My Experience with an Off-Broadway Show with the Negro Ensemble Company
Cleveland, Jerry B.
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The Negro Ensemble Company Inc. in its eight years of existence, remains a leading center for old and new black talent. Its structure or activities is unique from most black professional theatre companies in New York City. Its very conceptual being was started over twenty-four years ago by a young talented black writer by the name of Douglas Turner Ward. This idea for a black theatre was far from a hit-and-miss extravaganza. The concept made sense for the existence of a permanent theatre and training academy 1n New York City. There have been many theatre ventures that have tried a permanent existence, but have failed miserably. They failed from the lack of insight into the competitive business world. Dependency on box office returns certainly would not be enough to run and support all functions of a professional and permanent company. Then, financial support must be gained from other sources: donations and grants from private, public and government sources. How to gain these endowments becomes of primary importance. Personnel, who are qualified and talented must be sought or trained to solicit and accomplish these tasks. Where then do you start to gather such personnel? This is accomplished by interested parties and black artists who:have already made a name for themselves, thereby having contacts with influential people •• people either with funds to contribute personally or know how to go about securing such funds. In the case of the Negro Ensemble Company Inc., Douglas Turner Ward, Robert Hooks, and Gerald s. Krone, in cooperation with the Ford Foundation, were the initial founders. The Company, now in its eighth year of existence, is among the most well-respected and renowned black theatre companies in the United States. This will prove to be more evident since their recent winning of the Tony Award for the 1973-74 Broadway smash, "The River Niger". The Negro Ensemble Company is an example for many black artists of what a black company can successfully produce.