A very special “celebration of life ceremony” for the late Garland Lee Thompson, Sr. will be held on Thursday, August 6, 2015 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM during the world renowned 2015 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem, North Carolina. The ceremony will take place at the Marriott Hotel’s Hearn Ballroom located on Cherry Street in Winston-Salem, NC, 27101. Two, prior celebrations of this kind were held to honor Mr. Thompson in New York City. Hundreds of attendees from the New York tri-state entertainment and theatre-arts organizations and education remembered him at those events following the death of Mr. Thompson on November 18, 2014.
The Late Garland Lee Thompson Sr. was an accomplished actor, stage manager, director and producer. He dedicated over 43 years of his professional life supporting playwrights at the Frank Silvera Writers Workshop, Inc. (FSWW) in Harlem, New York. Through his tireless efforts, over 20,000 scripts were read by actors at the workshop. These readings notably included the works of Ntozake Shange’s and her award winning play, For Colored Girls Who Have Consider Suicide, When the Rainbow is Enuf, Soldier’s Play by Charles Fuller and The Mighty Gents by Richard Wesley to name a few.
Thousands of writers, directors and actors participated over the numerous decades of the workshop’s distinguished history. A few of the writers included: Ruby Dee, Billie Allen, Angela Bassett, Adolph Caesar. Morgan Freeman, Debbie Allen, Chuck Patterson, Micki Grant, Philip Hayes Dean, Aduke Aremu, Ed Bullins, Samuel L. Jackson, LaTonya Richardson-Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Ray Aranha, Shanelle Perry, Roscoe Orman, Charles Dutton, Bill Cobbs, Ernie Baxter, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Samm Art Williams, Pauletta Washington, Shamika Cotton, Karen Baxter, Antonio Fargas, Darlene Gidney, Sean C. Turner, Bill Vila, M. Younger Roberts and David Sheppard.
Many of the said, 20,000 scripts have been archived and some of them are now housed at the historical Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, NY. Garland Sr. was most probably the most important wordsmith and dramaturg to impact the national stage of Black theatre playwrights in America. In addition, Thompson Sr. and The Frank Silvera Writers Workshop also produced several of the workshop readings by partnering to present fully mounted productions with Crystal Field and Theater for the New City, Miguel Algarin, Nuyorican Poets Cafe and Gertrude Jeanette and the H.A.D.L.E.Y Players. Thompson Sr. partnered with New York University to present the 1st Black Theatre Conference at New York University where he produced at that Black Box Theatre: “Bum Sonata” with Earl Davis and Dr. Robert Taylor. “King of the White Cloth” by David D. Wright was also co-produced with FSWW at The House of Champions in Harlem and “Oshun The Goddess of Love” at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York.
The National Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem was founded in 1989 by the late Larry Leon Hamlin. More than fifty celebrities of stage, screen and television artists, producers and technicians attend the festival. Garland Thompson Sr. has produced the Reader’s Theatre of new works since the festival began. Other highlights include the Opening Night Gala, Theatre Productions, International Colloquium (presented by NBTF, Winston-Salem State University and the Black Theatre Network), the Youth/Celebrity Project and Teen TeenTastic, and the International Vendor’s Market which features vendors and crafts from every corner of the globe and live entertainment to add a little flair to your shopping experience. This festival brings in over 60,000 visitors from the theatre, TV and film industry as well as the academic world of theatre-arts along with noted celebrities.
The co-chairs for the 2015 festival are actress Debbi Morgan and actor Darnell Williams. The duo is best known for their roles as Jesse and Angie Hubbard on ABC’s “All My Children”. The two have continued their professional careers through Broadway performances, television and cinema.
