History

PROVIDING THEATRE AS A SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY


Towne Street Theatre is the premiere African-American theatre company in Los Angeles. Originally located in the Downtown Fashion District, our mission is producing and developing original works by that are reflective of the African-American experience. We also produce a “Black Classics” series, a salute to African-American playwrights who have contributed to the American theatre. Events are now held at various locations around the great City of Angels and The Towne Street Theatre continues to be an oasis for creativity and imagination and a theatre that helps to bridge the cultural divide by bringing artists and audiences of all colors together.


Since its inception, the theatre has featured a diverse selection of intriguing productions from Walking With A Panther, Sheri Bailey’s gritty drama about the stormy reunion of a Black Panther and his family, after a 23-year prison sentence, to Bernardo Solano's Science & the Primitives, a story of “altered states” in the jungles of South America and Before 1950, a collection of plays and poetry by African-American women writers, such as Margaret Walker and Alice Childress.


Our 1995-96 season featured the world premieres by African-American Los Angeles based women playwrights, Barbara White Morgan & Sheri Bailey. The Dance Begins When The Waltz Goes Backwards opened in October 1995 and returned by popular demand in March, 1996. The story of a white, aging, savvy television writer and his re-encounter with a black intellectual homeless philosopher; this urban comedy was embraced by the public and received critical acclaim. 


Season three continued with Sheri Bailey’s generational epic Summers in Suffolk. Following an African-American family from the 1870’s to the present, it revolved around the “Juneteenth” holiday. Comprised of 19 actors, 5 directors and an accompanying slide show, it was a multi-media history event and was sponsored in part by a grant from the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. Audiences were quite taken with this production and its positive images of African-American history.  It received three NAACP theatre nominations.


Our fourth season opened in February 1997 with Passing, our first commissioned piece. This adaptation of Nella Larsen’s novella was sponsored in part by a grant from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. Written by Nancy Cheryll Davis and Sheri Bailey, Passing is set against the roaring 1920’s and the Harlem Renaissance. Dealing with the issue of a Black person passing for White, it centers on two beautiful women making explosive choices about race, sexuality, and class.  Overwhelming response extended a six week run to ten!  Passing also won Best Actress and Best Costume awards from the NAACP and was nominated for Best Play, Best Playwright, and Best Supporting Actor. The season concluded with a staged reading of The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Lorca, and a holiday show with the Magic Mirror Players, a children’s improv troupe.


The fifth season proved to be another year exciting year in theatre. Passing returned in February to sell out audiences, after winning awards in from the NAACP and DRAMA LOGUE.  The TST conservatory began, with classes in acting, screenwriting, playwriting, classical theatre and more.  We took part in the County’s first Arts Open House Day at One Colorado in Pasadena. The first in our Black Classics series began with Five on The Blackhand Side by Charlie Russell.


As the 20th Century came to a close, Passing returned for the third year in a row and a new piece, Millennium in Black by Harriet Dickey, premiered.  Set in the year 2099, it explored the danger of not knowing your past and how important it is to carry our history into the future. This was also the first year of the TST Musical Theatre Camp for Children, held at St. Brigid Church in South Los Angeles.


In our seventh year we took part in the NoHo Arts Festival, produced the 2nd year of the TST Musical Theatre Camp for Children, the TST Conservatory, and Conversations With…honoring the careers of legendary African-American performers with Barbara McNair.


Our eighth year began with the production of Joleta by Harriet Dickey, which won the NAACP award for Best Writer and was also nominated for Best Ensemble.


In 2002, our ninth year, we received three ADA Valley Theatre League nominations for Start of Conversation by Stan Sellers. Our Black Classic Series production of The Phonograph by Loften Mitchell, received NAACP nominations for Best Actress and Best Costumes. The year ended with a sell out revival of Barbara White Morgan’s An American Tract. Once On This Island was our Kids Camp theater production, performed at St. Brigid Catholic Church.


