A weekly series of hour-long curated digital conversations, NBT@Home will see artists in the NBT family engaging in one-on-one discussions with other creatives on topics including theater and the arts, community, health and more — and our changing relationships to these concepts in a world adjusting each day to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each conversation is free and open to the public by going to NBT’s Facebook page and watching on Facebook Live. A five-part digital series, new NBT@Home conversations will go live at 5:30 p.m. EST each Wednesday as its 51st season resumes.
And on Thursdays, the city’s oldest continually run Black theater opens its archives for #ThrowbackThursday (#TBT), digitally screening videos of some of its celebrated symposiums, exhibitions, documentaries, and performances including The Quest, Change: Conversations with the Creator, Parables in Iterations, and Ebony Noelle Golden’s 125th & FREEdom. Audiences can access NBT’s archives by following NBT’s Instagram (@natblacktheatre) or signing up for its mailing list by heading to its website, www.nationalblacktheatre.org.
Serving as both a digital artists’ salon and a way in which theater-lovers can keep in tune with NBT and its creatives, the Wednesday NBT@Home online events will present conversations on two productions postponed by the COVID-19 emergency: The Gateway: Afrofuturism and Can & Able! The debut episode features NBT’s leadership team, CEO Sade Lythcott and Artistic Director Jonathan McCrory, moderated by co-curator ChelseaDee, and will focus on the coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected both the world at large and NBT specifically, and imagine what a post-COVID-19 world will be like for artists and everyone else.
“NBT@Home is a new way to bring together the community both in Harlem and beyond in this unique moment in the world,” said McCrory. “While we learn how interconnected we all are through this health crisis by staying home and committing to social distancing, this initiative provides us with a means of reminding people of how vital Black artists and the arts are to establishing a healthy present and to imagining a promising future.”
On April 29, NBT@Home shifts the focus to four conversations on Afrofuturism, exploring some of the pioneer voices, past and present, and how concepts of Afrofuturism can help Black communities envision and create life after COVID-19. The first conversation will feature multi-hyphenate artist Carl Hancock Rux and Justin Hicks discussing the work of artist and innovator Sun Ra. After unveiling newly commissioned digital works by Makeba “KEEBS” Rainey, based on the likeness of Sun Ra, Pauline Hopkins and adrienne maree brown at 12 noon on May 6, NBT will host an IG Live conversation with the artist moderated by McCrory.
At 5:30 p.m. the same day, NBT will host another FB Live conversation with dialogue centered on one of the early creators of Afrofuturistic ideas, 19th century novelist and editor Pauline Hopkins, with author Kendriana Washington and playwright and screenwriter Keith Josef Adkins. Concluding the conversations around Afrofuturism, on May 13 NBT will focus on the work of author adrienne maree brown and the idea of pleasure activism: how embracing one’s own joy is a method of creating liberation in a system of oppression with artist-essayist-playwright Daniel Alexander Jones, creator and Afrofuturist Nia Farrell and performer, choreographer, director, playwright and activist nicHi douglas.
All FB Live conversations will be moderated by ChelseaDee, the final installment of which will be a special 90-minute conversation, “Can & Able! The Resilience of the Gift,” on May 20. Originally slated to be presented in partnership with Carnegie Hall in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the event will examine how artists with disabilities use their art to share their life experiences and also discuss how, in a world on lockdown, questions of accessibility (to work, stores, etc.) are becoming central to everyone’s experience.
Participants include performer, writer, and inclusion expert Claudia Alick, choreographer-dancer-speaker-deaf advocate Antoine Hunter, dancer Jerron Herman and director and actress Mary Hodges. That same week NBT will unveil newly commissioned digital works by Jaimee Todd created for this event and host a conversation with the artists on IG Live at 12 noon on May 20, moderated by McCrory.
Founded by visionary Dr. Barbara Ann Teer in 1968, National Black Theatre (NBT) is a nationally recognized cultural and educational institution. Dr. Teer pioneered “the healing art of Black theater as an instrument for wholeness in urban communities where entrepreneurial artists of African descent live and work.” In 1983, Dr. Teer expanded the vision of NBT by purchasing a 64,000-square-foot building on 125th Street and Fifth Avenue (renamed “National Black Theatre Way” by local law in 1994). This was the first revenue-generating Black arts complex in the country, an innovative arrangement through which for-profit businesses who shared NBT’s spiritual and aesthetic values rented retail space to subsidize the arts.
Out of her vision, NBT houses the largest collection of Nigerian New Sacred Art in the Western hemisphere and is considered the authentic representation of a model whose time has come. NBT is supported by grants from the Ford Foundation, New York Community Trust, Time Warner Corporation. Howard Gilman Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Andrew Mellon Foundation, City Council of New York, City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs, Columbia Service Society and private donations.
For more on NBT@Home, visit www.nationalblacktheatre.org or follow NBT on social media at @natblacktheatre (Instagram and Twitter) and on Facebook at @nationalblacktheatre, or follow the hashtag #NBTatHOME. To sign up for the #ThrowbackThursday Letter, visit https://www.nationalblacktheatre.org/contact.
Photo credit: National Black Theatre’s Artistic Director Jonathan McCrory, credit Christine Jean Chambers, and NBT@Home moderator and co-curator ChelseaDee By Sindayiganza Photography