In memoriam: Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin (1945-2022)

Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, executive producer of the National Black Theatre Festival. Photo by Lia Chang
Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin. Photo courtesy of Walt Unks/Journal

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe mourns the loss and celebrates the life of Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin. Mrs. Hamlin, who passed away January 3, was the Chairwoman of the Board of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company and the Executive Producer of the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, executive producer of National Black Theatre Festival and president of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company board. Photo by Lia Chang

Mrs. Hamlin’s late husband, Larry Leon Hamlin (1948-2007), founded the National Black Theatre Festival. After his death, Mrs. Hamlin took over the leadership of the event.

A tribute to the late Larry Leon Hamlin. Photo by Lia Chang

The history of Nate Jacobs and Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is indelibly linked with the Festival. After appearing there as his comedic alter ego, Aunt Rudele, and developing the character with Mr. Hamlin’s help, Nate has staged WBTT productions every year of the biennial Festival since 2013. The 2021 Festival was postponed due to COVID-19; it has been rescheduled for August 2022.

Chester Gregory, celebrity co-chair of the 2019 National Black Theatre Festival, gives André De Shields a shout out. Photo by Lia Chang

The six-day celebration of African American theatre draws some 65,000 people to Winston-Salem. The 2019 Festival, the largest one to date, brought an estimated $10 million to the local economy and featured WBTT’s production of Soul Man.

The 2019 National Black Theatre Festival Official Portrait. Photo by Lia Chang

In addition to her contributions to the Festival and the North Carolina Black Repertory Company, Mrs. Hamlin was also the first African American and the first woman to serve as Director of the Forsyth County Public Library System. She worked for the libraries for four decades.

Larente Hamlin and Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin at the National Black Theatre Festival Gala in Winston-Salem, NC on July 29, 2019. Photo by Lia Chang
Larente Hamlin and Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin at the National Black Theatre Festival Gala in Winston-Salem, NC on July 29, 2019. Photo by Lia Chang
Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, executive producer of the National Black Theatre Festival and Chester Gregory, celebrity co-chair of the Festival. Photo by Lia Chang
Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin and Chester Gregory at the National Black Theatre Festival Gala in Winston-Salem, NC on July 29, 2019. Photo by Lia Chang

On February 3, 2020, Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for theatre, celebrated the NC Black Rep’s National Black Theatre Festival® (NBTF), Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang and TCG’s arts advocacy at the federal level during a festive evening at the Edison Ballroom in New York.

On February 3, 2020, Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for theatre, celebrated the NC Black Rep’s National Black Theatre Festival® (NBTF) at the Edison Ballroom in New York. Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin and Jackie Alexander accepted the award. Photo by Lia Chang
On February 3, 2020, Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for theatre, celebrated the NC Black Rep’s National Black Theatre Festival® (NBTF) at the Edison Ballroom in New York. André De Shields and Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin attended the gala. Photo by Lia Chang
Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin and Nate Jacobs at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C. Photo courtesy of Nate Jacobs

Nate Jacobs, Founder & Artistic Director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, had this to say about the loss of his friend: “Another one of God’s beautiful angels has flown back to heaven. Mrs. Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin was one of the most remarkable women I have been blessed to know. She and her husband, Larry Leon Hamlin, have indelibly empowered my life with their mentorship and support over my journey! They have also help to bring hundreds of black professional theater organizations to national prominence. We love you, Mrs. Hamlin, and will cherish the legacy you and your amazing husband have left with us!”

Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin leaves a lasting imprint on the arts and culture of her community and the national Black theatre.

Inside the 2020 TCG Gala: Our Stories Honoring David Henry Hwang and NC Black Rep’s National Black Theatre Festival with André De Shields

Inside the 2019 National Black Theatre Festival Gala with André De Shields 

Multimedia: 2019 Tony Award Winner André De Shields ‘Lifts Every Voice’ at The National Black Theatre Festival Kick Off 

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