Paul Kwame Johnson Directs A Tribute To Black Theater – by Allen Lang

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The Little Blue Room Theater Ensemble in A Tribute to Black Theatre, presented at the Reisinger Theatre at Sarah Lawrence College, directed by Paul Kwame Johnson, is an excellent review-styled show featuring a selection of African dance and historical and contemporary theatre voices from throughout the Black theatre canon. 

Paul Kwame Johnson is a director known for delving into works exploring the Black experience and identity, redefining what community theater can be. At the head of the impressive Little Blue Room Theater Ensemble, Johnson has created a multicultural theatre, the most significant of its kind in Westchester County, with the power of theater to bring diverse communities together and address critical social and political issues. Johnson’s work is a testament to the transformative power of theatre and the importance of creating spaces where diverse voices can be heard and celebrated. 

The home base of the Little Blue Room Theater Ensemble and Falcon Dance Team is the Theodore D. Young Community Center in the Town of Greenburgh. This multigenerational ensemble’s talented members powerfully showcase the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Ntozake Shange, George C. Wolfe, Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Van Peebles and the musical Dreamgirls.

The poetry Suite” from A Tribute to Black Theater”. Left to right Olivia Hunter, Tee Sudderth and Tanisha Downey.

A Tribute to Black Theatre is a thoughtfully curated and beautifully executed production that celebrates the richness and diversity of Black artistry. Johnson expertly takes the audience on a dramatic, sublime voyage through time, not shying away from issues, touching upon the spiritual and contemporary forms. The program soothes, surprises, and shocks the audience as it recognizes the whiles and articles of our humanity.  A Tribute to Black Theatre is performed by actors and dancers with talents typically seen on Broadway. The talented cast members include Olivia Hunter, Tina Harper, Tee Sudderth, Tanisha Downey, EV McFall, Luther Garrison, Donel Dinkins, Paula Santa-Donata, Paul Santa-Donata and members of the Falcon Dance Team with choreography by Jessica Parris. 

Additionally, the choice to present the production at Sarah Lawrence College’s Reisinger Theatre, a respected institution for the arts, further emphasizes the importance and relevance of this tribute.

Johnson’s community work began in the seventies as a student at Sarah Lawrence College, teaching mime on the basketball courts of Yonkers. These efforts led to his co-founding Youth Theatre Interactions, a Yonkers nonprofit organization, a creative space for young people to explore their identities and develop their voices through theatre, which is still in existence today.

Kwame Johnson a renowned theatre director dedicated his career to promoting and celebrating Black theatre—a fierce advocate for increasing representation and diversity in the arts. Johnson believes theatre can unite people and communities and create empathy and understanding between different cultures. He views theatre as a vital part of this process, a way of bringing the experiences and struggles of Black people to a broader audience and challenging stereotypes and misconceptions about the Black community. He also mentored and inspired countless young theatre artists, passing on his passion for Black theatre and his commitment to social justice and equality. Paul Kwame Johnson’s legacy in the world of theatre is one of creativity, innovation, and inclusivity. His dedication to Black theatre paves the way for future generations of artists and ensures that the voices and stories of the Black community will continue to be heard and celebrated on stage.

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