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Zaida Corniel

was born in Santo Domingo on 9 August 1947. His parents were Bartolina Almonte, a maid, and Enrique de León, a shoemaker’s assistant who was also a driver and sold bread and ice on the street, among other jobs. Though as of 2015, Almonte had never married, he fathered a daughter Lily Geraldine, who was born on 1 November 1980.

Almonte’s initial childhood education started in his neighborhood, where teachers from the community usually set up schools in their own homes. He continued his education in the public schools República de Haití (Haitian Republic) and El Palacio Escolar Angelita (The Palace School Angelita) in Santo Domingo.

Interested in art and acting even as a child, Almonte started making and selling portraits at the age of 8, and every Sunday he danced son with a girl who lived next door in an improvised stage in his backyard ...

Article

Roberto Ramos-Perea

was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico. Born with a handicap in his legs that made him resemble a dwarf, he was the first son of Nicolás Alonso Marini, a carpenter, and Matilde Pizarro, a woman of African, Amerindian, and European descent. Both were descendants of freed slaves.

Alongside his training in cobbling and carpentry, Manuel soon acquired a thorough literary education under the tutelage of his private teacher Fabriciano Cuevas Sotillo, also from Guayama. Even though he distinguished himself as an excellent student, the circumstances of poverty in which his family lived required Alonso Pizarro to focus his efforts on the family’s cobbling business.

In 1884 he moved to Mayagüez, where he joined the Sociedad de Artesanos Unión Borinqueña, which commissioned Alonso Pizarro’s first play Me saqué la lotería (I Won the Lottery) in 1886. A playful one-act comedy, Me saqué la lotería was set among the jíbaro ...

Article

Suzi Takahashi

actor, director, educator, and artist advocate, was born Osceola Marie Macarthy in Albany, Georgia, of black, white, and Native American racial heritage. The daughter of a life insurance executive, Archer attended Fisk University Preparatory School in Nashville, Tennessee. She then enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1909, where she was a pupil of Alain Locke and the sociologist Kelly Miller. Self‐defined as a suffragette, in 1913, her senior year at Howard, Archer and twenty‐one fellow female students cofounded one of the largest black fraternal organizations in the United States, Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority dedicated to community service and the mutual support of African American women. That same year Archer began to pursue her interest in drama by performing the title role in the Howard University Dramatics Club production of The Lady of Lyon a Victorian romantic comedy known as a showcase for actors ...

Article

Sharina Maillo-Pozo

Báez was born in 1960 in La Romana, Dominican Republic, the youngest of ten children of working-class parents Luis Báez and Luz Maria Pérez. She arrived in the United States in 1972 at the age of 12. After attending elementary school in La Romana and high school in New York City, she pursued an independent path to learning her crafts, beginning with theater and dance. Since 1980, she has traveled to Russia and India to research theater biomechanics, a method of actor training developed by director and producer Vsevolod Meyerhold in the first half of the twentieth century, and classical Kathak and Kuchipudi dances, respectively.

Báez s career as both writer and actor is deeply influenced by her native Dominican culture and its expressions in the diaspora The elaborate Catholic Holy Week rituals and processions in the streets of La Romana were the first sources of inspiration for her ...

Article

Wendi Berman

playwright, actor, director, singer, and dancer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the third child of Gloria Diaz Bagneris and Lawrence Bagneris Sr. Bagneris's mother was a housewife and deeply religious woman who “quietly outclassed most people,” and his father was a playful, creative man, a World War II veteran, and lifelong postal clerk. Bagneris grew up in the tightly knit, predominantly Creole Seventh Ward to a family of free people of color that had been in New Orleans since 1750 From the age of six he had a knack for winning popular dance contests and during christenings and jazz funerals he learned more traditional music and dance By the mid 1960s the once beautiful tree lined neighborhood in which he was raised fell victim to the U S government s program of urban renewal known colloquially as Negro removal A freeway overpass was ...

Article

Nancy Kang

playwright, academic, director, and producer, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, near Nashville. One of nine children Bass grew up in a segregated area of the capital, the son of Clarence Bass, a Baptist minister, and Mabel Dixon Bass, a retired schoolteacher and health-care worker. The atmosphere of his childhood home was closely knit and disciplined; life revolved around education and religion. Bass earned his bachelor's degree in Mathematics with honors from Fisk University in 1959. While a senior, he met the Harlem Renaissance writer Arna Bontemps, then a Fisk librarian, who brokered the student's formative literary partnership with Langston Hughes. Bass then attended Columbia University's Graduate School of Business (1959–1960 to study finance but quit because of what he felt was endemic racism in the academic and social milieu He received an MA from New York University s Film ...

Article

Casey Kayser

teacher, poet, playwright, and artistic director of a theater company, was born Nora Brooks Blakely in Chicago, one of two children of poet Gwendolyn Brooks and Henry Blakely, a poet, auto mechanic, and insurance adjuster. Blakely's mother was a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement, the poet laureate of Illinois, and the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize, which she did in 1950, just a year before Nora's birth. Nora's father was the author of A Windy Place, a 1974 collection of poetry, and he later founded the Perspectivists, a group of black Chicago writers. As a child, Nora displayed a natural ability and love for reading and writing, no doubt cultivated by her parents' passion for the same.

