Saturday, October 31, 2020

Atlanta Black Theatre Festival Celebrates Virtual Storytelling

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Nationwide  The Atlanta Black Theatre Festival (ABTF) presented a virtual theatre festival featuring “Four Days of Black Plays” on their newly launched YouTube Channel, Black Theatre TV. The planning of this marathon theatre event centered around the ability to deliver simulated live theatrical experiences into the homes of hundreds of viewers.

“First, we focused on the art. We thought this would be the biggest challenge.” exclaimed Toni Simmons Henson, Producing Director/Co-Founder. “Fortunately, we were so wrong. The submissions came pouring in and before we knew it, we had a world-class schedule that exceeded our expectations.”

After several failed tests with multiple platforms, the planning team decided on an integrated approach of live and taped real time streamed events. “The technology presented a challenge. As a live theatre producer, I’m obsessed with the audience experience and I couldn’t wrap my brain around how this could work digitally,” admitted Henson. “After weeks of research, we decided on a hybrid with entertaining hosts tapping into our instinctive ‘call and response’ methods of engagement online.”

Clarence C. Thomas, an enthusiastic patron responded, "Y'all kilt it. This virtual presentation is a case study in so many things: creativity, ingenuity, determination and the list goes on Bravo... just ...bravo!"

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The Atlanta Black Theatre Festival’s Black Theatre TV also opened its virtual doors to students nationwide. “My heart melted when I discovered that Dr. Shelton Land, ABTF Artistic Director, recruited close to 4,000 middle and high school students to watch two award-winning performances: The Spirit of Harriet Tubman by Canadian artist, Leslie McCurdy and Unsung Sheroes by Erica Cohen. The art was outstanding and taught the ‘sheroic’ stories that inspire and reveal the truth about our history!” Henson added.

The ABTF line-up included several award-winning plays. Who Will Sing for Lena? written by Atlanta based playwright, Janice Liddell is a critically acclaimed full-length play about the first and only woman executed in the State of Georgia. “Working with historical figures... I experience a presence outside of myself... nudging me to tell her story.” Liddell reveals.

The abridged one-act festival version, performed by Jessica Washington and produced and directed by Sylvester “Sal” Jones of the Connecticut based Lexington Players, walked away with the coveted Atlanta Black Theatre Festival Favorite Award for Best Play.

Best Short Play was awarded to The Gift Way Up in the Closet by S. Kristi Douglass and Dawn Anthony (Charlotte, NC), a family-friendly musical about a young girl’s journey to discover her special gift.

Another rousing favorite was from the National Theatre of Ghana in West Africa. Simply titled, Excerpts from the National Theatre featured a layered expression of dance, drama, and music depicting post-pandemic life and colonial influence on traditional healing methods. This provocative work tied for first place for the Best Short Performance along with Black MINDS Matter: The Jacob Lane’s Story by Canadian artist Dennis W. Langley.

The Atlanta Black Theatre Festival is an annual event. It is the largest collaboration in the nation of Black theatre companies to assemble and perform multiple genres of theatre under one roof. Visit for more information about upcoming events.

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Posted by community events coordinator, Nzinga Lonstein Austin, is a prolific blogger who writes on the entertainment industry and issues for people with developmental and physical challenges.

She is presently in high school looking to have a career in video, film, and media. You can see more of her entertainment writing on Lonstein Movies.

About the Black News Scoop - covers national and global news focused on reporting positive, insightful, and empowering news for the international Black Community.

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