Two major founders of Black Theatre companies from the late 1960s and early 1970s will receive some well-deserved recognition on Wednesday, November 16 at 4:30 PM. Theater 80 will hold their Sidewalk Signing and Honors Ceremony recognizing Douglas Turner Ward, co-founder of The Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) and Woodie King, Jr. founder of the New Federal Theatre (NFT) onstage at The St. Marks Place, 80 St. Marks Place. Both men will add their signatures and hand prints to Theatre 80’s Sidewalk of Stars, which includes many other luminaries of the American Theater.
The ceremony will include a celebration of the St. Mark’s Place community as a significant home for Black Theatre in America. In November of 1965, Ward’s one-act plays DAY OF ABSENCE and HAPPY ENDING performed as a double-bill evening at the historic St. Mark Playhouse. Prior to that, it housed the world premiere of playwright Amiri Baraka’s groundbreaking work DUTCHMAN. The venue eventually became the original home of The NEC a year later.
Both Ward and King were instrumental in providing an entire generation of African-American playwrights, actors, directors and designers with an artistic home where they could hone and showcase their talents. Each man has had a significant influence on some of the brightest artists on today’s stage, TV and in film.