*I suppose you can say Black Theatre showed up and showed out at the 25th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards, which took place on Sunday, March 6, at the beautiful Nate Holden Performing Arts Center/Ebony Repertory Theatre in Los Angeles.
The event displayed a wonderful feast of delectable foods and an evening of comedic entertainment beautifully led by comedian, Michael Colyar.
Celebrity announcers at the star-studded event, hosted by 4x NAACP Theatre Award winning playwright and producer Kinnik Sky, included Obba Babatunde (The Bold & The Beautiful), Jason George (Grey’s Anatomy), Brely Evans (Being Mary Jane), Richard Lawson (Saints and Sinners, Renee Lawless (The Haves and Haves Nots), Margaret Avery (Being Mary Jane), Ella Joyce (Being Mary Jane), and Harold Bell (Raising Whitley).
It was obvious that Black Theatre definitely matters! Fans cheered when Ella Joyce, best known for her role on the 1990s comedy series “Roc,” told the audience, “We are headed in a direction where we need to be in control…We need to own our own theatres.”
But seriousness aside, Joyce, who has a role in the upcoming Nina Simone film, had jokes too.
“I appreciate y’all remembering me from Roc, but I have done other things,” she said slyly, and started naming other works as the audience chuckled.
Margaret Avery recalled her first play was performed at Nate Holden Performing Arts Center way back when.
The “The Color Purple” actress told the audience that she was “honored when an interviewer asked her about longevity. “Many people are offended by this. I’m not!,” she said.
We spoke with comedian Ramona Stephens, who excitedly reminded EURweb senior editor, DeBorah B. Pryor, that we were the first to acknowledge her work with a feature years ago.
But hats had to go off to severely underrated comedian, Michael Colyar, who obviously understands the importance of using his talent not only to make people laugh; but also to teach.
In taking time out to speak seriously on the topic of the abusive behavior that Black men and women suffer at the hands of the police, he urged parents and relatives of to talk to their beloved. To make sure they know how to act when in the presence of police.
“If a police car is following me, I am not stopping if its some dark road. I will stop when I get to a gas station!”
He told the audience to make sure the officer sees your hands; to dial 911 the MINUTE you notice you are being followed, and say, “I am being followed by a police officer and I don’t know why.” And to put the phone down on the passenger seat, and let the officer know that you have 911 on the line.
These very import details should always be shared. Because just being general and saying things like, “Be careful,” is not enough.
Kudos to Michael Colyar, who cracked us up when he then went out into the lobby and started selling his latest book on President Obama for $10!
There was a diverse array of outstanding productions in 2015, with nominations that celebrated thespians, choreographers, directors and costumes in the categories of Equity (union) and Local (non-union) theatre productions.
SEE A FULL LIST OF THE WINNERS BELOW (WITH PHOTOS)
Comedian Ramona Stephens, who performed at the event (and was hilarious by the way!), told EURweb, “sometimes its hard to accept that you really have a gift. I’m amazed whenever I get off stage and somebody laughs.”
“I talk about the simple things, because I’m a simple girl,” says the woman who opened her act saying, “I am celebrating my divorce…although it happened 10-years ago!”
Stephens says she, not unlike many comedians, laugh to keep from crying. “I do that a lot. I laugh a lot!”
“Sometimes I have to make myself think of a happy moment. A lot of the things that I remember the best, are not happy thoughts. So a lot of times being happy keeps me from being weither homicidal or suicidal. Sometimes I actually feel I either want to kill myself or kill somebody else.”
Harold Bell of the reality series “Raising Whitley” was one of the presenters at the event. He tells EURweb, “Theatre is my thing. So anything that has to do with theatre, I’m all in. Everyone who acknowledges what we do, I’m all for it.”
“Raising Whitley is kind of on pause right now. We’re waiting to see if we are going to be picked up…It’s been good. I love Josh. Just being able to watch him grow and be there for him, that’s my favorite part. That’s my baby so. I was there before there was a Raising Whitley. I’ll be there after Raising Whitley.”
Bell, who is really focusing on the production side of the one-man show he introduced to us on ‘Raising Whitley,’ laughs as he shares Whitley is even crazier behind the scenes. “We can’t even show show of the stuff we do,” behind the scenes, he adds.
Check out this scene from ‘Sassy Mamas’ The Stage Play:
***And the Winner of the NAACP Theatre Award is…***
“The Tallest Tree in the Forest (Equity)”
Best Lighting, David Lander
Best One Person Show, Daniel Beaty
Best Playwright, Daniel Beaty
“The Magic Flute (Local)”
Best Lighting, Mannie Manim
Best Music Director, Pauline Malefane & Mandisi Dyantyis
Best Director of a Musical, Mark Dornford-May
Choir Boy (Equity)
Best Set Design, David Zinn
Best Supporting Male Actor, Caleb Eberhardt
Best Director, Trip Cullman
Sassy Mama’s (Local)
Set Design, Vanessa Paul & Jeff Murray
Best Director, Iona Morris
Best Ensemble Cast
The Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess (Equity)
Best Costume Design, Emilio Sosa
Best Director of a Musical, Diane Paulus
Low Hanging Fruit (Local)
Best Costume Design, Wendell C. Carmichael
Best Sound Design, Acme Sound Partners with Jason Crystal
Bus Stops (Local)
Best Sound Design, Jaimyon Parker
Best Lead Male, Leonard Thomas
Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Through Life (Equity)
Best Choreography, Maurice Hines
Best Lead Male, Maurice Hines
The Brothers Size (Local)
Best Choreography, Ameenah Kaplan
Bag Lady (Local)
Best One Person Show, Tammi Mac
Best Playwright, Tammi Mac
Best Producer, Tammi Mac and Jackson Brown
Flyin’ West, By Pearl Cleage (Equity)
Best Ensemble Cast
Above The Fold (Equity)
Best Lead Female, Taraji P. Henson
Best Supporting Female Actress, Kristy Johnson
Best Producer, Pasadena Playhouse
Knock Me A Kiss, (Local)
Best Lead Female Actress, Toyin Moses
Best Supporting Female Actress, Ashlee Olivia
Closely Related Keys (Local)
Best Supporting Male, Brent Jennings
Kiss Me Kate (Equity)
Best Music Director, Rahn Coleman
Editors Note: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my surprise and disappointment at the number of winners who did not show up at this worthy vent. I would like to believe it is for the reasons some who picked up their awards gave: working…working…working!!!
But it is essential to support Black Theatre in Los Angeles so that it will remain as vibrant and socially conscious as it is.
Black Theatre only matters to the extent that it is supported. So let’s support it by SHOWING UP to the many incredible productions that happen year round!
DeBorah B. Pryor is a Senior Editor and Resident Theatre Critic at Electronic Urban Report (EURweb). She has a B. A. in Drama Education from San Francisco State University and worked as an actress in theatre for close to two decades. As an entrepreneur, she writes children’s books, is an Independent Associate with LegalShield, works in public relations and teaches public speaking to professionals at private companies. She can be reached at [email protected].