New Guide: A Historical Dictionary of African American Theater Chronicles Our Art Starting From The 1800s — Historical Dictionary of African American Theater — AAPEX

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New Guide: A Historical Dictionary of African American Theater Chronicles Our Art Starting From The 1800s

Anthony D. Hill & Douglas Q. Barnett

Historical Dictionary of African American Theater is a 500-plus-page volume containing 600 entries devoted to performers, playwrights, directors, designers, composers, companies and others engaged in black theater in the U.S. from the early 1800s to the present day.

Published by Scarecrow Press, the reference book is the product of the intensive research of Seattle-bred Anthony D. Hill, associate professor of theater at Ohio State University, and Douglas Q. Barnett, who amid the fervent civil-rights activism of the late 1960s helped start the Seattle African-American troupe Black Arts/West.
A retired theater producer, director and administrator, Barnett, 78, chatted over coffee recently at a cafe near his Capitol Hill apartment about the project that has absorbed him for the past two years.

In some ways, the historical perspective came naturally to Barnett: He was raised with a keen awareness of the historical contributions of African Americans.

"The Barnetts are a pioneering family," he noted proudly, pointing out that his paternal grandfather came to Washington state in 1888, when it was still a territory.

And Barnett's father, the late Powell Barnett, was a respected Seattle civic leader and social activist. A recently renovated city park and playground on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, is named in his honor, in recognition of his service as the first president of the Leschi Improvement Council.

Barnett's own pioneering efforts included producing nearly 50 plays at Black Arts/West, the Central District company he co-founded in 1969.

"That was during the heyday of the African-American theater, which was from the 1960s to about 1975," said Barnett. "It was a great time, because we were finally producing plays from our own experience, our own history."

After moving on from Black Arts/West, Barnett had a variety of jobs. He worked for the Seattle Arts Commission, and at Rochester, N.Y.'s Geva Theatre. And he recalls the excitement of being company manager of a national tour by the most prominent black theater to emerge in the 1960s, the illustrious Negro Ensemble Theatre.

When Hill (an old Seattle friend and author of the previous work, Pages from the Harlem Renaissance) invited him to co-author the book, Barnett was eager to include in it an array of lesser-known figures, along with superstars like Poitier and Denzel Washington.

To purchase the book, please click the post's title.


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