Anna Maria Horsford and Obba Babatundé, actors who have appeared on stage, TV and in films, will co-chair the 2017 National Black Theatre Festival, festival officials said Monday.
The festival, set for July 31-Aug. 5 in venues throughout Winston-Salem, is produced by the North Carolina Black Repertory Co., which presents live theater events year-round and the festival every two years.
Horsford has made guest appearances on sitcoms including “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Sparks,” “Moesha,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” “The Shield,” “Girlfriends” and “Everybody Hates Chris.” Her film credits include Tyler Perry’s “A Madea Christmas,” “Minority Report,” “Along Came a Spider,” “Kiss the Girls,” “Set it Off,” “Presumed Innocent,” “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “Friday.”
Babatundé was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in original “Dreamgirls” on Broadway. He has appeared in more than 17 stage productions, 30 theatrical films, 60 made-for-television movies and starred in TV specials and prime-time series. This season he has two new series: “Dear White People” for Netflix and “I’m Dying Up Here” on Showtime. Babatundé just completed principal photography alongside Forest Whitaker and Johnny Depp in the feature film “LAbyrinth.”
The two are most likely best known for their daytime TV roles as Julius and Viviene Avant on “The Bold and the Beautiful.”
“I (watch) that show every day,” said Cleo Kimbrough, a member of the Marvtastic Society and a volunteer with the festival. The Marvtastic Society is a support organization for the festival.
The late Larry Leon Hamlin, who founded both N.C. Black Rep and the festival, coined the term, marvtastic, a portmanteau of marvelous and fantastic. It has become a byword for the festival along with the phrases “black theater is for everyone” and “black theater, holy ground.”
Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, president of the board of N.C. Black Rep and executive producer of the festival, and other officials spoke at a press conference where the announcement about the celebrities was made.
“The celebrity co-chairs’ job is to promote the festival to their colleagues and make sure that the public knows about it,” Hamlin said. “They participate in the daily press conferences at the festival.”
Both have participated in past festivals.
Horsford said that she is looking forward to being a co-chair.
“I’m going to see a lot of stuff that I don’t see anywhere else,” she said. “Theater is the foundation for all the other acting genres. If you can make a play, you can make a movie of your play. Theater lets you take a peek into a world that you might not otherwise know about.”
Mayor Allen Joines and Nigel Alston, N.C. Black Rep’s executive director, are once again the fundraising co-chairs of the festival.
“We are just five months away from turning the city purple,” Joines said. Purple and black are the festival’s theme colors. Joines said that the city is giving the festival $125,000.
The festival is the only national black theater festival in the country that provides six consecutive days of professional theater, film, poetry, workshops, seminars and shopping.
The festival is the international outreach program of the North Carolina Black Repertory Co., founded in 1979. The festival has been held biennially since 1989 and attracts thousands of national and international patrons, theater professionals and scholars. The festival was named A Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society.