Tens of thousands expected for National Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Phones ringing off the hook, tickets selling at a record pace.

As of Thursday, four productions are sold out for the National Black Theater Festival. It's the fastest sell-out in its 30-year history.

The technical crew is putting the final touches on the set.

They’ve spent the past 17 months preparing and are now in overdrive.

“Make sure the lighting matches the scenery and is equally Marvtastic, as Larry Leon would’ve said,” Technical Director Arthur Reese said.

Marvtastic means none greater or better than.

“We've got a lot of musicals, we’ve got Marvin Gaye, we have Aretha Franklin, we’ve got men of soul, women of soul, we have a cowboy play about the very first black Texas ranger,” said Reese, who has held his role since the first festival in 1989.

There will be 115 shows next week starting Monday.

They’re expecting over 50,000 people.

“They shop, they eat, they visit, they tour. They totally spend a lot of time and energy seeing what Winston-Salem has to offer,” co-owner of Sweet Potatoes Vivian Joiner said.

Her restaurant on North Trade Street gets a surge during the festival.

They’re pushing closing time back from 10 p.m. to midnight all week.

“Trying to drink a lot of water and take their vitamins and be ready. Because I don’t think we’re going to get a lot of sleep,” she said.

The festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Since 1989 they've welcomed people from across the states and abroad.

“Black theater is for everybody, and that’s the word we want to get out. It’s not limited to one culture or black culture. It’s basically black history that is explained through theatrical productions,” said Renita Brewington, who does fundraising and expansion and outreach for NBTF.

And they’re trying something new this year.

There will be three Shakesphere at Sunset showings at Winston Square Park.

They’re free and will be Aug. 1-3 starting at 6:30 p.m. each night.

“It’s going to have a Jamaican twist to it,”  Brewington said.

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