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Black Theater History records project underway!

Updated: Jul 9, 2018

St. Louis, MO. Saturday, June 16, I had the pleasure of attending the Theatre Communications Group conference to give a presentation about saving black theatrical records. My talk, “Preserving Legacies, Preserving Culturally Specific Theaters,” focused on helping black theatre practitioners – theater owners, directors, actors,and playwrights – demystify the archival process, step-by-step. That is, we had a conversation about the kinds of materials libraries and archives collect, existing collections at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Yale and Emory universities, and the politics of saving black theatrical records. I also offered tips on how to overcome anxiety about the archival process. Too often the thought of going through boxes in storage can be daunting. Identifying what you have in storage is a very good way to begin the process. Speaking with an archivist is also recommended to better understand what archives do and the kinds of items archives typically collect. My intention was to help foster a burgeoning archival literacy among theater practitioners to lessen the stress usually associated with working to gather one’s history in records.

The talk was attended by many members of the Black Theater Commons (BTC), a national network of theatre practitioners who self-identify as members of the Black/African Diaspora. Among the attendees were David V. Mitchell, BTC Program Manager, Dr. Monica W. Ndounou, Associate Professor of Theatre at Dartmouth College, and Harold Steward, Managing Director, The Theatre Offensive in Boston. Established in 2014, BTC recently received a grant from The Andrew Mellon Foundation to launch a National Archival Initiative to help document and tell the vital story of black theaters and black theater practitioners. I have contracted with BTC to assist them in this tremendous effort by helping to identify and preserve historic artifacts and the respective histories of black theaters (both active and inactive).

To find out more about the Black Theater Commons, check out their website.

Steven G Fullwood


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