Jackie Alexander has Big Plans for the NC Black Repertory Company
Black Rep Presents the Bi-Annual National Black Theatre Festival in 2019
By Judie Holcomb-Pack
When Jackie Alexander heard about the National Black Theatre Festival, his first question was: Where is Winston-Salem?
He had no idea when he attended his first Theatre Festival here, that one day he would become the artistic director of the N.C. Black Repertory Company, the organization that presents the National Black Theatre Festival every two years.
Alexander came to Winston-Salem two years ago via New Orleans, Los Angeles and New York City – quite a change in pace in culture and community. What has surprised him the most is how open to collaboration people and organizations are in Winston-Salem. “It’s been refreshing,” he commented recently, adding that he was also surprised at the amount of theater and the quality for such a small town.
Since becoming the artistic director for N.C. Black Repertory Company, Alexander has been focused on rebranding and restructuring the organization, especially with the sale of the Little Theatre, home to the Company for many years. He says these changes bring with them stress – but good stress as the Company moves forward. Both the N.C. Black Rep and the Little Theatre will move their offices to 419 Spruce Street in August.
When the Company announced its 2018-19 season, Alexander emphasized that it will continue with its tradition of presenting Black Nativity, an annual community holiday event. This summer he will be bringing the production of The Legend of Buster Neal to Boone’s An Appalachian Festival, a partnership that began last year.
For a change of pace, the company will present Black Violin on August 25. This production features classically trained string players Wil B. (viola) and Kev Marcus (violin), who will be joined onstage by DJ SPS and drummer Nat Stokes, showcasing the band’s unique blend of classical and hip-hop music.
Staged readings throughout the community are also planned from October 2018 to May 2019, continuing what Larry Leon Hamlin, the founder of the National Black Theatre Festival, called “Living Room Theatre.” The purpose is to introduce people to the N.C. Black Repertory Company, as well as to plays that they may not be familiar with.
Education is a high priority for Alexander, such as offering the Teen Theatre Ensemble, a 12-week training program for teens that runs from September to February, culminating with the presentation of their annual Showcase at Mountcastle Black Box Theatre at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts.
Alexander is also excited about next year’s National Black Theatre Festival, which is presented by the N.C. Black Rep. The Festival brings in 65,000 visitors to Winston-Salem for a week of extraordinary black theatre. He describes the Festival as “the birthplace of new playwrights” and enjoys giving newcomers an opportunity to showcase their work and to connect with other theatre professionals.
Alexander recently announced that he has commissioned a female playwright to write a play about the life of Dr. Maya Angelou to premiere in late 2019. He believes this is long overdue and that it is only fitting that the play premieres in Winston-Salem, Angelou’s home for many years.
Although the staff of the N.C. Black Rep is small, there are over 200 volunteers that are part of the Theatre Guild, as well as the Marvtastic Society, that help to ensure that every production and event is first class.
Jackie Alexander has brought experience, enthusiasm and excitement to his position as artistic director. We eagerly await the plans he has for the future.
For more information on the N.C. Black Repertory Company, the Theatre Guild, and the Marvtastic Society, visit NCBlackRep.org or call 336-723-2266.
Correction: In a profile of Sylvia Sprinke-Hamlin, executive producer of the NBTF, in the March issue, it was incorrectly reported that 85,000 people attended the National Black Theatre Festival. The correct estimate is 65,000. For Seniors Only regrets the error.