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What To Expect At The 2019 National Black Theatre Festival

By Stephanie Ogbogu

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The National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF) is a biennial festival celebrating African American contributions to culture. NBTF was founded by the late Larry Leon Hamlin in 1989 with the goal of uniting black theater companies in America and ensuring the survival of the genre into the next millennium.

According to The New York Times, “The 1989 National Black Theatre Festival was one of the most historic and culturally significant events in the history of black theatre and American theatre in general.” Over 10,000 people attended the inaugural event. It lived up to its theme: An International Celebration and Reunion of Spirit.

Now, in its 16th season, the festival returns to Winston-Salem aka the “black theatre holy ground” with this year’s co-chairs veteran actress Margaret ‘Shug’ Avery and Broadway sensation Chester Gregory.

Thinking about attending the festival? Here are some things you should know:

NBTF is six consecutive days of professional theatre, the only festival of its kind in the United States. So, if you’re interested in attending and would like the full experience, make sure you make arrangements to be there for about a week.

If you’re a filmmaker, an actor, playwright, etc., you can submit your play for the festival. Youth talent is also encouraged to participate. There are various stages and categories and if you’re interested in the submission process, you can read more about it here.

Make sure you pack black-tie attire because there will be a gala awards ceremony on opening night. The star-studded gala gets underway with a vibrant parade of powerful African drummers and dancers followed by a grand and royal procession of more than 40 celebrities of stage, television, and film. You can reserve your tickets here.


If you need help getting around, transportation will be available to theatre venues from designated festival hotels throughout the festival’s duration. Bus schedules will be available at NBTF hotel lobbies. Transportation for festival programs is free of charge.

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