The ACT III-Tribute and Celebration of Life for Garland Lee Thompson, Sr. in Winston Salem is coordinated by Aduke Aremu, executive chair and Darlene Gidney program development consultant. The staged readings are to be directed by Woodie King Jr. (with the assistance of Patricia White). Casting is coordinated by Bianca LaVerne Jones and stage managers are Sean C. Turner and Sirlouis Jones. The celebration’s college interns are Edward L. Blair , IV and Bri’Sche Fair. Jennifer Revels Baxter arranged for the attendance of Ruth Locklear Revels Chairperson of North Carolina Indian Affairs appointed by Pat McCory, the Governor of North Carolina and Amanda Sheek, Honor Winery will be doing sign language during the program
Master and Mistress of Ceremonies are Garland Thompson Jr. and Lillias White. Performing Artists will be Eagle Feather Dance Troupe with Brenda Silva and Company along with Haliwa -Saponi, Pueblo, Navajo and Lumbee Native American tribes, Otesha Creative Arts Ensemble with Hashim Saleh, David D. Wright – Yoruba Priest (Libation Ceremony), Joe Robinson Jazz Ensemble, Yacouba Mask Society – Chacaba Dancer, Peggy L. Clemons (Recording Artist), Bishop Wesley Wiley (Pianist) Mista B (Vocalist), Rhonda Hansome (Comedian) Carmen Deese (Actor) and Rome Neal (Vocalist). Spoken word artists will be coordinated by Marc Lee and include W. Calvin Anderson, Val Jones and Darrell Stover. Special Tributes will be offered by Micki Grant, Grace L. Jones, Ntozake Shange, Michael Dinwiddie, Harold Thomas, Kevin Mundy, Jennifer Revels Baxter.
A special art exhibit by Ademola Olugbefola will be featured at the Marriott. The event host coordinator is Joan Jai. Hosts include Jade Arnold, Bryan C. Jones, T. Renee’ Mathis, Zuhairah McGill, Deborah Pringle, Kimberly Q., Betty Rhodes, Kenthedo Robinson, Helen Sanders, Althea Alexis Vyfhuis.
The Executive Committee includes: Garland Thompson Jr., Aduke Aremu, Sylvia Sprinkle Hamlin, Darlene Gidney, W. Calvin Anderson, Marc Lee, Yvette Holder, Hashim Saleh, Woodie King Jr., Grace L. Jones, Michael Dinwiddie, John Foster, Dawn Alli, David D. Wright, Micki Grant, Voza Rivers, Eieshia Byson, Harold Thomas, Ademola Olugbefola, Sabura Rashid, Nana Malaya Rucker-Oparabea, Lamman Rucker, Kevin Mundy, Lawrence Evans, Edward L. Blair IV, BriSche Fair, Pamela A. Murray, Bill McClain, Mista B, Renee Charlow, Helen Sanders, Fredric Michaels, Wendell Tabb, Carl Clay, Jeanette W. Hill, Deborah Abrams, Lisa C. Shelly
Sponsors are Dove, LLC, Be Rich Entertainment, LLC, Denzel and Pauletta Washington, AUDELCO, Midland Park Veterinary Clinic, Herman LeVerne Jones, Joan Cartwright, Arrowhead Graphics, Irie Rhythms Restaurant, Arthur and Ernestine Reed, Hopeton Blair Atlanta Five Star Limos, Camp Half Blood Brooklyn, Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop Inc., New Heritage Theatre Group, Theatre South Florida Inc., Theatre South Atlanta Inc., Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, Women in Jazz South Florida Inc., The Black Theatre Network, Black Spectrum Theatre, David and Me Publishing , New Federal Theatre. The technical/videography Arthur Reese (Technical Supervisor), Joan H. Allen—Inside New York City -TV (videographer).
The Workshop was founded in 1973 by playwright/director Garland Lee Thompson, along with famed actor/director Morgan Freeman, director/actress Billie Allen and journalist Clayton Riley, as a living memorial to the late actor, director, teacher and producer, Frank Silvera (1914-1970). The Workshop has been based in the heart of Harlem, New York, for the past 43 years. The Workshop has over the years developed a prestigious reputation for having supported the craft of emerging, national and internationally recognized playwrights. Garland’s diligent records contain administrative files, production files, including contracts and set designs, and thousands of play scripts from the Writers/Directors series and the Larry Neal Memorial Seminar Series. Scripts are chiefly unpublished and un-produced and were written by members of the workshop. Among playwrights included are Mari Evans, Billy Graham, A. Marcus Hemphill, Larry Neal, Vinnette Carroll, Ruby Dee, Owen Dodson, Charles Gordone, Charles Fuller, Laurence Holder, James De Jongh, Clifford Mason, Ntozake Shange, Ed Shockley, Garland Lee Thompson Sr., Richard Wesley, and Samm-Art Williams. Garland Thompson Sr. was born February 14, 1938 and died on November 18, 2014 in New York City.
For a look at a small section of research please see: New York Public Library Schomberg Collection FRANK SILVERA WRITER’S WORKSHOP 1973-1982. Creator: Frank Silvera Writers Workshop, Call number Sc MG 64, Physical description, 83 linear feet