Black Theater Festival Announces Celebrity Co-Chairs | Education

Organizers of the National Black Theater Festival are set to reclaim Winston-Salem as the Holy Ground after last year’s event was postponed due to COVID-19.

This year’s festival is scheduled for August 1-6. Usually held in odd-numbered years, the biennial festival was last held in Winston-Salem in 2019.

Jackie Alexander, Executive Producer of the National Black Theater Festival and Artistic Director of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company, speaks during a 2022 National Black Theater Festival press conference Monday at the Benton Convention Center. The festival, which was postponed last year due to the pandemic, is scheduled for August 1-6.

Walt Unks, Diary

At a spirited press conference on Monday, organizers and others associated with the festival announced Lisa Arrindell and Petri Hawkins-Byrd as celebrity co-chairs.

Arrindell has appeared in “Madea’s Family Reunion”, “Clockers”, “A Lesson Before Dying”, and “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”, as well as numerous television shows.

Byrd is best known as the bailiff on the long-running show “Judge Judy.”

This year’s festival will be the first without either Larry Leon Hamlin, the festival’s founder who died in 2007, or his wife, Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, who continued his vision as the festival’s executive producer. She died in January.

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Nigel Alston, the executive director of the NC Black Repertory Company, called them two angels whose spirits will be present at the festival.

“They tell us to persevere and keep running,” Alston said. “And that’s what it’s all about. Keep running, keep thriving, and keep representing the North Carolina Black Repertory Company and the North Carolina Black Theater Festival.”

Announcement of the National Festival of Black Theater

North Carolina Black Repertory Company Executive Director Nigel Alston (left) and Mayor Allen Joines, who serve as fundraising co-chairs, speak during a 2022 National Black Theater Festival press conference on Monday.

Walt Unks, Diary

The repertoire company, which Hamlin started in 1979, produces the festival.

Launched in 1989 by Hamlin, the festival draws 60,000 people from around the world to the city for six days of theater, parties, poetry slams and music, and has an economic impact of around $11 million, according to the Mayor Allen Joines. Theater lovers often call the festival Holy Ground.

“It’s been a huge catalyst for our city,” Joines said.

Past co-chairs have included Margaret Avery, Chester Gregory, Tonya Pinkins and Debbi Morgan.

“We’re not just coming back,” said Jackie Alexander, the repertoire company’s artistic director, “we’re coming back strong.”

Grant Minnix, the Benton Convention Center’s director of operations, said the festival will follow all local, state and federal COVID-19 guidelines in place for the duration of the festival.

He urged people to wear masks at large gatherings.



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