BEDFORD STUYVESANT’S JUST RENOVATED BILLIE HOLIDAY THEATRE RECHARGES ITS MISSION OF BEING A “CROSSROADS OF ART, SOCIAL JUSTICE, AND COMMUNITY”
BY PAULETTA “PEARSON” WASHINGTON
Most affectionately called “The Billie,” The Billie Holiday Theatre was founded in 1972 by the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration in Central Brooklyn, an area that is home to the largest Black community in the nation. Its 46 year mission has been the discovery and presentation of storytelling for, by, and about people of African descent its alumni including directors, writers, and actors such as Samuel L. Jackson, Debbie Allen, John Amos, Sonia Sanchez, Ruby Dee, Ruben Santiago Hudson, Walter Dallas, Richard Wesley, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Ebony Joann, George Faison, Michele Shay, and hundreds more. It currently presents three to four main stage productions annually, provides subsidized student matinees, commissions and premieres original works, and is part of the Restoration ART Artistic Coalition, which is committed, as its mission statement reads, “to the sustainability of arts institutions serving audiences of African descent.”
Recently re launched after a $4.1 million renovation the refreshed space’s first event was the reading of Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, directed by Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago Hudson and adapted by Arthur Yorinks. Subsequent artists at the theatre have included two time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, Tony Award winner Roger Robinson, the poet and global activist Sonia Sanchez, and career character actor Pauletta Washington.
“For 46 years, The Billie Holiday Theatre stood at the crossroads of art, social justice, and community development and will continue to be a space for world class artistic discovery and revolution,” said the theatre’s Executive Director, Dr. Indira Etwaroo.
Over the course of 2018, productions will include the New York premiere of A Small Oak Tree Runs Red, by Brooklyn’s own LeKethia Dalcoe, directed by Harry Lennix and which explores domestic terrorism against Blacks in the U.S., followed by Dael Orlandersmith’s Yellowman, an exploration of colorism (discrimination based on skin color) helmed by Brooklyn director Timothy Douglas. The theatre is also collaborating with the Stella Adler Studio to offer the first ever series of Black Arts Theater immersion courses taught by Broadway and film veterans like Stephen McKinley Henderson, Ruben Santiago Hudson, Phylicia Rashad, and Michele Shay. The new year will also see the organization teaming with Brooklyn playwright Lynn Nottage to curate a season of conversations to explore cultural, race, and justice issues, as well as the second season of a partnership with Restoration ART and the Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop, entitled 50in50: Writing Women Into Existence, a platform for Black women and girls from all walks of life across the globe to share their stories.
The Billie Holiday Theatre
1368 Fulton Street / Ticket sales: 929.432.3322 / thebillieholiday.org