National Black Theatre Festival begins in Winston-Salem

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The National Black Theatre Festival has made its way back to Winston-Salem and although the official performances are yet to begin, the festivities are already underway.

“The first day is always like a transition into another space, another frame of mind,” said Bill Cobbs, who will be honored with the Sidney Poitier Lifelong Achievement Award.

“That’s very humbling; it’s a little hard to believe,” Cobbs said, of the award.

During the kick-off news conference held at the Winston-Salem Marriott at noon on Monday, celebrities of all theatre backgrounds were on-hand and introduced.

“Theatre saved my life. I’m telling you because, Hollywood -- you have your ups and your downs -- and when you’re down, theatre raises you back up,” said Ted Lange, of The Love Boat fame.

Also introduced was Jackee Harry, who was born in Winston-Salem.

“It used to be you’d have to say Winston-Salem, North Carolina,” Harry said. “Now you just say Winston, and people know you’re going to North Carolina, so it’s become an arts mecca.”

From those who have already made it, to a local aspiring actress -- Dasia Amos of Greensboro -- the festival is about connecting with the passion, splendor and valor of African and African-American cultures as Black Theatre takes center stage.

“We have to pass on information from the older generations to the younger -- be it white, black or whatever -- you should pass on the information,” Lange said.

“I see all these people from TV,” Amos said. “I’m just like ‘Oh My Gosh I’m here!’”

“You can see that little girl is already on the plane to New York,” said Harry, of Amos. “You can see it in her.”

“It’s a sense of unity, and just the joy of life and the joy of art,” Cobbs said.

Performances begin Tuesday afternoon at 3. The festival runs all week and through Saturday.

For more information on the festival, visit ncblackrep.org.