The National Black Theater Festival (NBTF) was held in Winston-Salem from August 3rd through 8th. Founded by Larry Leon Hamlin, the festival is an outreach program of the National Black Repertory Company. We drove across the state for the festival, and we all had a marvelous time. It was Doriyan’s first time seeing a play outside of the Children’s Theater; I think he was blown away. It was one of the best family trips ever, so here are five things I loved about the NBTF.
1. The Plays
There were so many wonderful plays to choose from. The ticket prices ranged from $20 to $40 per ticket (with a couple of events sliding in under the $10 mark); we were underprepared so we only got to see one major production. However, we were able to catch two plays; The Last Revolutionary by Levy Lee Simon, and Dutchman By Amiri Baraka. I enjoyed both plays and wouldn’t dare select a favorite. In The Last Revolutionary, Mac Perkins is ready to take on the Anti-Obama sentiments, but his friend Jack Armstrong has different plans. The dialogue was witty and honest. In Dutchman, Baraka uses sexual and racial tension between a black man and white woman as a metaphor for racial tensions in America.
2. The Casts
Everyone was so talented and approachable.
Not only did Levy Lee Simon write The Last Revolutionary, he also played Mac Perkins. After the show, he posed for a picture and agreed to send us a copy of the play so that Doriyan could re-read it for home school.
I thought John Marshall Jones looked familiar; he’s appeared in The Mentalist and NCIS. Those are two of my favorite shows.
Tannna Frederick played Lula in Dutchman. She was funny and ridiculously engaging. We really enjoyed her. After the show, we spoke briefly and she was also very genuine.
Siaka Massaquoi is the skillful thespian who played Clay; there was a moment during one of his monologues where I forgot it was a play. I was emotionally touched by what he brought to the character.
3. The Fashion
My fashion crush was Marlene Davis. Her one-piece from JCPenny was everything. She styled it up with Micheal Kors accessories and Gianni Bini Shoes. She topped it off with a blazer from New York & Company. Her locks were lovely, and her melanin was glistening.
4. Running Into Old Friends
I ran into Tommy Bottoms, Georgia Me, and Abyss. These are some of Atlanta’s Premier Poets. As participants in the Midnight Poetry Jam, they delivered a great show to over 1000 people. They are currently traveling the play circuit performing Educated Gangster 101 by Tommy Bottoms. I met Tommy some years back at Apache Cafe. It was a treat to see familiar faces in the crowd.
5. The Artsy Vibe
There was art everywhere; in addition to the plays, there were people playing instruments on the streets and galleries filled with sculptures and paintings. One of my favorite North Carolina artists Gilbert Young had paintings for sale among other artists. It was a creative scene.
The festival is held every two years, and I can’t wait until the 2017 event.