2019 Tony Award winner André De Shields spent his day off from HADESTOWN at The National Black Theatre Festival® (NBTF) in Winston-Salem, NC. During his remarks at the kickoff press conference at the Winston-Salem Marriott on July 29, De Shields shared his Tony Awards acceptance speech which included 3 cardinal rules for sustainability and longevity in the arts and added a fourth:
1. Surround yourself with people whose eyes light up when they see you coming.
2. Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be.
3. The top of one mountain is the bottom of the next, so keep climbing.
4. God created Black people, and Black people created everything else.
De Shields then broke into an uplifting rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and the entire star-studded dais and audience members joined in.
The NBTF is one of the most historic and culturally significant events in the history of black theatre and is produced by The North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NCBRC) in Winston-Salem, known as Black Theatre Holy Ground. NBTF is the only theatre festival in the country offering six consecutive days of professional theatre. The NCBRC is celebrating its 40th anniversary, while the NBTF celebrates its 30th.
Acclaimed actors Margaret Avery and Chester Gregory served as celebrity co-chairs of the week-long event. Avery has starred in many productions on stage and screen. She subsequently received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Shug Avery in the classic film, The Color Purple. Gregory is the only artist in the National Black Theatre Festival’s history to headline three times. After starring in the iconic role as Jackie Wilson at the Festival’s star-studded Opening Night Gala. he starred in Broadway productions with leading roles in Disney’s Tarzan, Cry-Baby, Shrek The Musical, Dreamgirls, Sister Act and Motown The Musical as Berry Gordy.
Some of the other celebrity guests in attendance at the press conference included: 2019 Tony Winner Harold Wheeler, 2000 Tony Winner Brian Stokes Mitchell, 1992 Tony Winner Tonya Pinkins, Greenleaf’s Keith David and Lamman Rucker, Geoffrey Owens, Hal Williams, Idris Ackamoor, Petri Hawkins Byrd, Colby Christina, Bill Cobbs, Fay Hauser, Ebony Jo-Ann, Rhodessa Jones, Woodie King, Jr., Ted Lange, Khalil Middleton, Qaasim Middleton, Barbara Montgomery, Herman LeVern Thompson-Jones, Darnell Williams, Hattie Winston Wheeler and many more.
NBTF is the international outreach program of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company, founded by the late Larry Leon Hamlin in 1979. The Festival, also founded by Hamlin, has been held biennially since 1989. The event attracts thousands of national and international patrons, theatre professionals and scholars to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It was named one of the Top 100 events in North America by the American Business Association. For more information, visit www.nbtf.org.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.
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