In 1967, actor and director Robert Macbeth opened the New Lafayette Theatre as one of the new revolutionary homes for Black Theatre that cropped up in Harlem. The theater had a vibrant acting studio, incorporated a Black revolutionary philosophy and became the artistic home of playwright Ed Bullins until its closure in 1972.
Today, Robert Macbeth lives in Miami in a single room. The owner of the house has asked him to leave within the next month (July). Presently, Macbeth is attempting to find alternative accommodations, but he has very little money for a deposit. A GoFundMe page has been created to receive donations https://www.gofundme.com/help-save-bob-macbeth.
Rochelle Sara Miller, a PhD student and teaching fellow in the Cinema Studies Department at New York University, has been championing his cause via social media.
Recently, she made contact with the Actors Fund in an attempt to seek support for him.
Miller first came to know Macbeth when she was attempting to track down a very rare print of HARLEM THEATRE, an independent documentary by German filmmaker Klaus Wildenhahn made in 1968. The film follows the theatre players over the summer of 1968 as they conducted a workshop and rehearsed. She said:
“I wanted to find out more about the theatre company and the film so I tracked down Bob and some of the other former players. At that time as I recall, Bob was having housing issues, but didn’t go into the specifics. Unfortunately, I could never persuade MoMA to restore or screen its print of the movie. I had hoped MoMA would screen it and the members could have a reunion. I stayed in contact with the players and we emailed/met from time to time. Very recently I managed to persuade a collector to share his print of the movie – as far as my research shows it is the only other full 97-minute ENGLISH language version of the film. I’m currently trying to arrange some screenings of the movie in Harlem and Brooklyn. I think the theatre’s work speaks to many of today’s issues concerning social justice and the political power of the artist. Anyway, I tried to arrange for Bob to visit NYC for a screening and so that I could interview him on camera – and that is when he told me about the severity of his housing issue. I’ve never set up a GoFundMe before – but a friend suggested we try it and I contacted the Actors Fund. I don’t know how much I can do from NY. The screenings will hopefully raise the profile of the theatre and the important work they were doing.
When I last talked to Miller she said, “I’ve known Bob for about four years and he’salways had housing issues- but recently they seem to have reached a critical point. I believe he is trying to work with [the Actors Fund].”
In the interim, Macbeth has set up a bank account from which he can withdraw the money. A GoFundMe page has been created to receive donations https://www.gofundme.com/help-save-bob-macbeth. The goal is $5,000.
Please consider contributing to this effort. Your generosity could help a fellow artist find a dignified place to live as a more permanent solution is being worked out. Thank you.
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