URGENT: Please help spread the word about the 501(c)(3) non profit organization founded in 1950 by Nick Stewart and his wife, Edna. Nick was the voice of Brer Bear in Walt Disney's SONG OF THE SOUTH in the SPLASH MOUNTAIN RIDE at DISNEYLAND. He also played Lightnin', the janitor, in THE AMOS 'n' ANDY TV SHOW.
Disney's Brer Bear - The actor behind the voice / Amos 'n Andy's Lightnin' - The performer/philanthhropist behind the facade:
My parents, Nick and Edna Stewart always helped others. In the 1930s, he was a vaudevillian comedian, actor, tap dancer, who performed on stage, radio, movies and later television. His friend, Mae West cast him in his first movie role, Go West Young Man," a 1936 American comedy film released by Paramount Pictures, directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Mae West, Warren William, and Randolph Scott. During World War II he was a featured Armed Forces Radio Network comedian. He also led a USO troupe that travelled to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to entertain the troops. They used the money that they earned through his acting jobs and through ticket sales to create the historic Ebony Showcase Theatre, a legitimate theatre, founded in 1950, where they produced plays, concerts, fashion shows, recitals, and more; as well as a community center, for all phases of the arts, where classes, meetings, and community events were held. He always helped kids in the community. He was affectionately called "PaPa."
Attention Friends and Fans: Our theater buildings were demolished by the redevelopment agency in 1998. We are now in possession of a boarded-up former hospital (the white building with the arches on top in the pictures above) that we want to convert to a community center where we will continue my parent's work and legacy.
We urgently need your help. Please click links on our webpages to:
Purchase items from our online store
Support our sponsors
Make a tax-deductible donation of items or money (no amount is too small -- every dollar will help)
Tell others about our website.
Please sign up for our mailing list so we can keep you informed.
Email, write, or call me on the telephone, if you have comments, ideas.
Volunteer from anywhere in the world.
The Ebony Showcase Theatre and Cutural Arts workshop was established over 60 years ago. After the eminent domain and subsequent demolition of the buildings, we moved to the internet where we continued to provide quality entertainment from this website through the sales of vintage movies and TV shows through our Mailorder Moviehouse project.
Note: After the Los Angeles City Council promised to help businesses strengthen their buildings to comply with new earthquake codes, City Councilman Nate Holden was quoted in 2 newspapers as saying he could not help the Stewart's Ebony Showcase because "it would be a gift of publicfunds." He convinced his friends to clone a new non profit called Ebony Showcase Cultural Center (a name similar to ours) to apply for millions of dollars of disaster recovery money, that had been earmarked for small businesses. The money was subsequently diverted to the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) who filed an eminent domain lawsuit against my parents and the mortgage company. My parents, who had earned everything through working, "the hard way," received no compensation of any kind. The CRA demolished the theater building without a demolition permit in 1998 on my birthday. They subsequently demolished the other buildings in the complex. The Councilman's "Ebony Showcase" non profit was suspended and the city built a new theater, owned by the city, and named after Councilman Nate Holden. Here is a quote from the 1993-1994 Los Angeles Grand Jury's Report on Redevelopment: Redevelopment may be the single most powerful planning tool available to local governments in California. It is also perhaps the most widely abused and twisted tool available to local governments in California.-Professor William Fulton. In December 2011, the California Supreme Court ultimately upheld a law that abolished redevelopment agencies.
The picture below shows Nick Stewart, the voice actor who created the voice of Brer Bear in Disney's SONG OF THE SOUTH, at the opening of the SPLASH MOUNTAIN RIDE at DISNEYLAND where he performed the voice-over again.
Our theatre's founders, Nick Stewart and Edna Stewart, used money that he earned
in his acting career to give opportunities to others.
Song of the South 1986 press book quote:
Nick "Nicodemus" Stewart, another veteran vaudevillian, provided the ... speech for the bulky ...Brer Bear.
Stewart grew up in Harlem and, for a time, the British West Indies. By
the age of 14 he was dancing and performing standup comedy at "The Hoofers
Club," a legendary gathering spot for such dancing greats as Bill
"Bojnagles" Robinson, the Step Brothers and Honi Coles. He went on to appear
at the "Cotton Club," with many of the popular acts of the day.
In 1936 while appearing at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles with Cab
Calloway and his band, Stewart was spotted by Mae West and signed for a role
in her film "Go West Young Man." He went on to appear in numerous films
starring opposite such stars as John Barrymore and Bing Crosby. His credits
include "Stormy Weather," "Cabin in the Sky," and "Carmen Jones."
