Tuskegee Repertory Theatre (TRT ) traveled to Orlando, Florida, to perform their play “Booker T’s Towns” as part of The World Conference of Mayors (WCM) /Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance (HBTSA) 2019 Collaboration Conference. This historic Conference, led by The Honorable Johnny Ford, Founder/Secretary General of the WCM and President of the HBTSA, was held in Orland/Eatonville, FL, January 30-February 3rd during the 30th Annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival. Ford say, “I am pleased that the Conference was able to help make possible, along with the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and the 2019 Friends of TRT, this national debut of Tuskegee Repertory Theatre, which I regard as one of Tuskegee’s and Alabama’s artistic treasures. We plan to make the performance of this important historic play by TRT an annual event at the Orlando/Eatonville WCM/HBTSA Conference, which draws mayors, and elected and appointed officials from around the world.”
“Booker T’s Towns” is totally created, directed, performed and produced by talent originating in Tuskegee, AL. The play was written and directed by TRT Director/Founder, Dyann Robinson. The music was composed and is played by Bill Perry. Costumes are by Clintonia. Illustration is by Vincent Morgan, and every member of the talented cast as listed in the accompanying photograph, has Tuskegee roots. The play opened first in Tuskegee in April, 2018, and it tells the story of how Dr. Booker T. Washington, supported and mentored the 5 historically all Black towns that were the original founders of the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance, Inc. They are Tuskegee institute and Hobson City, AL, Eatonville, FL, Grambling, LA, and Mound Bayou, MS.
TRT performed the play at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, in downtown Orlando,. The company boasts that they were in good company, side by side, and on the same billboard as the Broadway musical Hamilton, which was playing at the Center as well, in the Center’s big Disney Theater which seats 3,000. “We were in the Center’s beautiful Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater that seats 300,” says Director Robinson, “a perfect space for our play. We had a full house, composed of a wonderful, very receptive audience,”
Ford and Robinson believe that this first appearance of TRT before a national and international audience was a very successful marketing tool. The goal of the WCM, the HBTSA is to not only support and encourage the artistic work of TRT and other cultural institutions in historically Black towns and cities, but to demonstrate how they can be used as tools to attract cultural tourism that will economically enrich not only them, but the historically all Black towns and cities that they represent. “As for TRT”, says Director Robinson, “we have got to continue finding ways to ‘step out’ in order to ‘bring people in’. This trip to Orlando was only a first step.”
It was fun that we were performing under the same roof, at the same time as the hit Broadway show Hamilton, which was playing in the Dr. Phillips Center’s 3,000 seat Disney theatre at 8:00 while we played at the same time, in the adjoining Phillips Center’s equally beautiful 300 seat, intimate, Alexis and Jim Pugh Theatre, which was perfect for us because our play was created for an intimate space, so we felt right at home. The picture above shows we were in good company.(Smile)