Our 2003, 10-year anniversary year was a special season of TST favorites and two new programs, TST on the Edge, and the TST Mind Maze – a game show to help students study for the California Achievement Test. Haints, Conjuremen and Leaving by David Lindsey, received a Best Actor nomination from the NAACP. From Broadway To Hollywood And Back was our 6th year Kids Camp theater production.


In 2004 we presented the long awaited and requested return of Passing, which scored NAACP nominations for Best Lighting, Choreography and won again for Best Costumes. The first TST Treasures Awards honored the careers of Virginia Capers and Sy Richardson. We were also honored by the League of Allied Arts. New York Stories was our 7th year Kids Camp theater production.


2005 included Psychology of Chromosome X by Shontina Vernon, and it received NAACP nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor. Bad Bobbi Bolingo and The Dinosaur Cave, by Tony Robinson, a children’s show, premiered at the Edge of The World Theatre Festival in LA.


In 2006 we focused on expanding our children’s programming with a new screen writing program entitled Girls Can! and the 8th year of the Kids Camp, with the production of Bubbling Brown Sugar.


2007 was a year of “firsts.” It began with the first 10 Minute Play Festival, and another first, TST in Repertory with Very Strange Fruit by Mark V. Jones, and The Meeting by Jeff Stetson. For the first time, the Kids Camp production was held at a professional theatre venue – the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center – and the production of Beauty & The Beast sold out. We also took part in Suzy Lori Park’s national production of 365 Days – 365 Plays.


2008's dynamic season included the 10 Minute Play Festival 2, the premiere of PassingSOLO by Nancy Cheryll Davis - from our Black Classic Series, Nevis Mountain Dew by Steve Carter - and the first reading of Langston & Nicolas, our co-commission with The Robey Theatre Company, written by Bernardo Solano. This amazing year concluded with the Kids Camp 10th year anniversary incredible production of The Wiz.


2009 featured a completely revised website, a TST Inaugural Celebration, the TST On Tour Stage Reading Series, 10 Minute Play Festival 3, The Best of TST Kids, sponsors for the Haiku In My Neighborhood book signing celebrating photographer Roland Charles, a mid-year fundraiser, Daddy’s Dyin’ Who’s Got The Will, plus a year-end 1920’s style melodrama fundraiser Harlem to Havana – both produced by our TST Advisory Board – and the 2009 Winter Edition of TST Times.


2010’s triumphant lineup: Cool Negroes, the WORLD PREMIERE of Langston & Nicolás at the Stella Adler in Hollywood, Spoken Word Nites; TST’s 12th Annual Musical Theatre Camp Intensive for Kids saw its first original production, Bedtime Broadway Follies; PassingSOLO, Havana Renaissance Daze, and the 2010 Winter Edition of TST Times.


2011 included the 4th Annual 10 Minute Play Festival, a reading of Felton Perry's play – The Good Wife, the 13th Annual Musical Theater Camp for Kids production of TST Glee!, along with our first Virtual Tea. PassingSOLO was presented both at LACES middle school and a Detroit Breast Cancer fundraiser. Additionally, we partnered with Market America and Company Member Auditions brought in a roster of new talent to the family.


2012‘s 5th Annual 10 Minute Play Festival, jump-started Season 19. Our Staged Reading Series produced Ashes To Ashes, The Fountain, Sister Cities and The Johnson Chronicles. For summer, Sister Cities became a well-received main stage production.TST partnered in a rewarding mentorship capacity with LA South West College Theatre Department’s Adopt A Theatre. The 14th Annual Musical Theater Camp for Kids performed TST Idol. Company Member Auditions were fruitful. A Spring Celebration hosted friends and supporters with BBQ and TST Family fun.


We hope you’ll join us in 2013 for more exciting quality theatre! Celebrating our 20th Season!


Past Funding Awarded By: Sempra Energy, Boeing, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, The Ford Foundation,  Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Northrop Grumman Corporation,, Golden State Minority Foundation, Frances E. Williams Artist Grants, Vulcan Materials, The Beuth Foundation, California Community Foundation, California Arts Council, Howarth & Smith Foundation, Toyota Motor Corporation and our numerous patrons.



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