Black Theatre Commons (BTC) is a network of theatre practitioners who self identify as members of the Black/African Diaspora. We activate our collective resources to amplify, nurture and support the work of black theaters and practitioners through advocacy, convening, networking and knowledge-sharing.
Our objective is to lay a new foundation of actionable strategies that support black theaters and black practitioners. It’s crucial that we preserve, sustain and create places where the narrative of black people (people of African descent) can be reclaimed and reshaped. It’s also important to provide black practitioners, technicians, academicians and administrators with more job opportunities, professional development, and fluid access to a global network.
The Black Theatre Commons is currently lead by two program managers, a lead dramaturg and a national steering committee, with additional support from a national advisory committee. Both committees are comprised of theatre administrators and practitioners who share a core value of preserving and sustaining black theatre.
In 2013, the National Black Theatre (NBT) assembled 19 black theatre administrators from across the country in response to the terrifying reality that black theaters nationwide were quietly becoming extinct. The convening illuminated that Black theatres are dying from a lack of accessible resources, and failing infrastructures. The traditional nonprofit fundraising model does not work well for institutions of color. The Black Theatre Commons began meeting at Theatre Communication Group’s (TCG) 2014 National Conference as an immediate response to NBT’s “Catalytic” event, with the goal of developing strategies around stabilization & sustainability. Collectively, BTC participants represent over 100 years of institutional memory; differing in location, infrastructure, operating budget, focus and aesthetic. Our goal is to create a new foundation of actionable strategies that support Black theaters and black practitioners.
As Americans, we still struggle to address our legacy of racial injustice and cultural inequality. Wounds from the past continue to haunt us and inform our national identity. Much of America’s progress in racial politics is measured by the ability to effectively ignore the idea of race at all times. This is often reflected in the American Theatre by use of “color blind casting”, or through the assumption that anyone can tell the African American/ Black story as authentically as a Black playwright or Black director. It’s crucial that we preserve, sustain and create places where the narrative of black people can be reclaimed and reshaped. It’s also important to provide black practitioners, technicians and administrators with more job opportunities, professional development, and fluid access to a global network.
The BTC was launched at the 2014 TCG Conference in San Diego as an affinity group space. A planning retreat sponsored by HowlRound was held at Emerson College where participating members established the BTC mission statement and goals. That group of individuals then secured fiscal sponsorship from Hattiloo Theatre as part of its long-term goal to secure funding for black theatre. The BTC is an evolving organization currently lead by the BTC Steering Committee, which is made up of proactive, volunteer leaders that have the opportunity to define BTC’s structure as well as its programmatic priorities.