Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Negro Ensemble Company Founder Douglas Turner Ward Passes Away at 90

Ward was nominated for a Tony Award in 1974 for his performance in The River Niger.

Negro Ensemble Company Founder Douglas Turner Ward Passes Away at 90

BroadwayWorld is saddened to report that playwright, actor, director, and theatrical producer Douglas Turner Ward has passed away. He was 90 years old.

Ward is perhaps best known as the founder and artistic director of the Negro Ensemble Company.

He made one of his first performances in The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill in 1956, at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Three years later, he made his Broadway debut in a small role in A Raisin in the Sun, alongside Sidney Poitier and Claudia McNeil.

His first significant artistic achievement would be as a playwright, however. Happy Ending/Day of Absence, a program of two one-act plays, premiered at the St. Mark's Playhouse in Manhattan on November 15, 1965. It ultimately ran for 504 performances over 15 months.

Ward was one of the founders of the Negro Ensemble Company in 1967, and served for many years as its artistic director. It notably produced The River Niger (1972), which won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1974 and was adapted as a film of the same name two years later. Ward himself acted in and directed that play, receiving a nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play. The company also produced Home (1979) by Samm-Art Williams and A Soldier's Play (1981) by Charles Fuller. The latter won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was adapted into the film A Soldier's Story.

Ward was enshrined into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1996. He was also conferred the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award. He published The Haitian Chronicles in March 2020, having worked on the three-play series for around four decades. He viewed the series, which focused on the Haitian Revolution, as his magnum opus and intended to have it staged by NEC alumni.

Related Articles

More Hot Stories For You