A propensity for teaching emerged early as well at the age of three Blakely rounded up the children of her South Side Chicago neighborhood and ...

Article

Desha Osborne

was born in St. Vincent, sometime in the late eighteenth century. Brown’s main renown is as the founder of the African Grove Theatre, the first black theater troupe in the United States. Little documented information is available about his early life before he settled in New York, but scholars agree that Brown worked overseas—possibly in Liverpool—as a steamship steward.

Lower Manhattan became an area where many free blacks migrated to live and work, as slavery in New York State had been abolished in 1799. Census records and directories from the period indicate that both Brown and James Hewlett (fl. 1821–1839 another West Indian immigrant to New York who later became the first black professional and Shakespearean actor in America worked as tailors beginning in the 1810s The formation of the African Grove Theatre originally called the African Company began with the establishment of a pleasure garden situated behind ...

Article

Heather Martin

theatrical producer, director, actress, playwright, and singer, was born in Zanesville, Ohio, one of five children (three girls and two boys) of Harrison James Bryant, a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and Edith Holland Bryant, a social worker. The family lived in Ohio, Kentucky, and Baltimore, Maryland. Bryant acknowledged her parents, sisters, and religion as the main influences in her life. Her talent as a singer was evident when she performed in church choirs. After graduating from Peabody Preparatory School of Music in Baltimore in 1958, Bryant attended Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio. She continued her music training at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and studied opera in Vienna and Venice. She toured Eastern Europe with the Robert Shaw Chorale.

With her European training and singing experience Bryant returned to the United States in the early 1960s to pursue a career as an opera singer ...

Article

Sharon D. Johnson

director, playwright, and actress, was born in New York City, the elder of two daughters of upper-middle-class parents, Edgar E. Carroll, a dentist, and Florence Morris, a teacher, both from Jamaica, West Indies. When Carroll was three, her parents sent her and her sister Dorothy to live with their grandparents in Falmouth, Jamaica, while Carroll's father completed his dental training at Howard University. Seven years later Carroll and her sister returned to New York, where their father's dental practice was thriving. The family's town house in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem eventually became a hub of activity that included frequent gatherings of neighborhood children and black community leaders.

Raised to be an achiever Carroll absorbed this intellectually and culturally charged atmosphere Her mother made sure that Carroll took music lessons and attended diverse cultural events particularly those featuring black artists Although Carroll wanted to become an actress ...

Article

David Krasner

Bob Cole was born Robert Allen Cole, Jr., in Athens, Georgia, the son of Robert Allen Cole, Sr., a successful carpenter and political activist in the black community. Cole received musical training in Athens and finished elementary school after his family moved to Atlanta. He made his first stage appearance in Chicago, performing in Sam T. Jack's The Creole Show in 1891; later he became the show's stage manager. He and his partner, Stella Wiley, moved around 1893 to New York, where they performed in vaudeville. Cole and Wiley may have married, but there is no evidence; by the end of the 1890s they had parted company. Returning to Jack's Creole Show Cole soon emerged as the headliner developing his popular stage character the tramp Willy Wayside During the mid 1890s he formed the first school for black performers in ...

Article

David Krasner

actor, director, and composer, was born Robert Allen Cole Jr. in Athens, Georgia, the son of Robert Allen Cole Sr., a successful carpenter and political activist. Nothing is known about Cole's mother. Cole received musical training in Athens and finished elementary school after his family moved to Atlanta. He made his first stage appearance in Chicago, performing in Sam T. Jack's The Creole Show in 1891; later he became the show's stage manager. Around 1893 Cole and his stage partner, Stella Wiley, moved to New York, where they performed in vaudeville. Cole and Wiley may have married, but there is no evidence, and in any event by the end of the 1890s they had parted company. Returning to Jack's Creole Show Cole soon emerged as the headliner developing his popular stage character the tramp Willy Wayside During the mid 1890s he formed the first school ...

Article

Gene Jones

actor, director, producer, lyricist, librettist, composer. Bob Cole was, arguably, the most versatile theater talent of his day, black or white. His array of skills, his ambition and energy, and his showbiz pragmatism permeated the first era of black musical theater. Indeed, the era began when, in 1897, he wrote, directed, and starred in the first full-length black musical comedy. He had hit songs, hit shows, vaudeville and stage stardom, and international triumphs as songwriter and entertainer. If Bert Williams was the face of black Broadway, Cole was its muscle, a multitasking dynamo who could do everything that needed doing to make shows.

Robert Allen Cole Jr. was born in Athens, Georgia, to parents who had been slaves. His father, Robert Cole, was a carpenter who was occasionally active in local politics, and his mother, Isabella Thomas Cole was a housewife ...

