The DC Black Repertory Company Alumni Association and Multi-Media Training Institute continue with final preparations for programs designed to recognize the 49th anniversary of the DC Black Repertory Company and will include a tribute to one of the District’s most celebrated residents honored annually in October – Robert Hooks Day.
The signature event, “Black Theatre Matters: Honoring Our Past, Defining Our Future,” will include live musical and theatrical productions, saluting the achievements of the following D.C. legends: internationally-acclaimed Sweet Honey in the Rock; Charles Augins, director, teacher, dancer and choreographer; Dr. Calvin Rolark, publisher and philanthropist; and Mike Hodge, actor and former Screen Actors Guild Association president of New York City.
Rolark and Hodge will be honored posthumously.
In 2018, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser designated Oct. 18 as Robert Hooks Day, honoring both Hooks, a native son of the District, and the company he founded 49 years ago.
This year, Hooks, along with four luminary leaders touted as integral members of the Company, will be saluted in a virtual zoom celebration on Sunday, Oct. 18 from 6 to 8 p.m.
The Rev. Rhonda McLean-Nur, an acclaimed storyteller and president of the Alumni Association, said lifting the legacy of those who have come through the doors of the Company before making their mark in the world remains one of the goals this year.
“We want to showcase some of the talented people who have been among our members and let our supporters know what those who are still living are doing today,” she said. “In addition, we are committed to continuing our efforts which support Black theater in D.C. and around the country and further promote the training, mentoring and tutoring of our youth through local partnerships. It’s important that we keep the arts and live theatre alive in D.C.”
Toni Keene-Manago, Alumni board member and secretary to the Association, said she hopes that today’s youth will one day have memories which reflect her own unforgettable experiences as an actress and member of the Repertory.
“I realize coronavirus has radically changed the landscape for live theatre but with zooms and other forms of technology, we can still provide plays, readings and even screenings set up in our homes,” she said. “It’s different and difficult but not impossible.”
“Young people need to know that The DC Black Repertory Company has been the training ground and home for some of the nation’s best performers on Broadway, on the silver screen and on stage. Under Robert Hook’s tutelage, you didn’t just show up and try your hand at acting. You had to be prepared to follow a strict regimen. Only those able to remain committed for the long haul and infused with true desire completed the arduous training process,” she said.
During the evening celebration, there will also be a discussion, “Systemic Racism in American Theatre,” with Hooks, legendary producer Woodie King Jr. and others, moderated by Katea Stitt of WPFW FM 89.3 radio station and the Accomplice Leadership Institute, a program of the Arts Administrators of Color.
Lyn Dyson, a Howard University graduate and actor, instructor and former executive director for the Repertory, used his theatrical acumen in 1982 when he founded Multi-Media Training Institute. His business, while based on the format of the Repertory, promoted training in the media arts and digital production. He said he remains committed to empowering youth in the media arts to speak truth and justice for all people.
“The evening will illustrate the lives of people who came out of the D.C. area in the arts and have made major contributions in the world,” Dyson said. “Without the assistance some of our honorees provided, like Dr. Rolark, the Repertory may have never survived its early years.”
“As for the discussion on systemic racism, young folks need to know that it remains, unfortunately, a barrier and a challenge for all of us who are part of the long and historic tradition of Black theatre. With the pandemic, we’ve examined other ways to challenge injustice including a recently-produced show on Shirley Chisholm and a radio drama program that’s now in the works.”
To register for the celebration, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/celebrating-the-49th-anniversary-dc-black-rep-company-and-robert-hooks-day-tickets-121241060275 or www.mmtidc.org. For information by telephone, call (202)-656-7140.