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Black Ensemble Theater Joins African American Theater Companies to Form a New National Alliance

Stage Directions • Stage DirectionsTheater News • June 2, 2021

The new national alliance is The National Association of Black Theatre Building Owners (NABTBO)

In an effort to share knowledge, resources, and strengthen the infrastructure of the Black theatre landscape in the United States, the country’s independent Black theatre building owners, including Black Ensemble Theater, have forged a new alliance. The National Association of Black Theatre Building Owners (NABTBO) will work together to ensure the sustainability, longevity, and growth of the Black Theater Movement in the United States.

The Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago, IL

The National Association of Black Theatre Building Owners (NABTBO) will share knowledge, resources, increase awareness of the vital importance of African American Theater to the cultural fabric of our country and work together to insure the sustainability and growth of the Black theatre national landscape.

NABTBO honors, respects, and supports all Black Theater companies, collegiate, store fronts, and church theaters across the nation that continue to amplify our voices, and is proud to a part of this important community. Black theaters are all playing in the same field and there is room and a need for all. Members of NABTBO only differ in that we have built property on the playing field, which creates a different perspective and responsibility as landowners.

To date, the members of NABTBO include: Westcoast Black Theater Troupe (www.wbtt.org) in Sarasota, The Arena Players in Baltimore (www.arenaplayersinc.com), Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago (www.blackensembletheater.org), The Ensemble Theatre in Houston (www.ensemblehouston.com), ETA in Chicago (www.etacreativearts.org), Hattiloo Theatre in Memphis (www.hattiloo.org), and National Black Theatre in New York City (www.nationalblacktheatre.org).

These entities were first brought together by Chuck Smith, celebrated and award-winning national theater director, who urged them to start working together, and so the leaders of these theaters have committed to being a conduit for creating strategies and building platforms to benefit Black Theater as a holistic community. The companies are increasing their interaction and communication while developing and implementing strategies that will affect positive change resulting in strengthening the Black Theater community on a national level.

The membership of NABTBO believes that “In owning our buildings we are an indestructible force that stand together to ensure that these ‘homes’ will continue to remain a birthplace for our playwrights, actors, designers, musicians, and artists. We offer permanent shelter and an opportunity live, grow, and thrive while moving forward in our commitment to perpetuate the importance of Black Theater to the growth and development of American culture.

Every family has or had a storyteller like August Wilson’s character Aunt Ester. Entrepreneurial siblings like those in Dominique Morisseau’s play Detroit 67 continue to keep Black American communities exciting and innovative. The journeys taken in Pearl Cleage’s Flyin’ West and Jiréh Breon Holder’s Too Heavy for Your Pocket are important to travel over and again. NABTBO is committed to writers such as these so that we may be a conduit to increase their longevity and put in place initiatives that will help their careers to flourish while working to spread their voices to audiences across the United States.

In the 1960s, the Black Arts Movement prompted the need for culturally specific institutions dedicated to providing consistent employment and internship opportunities for Black artists. Today, the member-theatres of NABTBO are moving forward, ensuring that the Black Arts Movement is alive and well and living in their ‘houses’ while spotlighting, maintaining, and strengthening the Black aesthetic of then, now and tomorrow.

The Black Ensemble Theater 
Founded in 1976, by the producer, playwright, and actress Jackie Taylor, Black Ensemble Theater is the only African American theater located in the culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse north side Uptown community. Through its Five Play Season of Excellence, The Black Ensemble Theater dazzles audiences locally, nationally, and internationally with outstanding original musicals that are entertaining, educational, and uplifting. The Black Ensemble Theater has produced more than 100 productions and employed over 5,000 artists.

The mission of the Black Ensemble Theater Company is to eradicate racism and its devastating effects upon society through the theater arts.

Further information from the Black Ensemble Theater Company: www.BlackEnsembleTheater.org