National Black Theatre Festival Honors Jubilee Theatre Artistic Director Ed Smith 8/3

This year, the prestigious National Black Theatre Festival® will honor Jubilee Theatre Artistic Director Ed Smith with the festival's first annual Lloyd Richards' Director's Award. Smith is receiving this award because of his significant contributions to black theatre and American theatre in general. The festival will be held from August 3 through 8, 2009 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The theme for this year's festival remains the same as the past ten festivals: An International Celebration and Reunion of Spirit. Mr. Smith will be presented with the award at the Opening Night Gala Awards Banquet, which will be held on Monday, August 3.

Larry Leon Hamlin founded the National Black Theatre Festival® (NBTF) in 1989. His goal was to unite black theatre companies and ensure the survival of the genre into the next millennium. With the support of Dr. Maya Angelou (who served as the Festival's first Chairperson) the NBTF was born. The NBTF is a biennial event that brings together the black theatre companies of America and the world. Approximately 25 companies are selected to perform during the week for a total of over 100 performances. The festival hosts nightly Celebrity Receptions as well as an International Vendor's Market. This year, the Youth/Celebrity Project will serve at least 6,000 children and teenagers. Nearly 50 celebrities of television, film and stage will lend their support to the celebration. Over 50,000 people are expected to attend this theatrical experience.

In 1958, Lloyd Richards galvanized Broadway with his production of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. This production began a new era in the representation of African-Americans on the American stage. In 1979, he was tapped to become dean of the prestigious Yale University School of Drama and Artistic Director of the highly influential Yale Rep.

Throughout his career, Lloyd Richards sought to discover and develop new plays and playwrights as Artistic Director of the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theatre Center from 1968 to 1999. Richards's long search for a major new American playwright bore fruit with the 1984 production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom by August Wilson. Throughout the 1980s and into the '90s, Richards directed the Yale Rep and New York productions of the successive installments of August Wilson's multi-part chronicle of African-American life. The plays in this cycle include Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running and Seven Guitars. Their pairing has been described as one of the most important in the history of American theater.

Lloyd Richards's productions for television included segments of Roots: The Next Generation, Bill Moyers' Journal and Robeson, a presentation on The Life of the African-American actor and activist Paul Robeson, who was an early inspiration for the young Lloyd Richards. He continued to serve as Artistic Director of the Playwrights Conference at the O'Neill Center until 1999. He died in 2006, on his 87th birthday.

Ed Smith is an award-winning director whose productions of Fences, Our Town, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Piano Lesson, I'm Not Rappaport, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, and most recently, The Bluest Eye, have all received critical praise. Smith has directed over ninety plays at many of the country's professional and university theatres, as well as in Canada and the West Indies.
In the late 1960's, he founded his first theatre, the now-defunct Buffalo Black Drama Workshop. In the 1970's, he also helped to start Black Canada in Toronto. Then in the 1980's, he served as Founder/Artistic Director of Buffalo Black Dinner Theatre.

In 1989, Ed created the original staging and direction for Endesha Ida Mae Holland's From the Mississippi Delta. From 1993 to 1996, he served as Associate Artistic Director of the acclaimed Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery, Alabama. While there, his duties included directing many of the main stage productions, as well as directing and conducting a reading series for the Southern Writers Project.

In 2002, Ed was recommended by the notable and distinguished director Lloyd Richards to direct Ossie Davis's last play, A Last Dance for Sybil, featuring Ruby Dee, Earl Hyman, and Arthur French. Ed acknowledges this production as one of his best experiences in American Theatre.

Ed was a full professor at State University of New York at Buffalo and at Florida State University. He also taught at the University of California in Los Angeles, and while at Wayne State University he taught in the Hilberry graduate program and was director of the Black Theatre Program.

Ed is the author of Black Theatre: Ethnic Theatre in the United States (Greenwood Press). He has fed his love of traditional/jazz recordings by working as a radio jazz announcer for almost 20 years. Currently, Ed acts as Jubilee Theatre's Artistic Director.

 

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