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National Black Theatre Festival

The National Black Theatre Festival kicks off its opening day with high energy

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An evening of celebration, awards and remembrance, the 2022 National Black Theatre Festival Gala reminded attendees that the festival set for Aug. 1-6 is indeed back.

As in past years, Otésha Creative Arts Ensemble started the opening night gala with high energy and exhilarating drummers and dancers, followed by a procession of celebrities from stage, television and film.

After the procession, the 2022 NBTF co-chairmen Lisa Arrindell Petri and Hawkins Byrd welcomed attendees.

“And it’s all happening right here,” Byrd said. “Right here ladies and gentlemen in Winston-Salem. The Black Theatre of Holy Ground.”

NBTF The Eve of Jackie

Crystal (left) and Nicole Ramsey cheer during “The Eve of Jackie (The Last Time)” on Monday at the Stevens Center in Winston-Salem.

Throughout the evening the late Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin and Larry Leon Hamlin were honored for their vision and leadership of the N.C. Black Repertory Company, which hosts the festival.

NBTF Opening Night Gala 2022

National Black Theatre Festival co-chairs Petri Hawkins Byrd and Lisa Arrindell laugh together on stage as they close out the award ceremony during the NBTF’s opening night gala on Monday at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem.

Sprinkle-Hamlin, who died in January, led the N.C. Black Repertory Company as both its board chairwoman and executive producer of the NBTF. She took on producing the festival in 2007 after the death of Larry Leon Hamlin, her husband, who founded the company and produced its first festival in 1989.

NBTF Opening Night Gala 2022

Ben Vereen becomes emotional after being awarded the Sidney Poitier Lifetime Achievement Award during the National Black Theatre Festival’s opening night gala on Monday at the Benton Convention Center.

In addition, more than 20 honorees received awards at the gala.

Ben Vereen got emotional when he spoke after being honored with the Sidney Poitier Lifetime Achievement Award and receiving a standing ovation, saying he was at a loss for words for the first time.

“Thank you. This is truly an honor to be here,” Vereen said. “This is my first time at the festival.”

NBTF The Eve of Jackie

Chester Gregory as Jackie Wilson in “The Eve of Jackie (The Last Time)” on Monday at the Stevens Center.

He choked up as he thought of the people in an in memoriam video presented earlier in the gala.

“Those were my friends,” Vereen said. “You should be giving them the standing ovations.”

He also spoke on the topic of legacy.

“You can’t have a civilization without culture,” he said.

NBTF Opening Night Gala 2022

Alton Fitzgerald White and Brian Stokes Mitchell embrace after White presented Mitchell with a Special Recognition Award during the National Black Theatre Festival’s opening night gala.

He told the gala attendees that “you, we” tell stories.

“The stories must continue. We must keep the stories alive. We must keep the Black theater culture alive.”

He asked, “Isn’t that why we are here?”

And the audience shouted, “Yes.”

He said he is now part of the NBTF.

National Black Theatre Festival Gala

A group of NBTF celebrities cram into a selfie with Ben Vereen (center in hat) after the opening day media conference for the 2022 National Black Theatre Festival on Monday at the downtown Marriott.

“By supporting us, you’re keeping us and yourselves alive,” he said. “Thank you for this honor. You’ll be seeing me around because it ain’t over.”

Other award honorees were: Dr. Indira Etwaroo, Larry Leon Hamlin Producer Award; Laurence Holder, August Wilson Playwright Award; Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Lloyd Richards Director Award; Charles Dumas, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Vivian Reed and Dr. Lundeana M. Thomas, Living Legend Award; Sarita P. Fellows, Outstanding Achievement in Costume; Alan C. Edwards, Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design; Lawrence E. Moten III, Outstanding Achievement in Scenic Design; lark hackshaw, Outstanding Achievement in Stage Management;

NBTF Opening Night Gala 2022

Jada Johnson performs with Otésha Creative Arts Ensemble during the National Black Theatre Festival’s opening night gala.

Black Ensemble Theater, Chicago, Ill, and The Ensemble Theatre, Houston, Texas, Theatre Longevity Award; Woodie King Jr., Brian Stokes Mitchell and Lillias White, Special Recognition Award; Dr. Eric J. Sadler, Theatre Arts & Humanitarian Award; Truliant Federal Credit Union, Marvtastic Philanthropy Award; Jordan Hall (lighting designer), Daydra Smith, Nia McClinton and Marleena Garris (actors), and Peter Ong’olo and Gabrielle Solomon (directors), Mabel P. Robinson Emerging Artist Award; and Melda Beaty, Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin Rolling World Premier Award.

Earlier in the day, celebrities and festivalgoers showed up at the NBTF’s opening day press conference at the Marriott in downtown Winston-Salem, where a number of people plugged festival theatrical productions and special events.

NBTF Hamlin Portrait Unveiling

Lonnie Robinson unveils his oil painting of Larry Leon Hamlin and Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin as part of the ”Black Theatre Royalty: Portraits from the Hattiloo Theatre Collection” exhibition on Monday in the main gallery of the Rhodes Center in Winston-Salem. “Black Theatre Royalty” is on loan by the Hattiloo Theatre, which commissioned the portrait of Hamlin and Sprinkle-Hamlin. The exhibition will be open for viewing through Aug. 27.

There was also an unveiling of a portrait of Hamlin and Sprinkle-Hamlin Monday afternoon in the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts. Hattiloo Theatre in Memphis, Tenn., commissioned the portrait of the couple, which will be part of the “Black Theatre Royalty: Portraits from the Hattiloo Theatre Collection” exhibit from Aug. 1 to 27 in the Main Gallery at Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts. The exhibit, a collaboration with the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, is on loan from Hattiloo.

NBTF The Eve of Jackie

Crystal (left) and Nicole Ramsey cheer during “The Eve of Jackie (The Last Time)” on Monday at the Stevens Center in Winston-Salem.

NBTF Hamlin Portrait Unveiling

Lonnie Robinson unveils his oil painting of Larry Leon Hamlin and Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin as part of the ”Black Theatre Royalty: Portraits from the Hattiloo Theatre Collection” exhibition on Monday in the main gallery of the Rhodes Center in Winston-Salem “Black Theatre Royalty” is on loan by the Hattiloo Theatre, which commissioned the portrait of Hamlin and Sprinkle-Hamlin. The exhibition will be open for viewing through Aug. 27.

NBTF Opening Night Gala 2022

National Black Theatre Festival co-chairs Petri Hawkins Byrd and Lisa Arrindell laugh together on stage as they close out the award ceremony during the NBTF’s opening night gala on Monday at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem.

NBTF Opening Night Gala 2022

Jada Johnson performs with Otésha Creative Arts Ensemble during the National Black Theatre Festival’s opening night gala.

NBTF Opening Night Gala 2022

Ben Vereen becomes emotional after being awarded the Sidney Poitier Lifetime Achievement Award during the National Black Theatre Festival’s opening night gala on Monday at the Benton Convention Center.

NBTF The Eve of Jackie

Chester Gregory as Jackie Wilson in “The Eve of Jackie (The Last Time)” on Monday at the Stevens Center.

NBTF Opening Night Gala 2022

Alton Fitzgerald White and Brian Stokes Mitchell embrace after White presented Mitchell with a Special Recognition Award during the National Black Theatre Festival’s opening night gala.

National Black Theatre Festival Gala

A group of NBTF celebrities cram into a selfie with Ben Vereen (center in hat) after the opening day media conference for the 2022 National Black Theatre Festival on Monday at the downtown Marriott.

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@fdanielWSJ

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