Some 19 years ago a dream was born. The dreamer was Nick Stewart. The dream was of a theatre which would give the community a reflection of itself and at the same time help fulfill the aspirations of the black community. And so, Mr. Stewart whose career has spanned more than 35 years in the entertainment field created the Ebony Showcase Theatre. "The Ebony" has earned a most coveted place and survived under the most extreme conditions and circumstances to become South West Los Angeles' first and most respected major theatre and cultural arts center. There are many who have not paid any dues that would like to deny us our existence, claim our crown and wear our medals. However the record is there.
We've presented plays and musicals too numerous to mention. From our stage were launched the careers of many actors and actresses now prominent in every area of entertainment, among them Academy Award nominee, Juanita Moore. We helped immensely to change the Negro image in motion pictures and television by giving black artists opportunities to play roles heretofore considered "white." One critic said of our production, "no Exit" ... "as staged here with impressive, incisive skill by an all Negro cast, this production offers proof, if needed, that intelligence, artistry, and integrity are emphatically not solely a matter of pigmentation,"
HOLLYWOOD CITIZEN NEWS
We developed the first Children's Theatre in South West Los Angeles. In the summer of 1965, when the Watts Riot shocked and awakened our city, the Ebony Showcase Theatre and Cultural Arts Center was selected by the L.A. Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers, Inc., to sponsor a Youth Performing Arts Training Program (an Anti-Poverty Project). We went full speed ahead for this new vital venture. Classes for teenagers were inaugurated in Drama, Speech, Dance, Creative Writing. Stagecraft, Cinematography, and all allied crafts.
The summer of 1965 was a tremendous success -- 450 youths who could have been roaming the streets were involved in a program of cultural awareness while learning technical skills. Many of them participated in our touring dramatic and musical production. Our shows played from Marymount School in Bel Air to Markham Junior High in Watts and Ralph Bunche Junior High in Compton; many churches, Teen Posts throughout the Negro and Mexican American communities and Probation Department Centers.
The Youth Program was such a huge success that in the summer of 1967 Ebony Showcase was selected as its own Delegate Agency to sponsor another program, the Ebony Showcase Performing Arts Youth Training and Community Service Project.
At present there are approximately 85 youths actively participating in this program. A question we're consstantly asked i "Are you promising all these youngsters careers in the industry?" To which we answer "definitely no." But we do emphasize the words of the immortal Shakespears "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players." This training does prepare them to play a better part in their everyday life. It teaches them how to read with meaning. It reaches them how to listen effectively, to comm unicate. In many it has broken down fears f speaking before an audience, to a potential employer, salesmanship, how to dress for job interviews, etc.
Our trainees are given a chance to participate in all phases of theatrical production. Ours is a learn by doing program. Our students are involved in theatre management, ticket selling, telephone answering, ushering, sound and lighting operation on actual shows, prop men and women, motion picture making with professional cameras and equipment.
In addition we also mount youth productions to take into the deprived areas giving many youngsters an opportunity to see stage plays for the first time, and see actors with whom they can identify. Our performing arts youth training program is made possible by a grant from the OEO in Washington through the EYOA of greater Los Angeles.
The Ebony Showcase Theatre, Inc., the oldest black professional theatre in America, operating continually since 1950 is a non-profit corporation and is a vital, living force serving the entire community. The inspiring work of our organization has won critical acclaim and awards from the press, covered on TV by major channels, commendation from responsible persons and civic groups as well as the salutation of the Los Angeles City Council. It has proven its place and its worth. We have created and perpetuated a new theatrical and cultural structure that is proving the following, in addition to a regular schedule of productions--
1. A Repertory Company.
2. A Youth Performing Arts Training Workshop (ages 14-20). We give free classes in drama, music, dance, stagecraft, and cinematography with professional cameras and closed circuit TV to youth from low income families. this training program is funded by the OEO through the EYOA of Greater Los Angeles.
3. A children's Theatre Workshop (ages 6-12).
4. A touring company of actors in repertory to reach outlying communities in and around Los Angeles.
5. A talent pool from which many of our students have secured jobs in the industry.
6. The Screen Writers Guild in association with Ebony Showcase is sponsoring a f ree writers workshop for ethnic minorities as a new addition to our workshops.