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    Posted September 21, 2011

< return to 2011 archives

ACTORS' EQUITY IS OFFICIALLY "MARVTASTIC"

by Luther Goins
National EEO Coordinator & Central Region Business Representative


Central Regional Director, Kathryn V. Lamkey, National Black Theatre Festival Producer Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, National EEO Coordinator Luther Goins, and Councilor and Eastern Regional EEO Co-Chair Julia Breanetta Simpson.

August 2011 marked and celebrated the 11th, biennial, National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF). Nationally accepted as the Black Theatre Holy Ground, Winston-Salem, NC hosts this highly acclaimed week long festival which attracts over 65,000 people.

In 1989, Larry Leon Hamlin, founder of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company had a dream. He wanted a national festival that would acknowledge both the power of black theatre and the amazing abilities and talents of black theatre professionals. Twenty-two years later, his dream has become a highly anticipated (and treasured) reality. Mr. Hamlin passed away in 2007. The terms "Black Theatre Holy Ground" and "Marvtastic" come directly from Mr. Hamlin and lovingly describe his dream and this amazing festival.

Now recognized as an International Celebration and Reunion of Spirit, this amazing event opens (in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem) with a star-studded Gala and a not to be missed Celebrity Award Presentation at the M.C. Benton, Jr. Convention Center. The rest of the fully charged week consists of celebrity press events, re-mounts of exceptional productions from across the country, a new play reading series, dance workshops and seminars, national networking opportunities via auditions for actors, midnight poetry jams, talent showcases for children, youth-targeted plays and projects, storytelling festivals, all types of performance-based workshops, and the outstanding Larry Leon Hamlin Solo Performance Series.

Charged with the assignment to explore and discover ways for Actors' Equity to become a more supportive part of this not to be missed festival, Councilor and Eastern EEO Co-Chair Julia Breanetta Simpson and I attended the 2009 NBTF. After a great deal of thought and discussion, we created the Larry Leon Hamlin / Actors' Equity Code. Designed to support and guarantee festival participation for our Members of Color, the Code (which was approved by Council) also presents numerous opportunities for minority-based theatre companies, from across the country, to discuss the possibilities of working with Equity Actors and contracts during their regular seasons.

Along with the creation of the Larry Leon Hamlin / Actors' Equity Code, two highly successful Equity Workshops were presented at this year's festival. They included; "Celebrity Talk" and "The Truth and Nothing But the Truth". "Celebrity Talk', which was facilitated by our own Julia Breanetta Simpson, gave festival celebrities the chance to discuss their careers and their personal journeys to becoming Equity Members. "Celebrity Talk" included the following Members; Mariann Aalda, Trezana Beverley, Andre De Shields, Starletta DuPois, Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter, Fay Hauser, Ebony Jo-Ann, Ted Lange, Hal Williams, and Hattie Winston.

"The Truth and Nothing But the Truth" was designed to allow for open discussions about when and how to join the union. It also gave us opportunity to remove many negative myths about working and living as a the union member and about Actors' Equity as an organization.

2011 Celebrity Awards were presented to the following Members; Glynn Turman received the Sidney Poitier Lifelong Achievement Award, Yvonne Farrow and Yvette Heyliger received Emerging Producer Awards, Chuck Smith received the Lloyd Richards Director's Award, Trezana Beverley, Marquerite Ray, and Tonea Stewart received Living Legend Awards, Count Stovall received the Special Recognition Award, and the late Barbara Ann Teer received the Theatre Longevity Award.

All in all….it was simply a "MARVTASTIC" week!

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