Article

Felicia A. Chenier

black theater organizer, writer, director, folklorist, chorographer, and educator, was born in Houston, Texas, the only daughter of Gerthyl Rae and Harvey G. Dickerson, an army officer. As a military child Dickerson traveled extensively with her parents and brother, Harvey. After graduating high school in Syracuse, New York, Dickerson studied at Howard University in Washington, D.C. While there she studied theater and was mentored by noted educator and writer Owen Dodson, who was then the Drama Department chair. Noteworthy of her experiences at Howard is her discovery of writings by Zora Neale Hurston. After receiving a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) from Howard in 1966, Dickerson received a master of fine arts (MFA) from Adelphi University in Long Island, New York, in 1968 During the same year she returned to Howard as an assistant professor of drama and staged her directorial ...

Article

Elton C. Fax

Born in Texas, Sherman H. Dudley, like many Southern blacks who resented being addressed by their first names by whites, used only his initials in an effort to ward off the insult. In the tradition of most black performers of his day he worked the medicine-show circuit. Talented singers and dancers often began their professional careers as performers hired by itinerant street salesmen of patent medicines. The performances were designed to attract prospective buyers to the hucksters' medicinal wares. Most such entertainers of the South were blacks, many of them mere boys.

While still in his twenties, Dudley joined the McCabe and Young Minstrels, working as a comic end man who called himself Hapsy. He followed that stint by teaming with singer and dancer Dude Kelly and performing as a substitute for Sam Lucas at Broadway s Star Theater So successful was the pair of substitutes that they ...

Article

Kevin Byrne

vaudeville entertainer and theatrical entrepreneur, was born in Dallas, Texas. The names of his parents are unknown. Though in later interviews Dudley frequently changed the story of how he broke into show business, his earliest stage work was most likely in Texas and Louisiana as part of a medicine show. This job, in which he played music and told jokes to draw a crowd to the pitchman and his wares, was an appropriate beginning for a man who always sought to be the center of attention. Dudley eventually became an artist and businessman who, as demonstrated by both his actions and writings, was passionately concerned with cultivating the rights and strengthening the dignity of African American performers during an era when what it meant to be a black entertainer was greatly in flux.

Dudley s apprenticeship in the professional theatrical world took place during the last decade of the ...

Article

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, director, educator, and screenwriter, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of the three children of Lillian (Anderson) and Charles H. Fuller Sr., a printer who instilled in his son the love for words. Fuller was raised in northern Philadelphia in an integrated neighborhood. When he was thirteen he saw his first theatre performance at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. The experienced made a lasting impression on him. Later, he became a voracious reader. His readings made him aware of the cultural and racial biases he made his life's mission to correct.

Success did not come easy to him, though. After graduating high school in 1956 Fuller attended Villanova University in hopes of becoming a writer There he was confronted with racism for the first time as a student being told by his professors that writing was not a good profession ...

Article

Pamala S. Deane

actor, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the youngest of fourteen children of Peter Gilpin, a steel mill laborer, and Caroline (White) Gilpin, a trained nurse who worked at Richmond City Hospital. Gilpin attended St. Francis Catholic School for Colored Children, where, through the encouragement of his teachers, he performed in school theatricals. He left school at age twelve to apprentice himself in the print shop of the Richmond Planet newspaper, but left Richmond in 1896 to pursue a career on stage. While earning a living in a series of odd jobs, Gilpin appeared in minstrel shows, reviews, and vaudeville. He joined the Big Spectacular Log Cabin Company and, after this troupe went bust, he was picked up by the Perkus & Davis Great Southern Minstrel Barnstorming Aggregation. This company, too, went bankrupt and so Gilpin supported himself with jobs as a barber and trainer of prizefighters.

In 1903 ...

Article

Charles Sidney Gilpin, the youngest of fourteen children, was born in Richmond, Virginia, to Caroline Gilpin, a nurse, and Peter Gilpin, a laborer in a steel-rolling mill. Gilpin's first job, as a printer's assistant at the Richmond Planet, taught him skills that would later be useful between theatrical engagements, but by the age of eighteen he had begun touring nationally with minstrel groups such as the Perkus and Davis Great Southern Minstrel Barn Storming Aggregation (1896) and The Smart Set (1905).

Gilpin's first dramatic appearances were at the Pekin Theater in Chicago (1907–1911)—the first legitimate Negro theater—and with various touring companies. In 1915 he joined the Anita Bush Players at the Lincoln Theater in New York; the group soon combined with the Lafayette Theatre Company, also in Harlem. There, Gilpin was both star performer and director.

Charles Gilpin made ...

Article

Joy Elizondo

Chiquinha Gonzaga was born in Rio de Janeiro to an unwed mother of mixed race. After being officially recognized by her father, she received all the trappings of an education befitting the daughter of a military man so that she might serve in the court of Pedro II. After a strict upbringing she married a wealthy commander in Brazil's merchant marines when she was still a teenager; yet, much to her family's chagrin, she swapped an oppressive home life for the bohemian music halls of Rio at the age of eighteen.

Though Gonzaga had performed her first song, “Canção de Pastores,” at a family gathering on Christmas Eve in 1858, her first successful composition, a polka titled “Atraente,” was not published until 1877 In the meantime cut off by her family she managed to build a reputation as a piano teacher and made a living playing in ...