Carmen Jones Whizzin Away Along De Trackby NilbogLAND
In the 60's, Stewart appeared in the opening scene of "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad,
and more recently had a featured role in "Silver Streak".
Stewart was a popular radio guest performer throughout the 40s and when
television bowed in the 50s, he appeared often. On the popular "Amos 'N'
Andy" TV series, he had the recurring role of Lightnin'. On Broadway,
Stewart appeared in Irving Berlin's smash musical "Louisiana Purchase."
In 1950, Stewart built the Ebony Showcase Theatre in Los Angeles in
order to give black performers an opportunity to play the types of roles
they were denied elsewhere. Today, this theatre is one of the oldest and
finest ... theatres in the country and its alumni supporters include John
Amos, Isobel Sanford and Margaret Avery. His theatre's long-running
production of "Norman Is That You?" was adapted for the screen by MGM.
After 57 years in show business, Stewart today focuses on working with
young people in the ... community. Stressing "education through
entertainment," he encourages youths from the inner city not to join a gang
but to join a theatre group.
For stressing positive humanitarian themes in his theatre productions
and for culturally enriching his community, Stewart has been praised by the
Mayor, the police commission, and written up in all the local newspapers.
Earlier this year, he was named "Hometown Hero of the Month" by the CBS-TV
affiliate in Los Angeles, which honored him with a month-long series of
Stewart, his wife Edna and his daughter Valarie continue to operate the
Ebony Showcase Theatre (a non-profit organization). The theatre offers
acting lessons as well as classes on writing, directing and filmmaking.
Actor Bill Cosby wrote a letter to the Stewarts that said ..."Heaven knows how many potentially anti-social young people your showcase turned around ..."
The Ebony Showcase Theatre developed the first children's theater in south west Los Angeles and has a history of enhancing the talents of young people through training in drama, speech, dance, creative writing, stagecraft, cinematography, and all allied crafts.
Among the countless awards that Nick and Edna Stewart received were awards from the Museum of Science and Industry, the City of Los Angeles, and other organizations. They also received Living Legend awards from the National Black Theater Festival. In 1992 Nick received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Beverly Hills-Hollywood NAACP "For Positive Portrayals of African Americans And Longevity in Black Theatre.". Nick was selected by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to be one of the first 20 celebrities in their Archive of American Television.
The images below are from an unknown magazine article written in the early 1950s. The article is about performers and performances in the first theater building that housed the Ebony Showcase Theatre.
CNN 1992 newscast contains interviews with Nick Stewart, Valarie Stewart, and others.
Ashford and Simpson's "High Rise" video was filmed at the Ebony. Nick made a cameo appearance in the video.
B.B. King and Friends , A Night of Blistering Blues, filmed at the Ebony
Eddie Murphy's Uptown Comedy Express, filmed at the Ebony
The following video clip of Nick Stewart dancng is from Comedy Central, who described Nick Stewart as Legendary. It was filmed on stage at the Ebony Showcase Theatre.
Patrick Culliton is one of the actors who worked at the Ebony Showcase Theatre. He recently wrote the following tribute in his blog:
"I must mention Nick Stewart who played Lightnin'. The Amos 'an' Andy series took a lot of heat over the years and much of it was directed at this fine actor. Nick Stewart did more to give actors a stage on which to work in Los Angeles than anyone else I can think of. His Ebony Showcase Theater gave many black actors and white ones too -- I know, I was one of them -- a place to work and learn and be seen. His characterization of Lightnin' was a thoughtful study of a sweet, hard-working, but slower than most, man.
I worked for Nick Stewart, and I saw him act onstage in "the Odd Couple," "the Sunshine Boys," and "Norman Is That You?".
Nick's stage name was Nicodemus, he is the featured dancer in the 2 Louis Armstrong videos below. I also saw him act in countless television shows, movies, a soundie with Louis Armstrong you wouldn't believe, lot of things. Wonderful actor, an old-fashioned funnyman, and a man who was absolutely dedicated to the furthering of talent."
Patrick is the author of
"Houdini--The Key", a limited edition book that reveals Houdini's Best Kept
Secrets (publication date October 31, 2010. You can write to Patrick to find out about his book at the following email address, email email@example.com.
Click the banner below to see excerpts from some of Nick Stewart's movies and to donate to the Ebony Showcase theatre. No donation is too small. The Ebony Showcase Theatre is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible by the IRS.