Teatro Sea in Manhattan, as well as
Paul Robeson Performing Arts Co. in Syracuse, N.Y., and the Rochester
(N.Y.) Association of the Performing Arts.
According to Woodie King Jr., CTC chair and founder of the New
Federal Theatre, the meeting will try to educate audiences, city and
state officials, the media, and private foundations about the
history, impact, and struggles of Coalition theatres.
"We want people to be more aware of our contributions to American
cultural life," said King. "We want to put a face on our
accomplishments and encourage people to contribute."
Some CTC institutions have served as launching pads for actors such
as Samuel L. Jackson, who began his New York acting career at the
Billie Holiday Theatre, and Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman,
both alumni of the New Federal Theatre.
According to King, one of the major topics faced by CTC to be
addressed in the panel is a lack of mainstream media coverage.
"Some of us have been around for more than 25 years and some major
New York newspapers haven't been to a single production of ours,"
said King. "We're living in the age of sound bytes and technology,
and theatres of color are not being represented."
The panel will be moderated by Felipe Luciano, former chair of the
Young Lords, a Latino activism group formed in the 1960s; Gil Nobel,
host and producer of Like it Is on ABC; and Imhotep Gary Bird, a
radio host from WBLS-FM.
Dee will attend, and there will be a performance by the IMPACT
According to King, the CTC hopes to expand its membership to include
more minority theatres, including the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre in
"We want to be a stronger coalition," he said. "As a growing group,
we are becoming much stronger than we were on an individual basis."
"A Conversation with New York Theatres of Color," Sunday, May 18, 2
p.m., Little Schubert Theatre, 422 West 42nd St., between Ninth and
10th avenues. Admission is free; registration is required:
www.newheritagetheatre.org or call 212-926-2550, ext. 21.