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Out & About Letʼs see whoʼs out this week B6

Debbie Norrell

Lifestyles Report

The place to be

I always wanted to plan

my vacation around some- thing that I love.This is the first year that Imade that dreamcome true. I attended theNational BlackTheatre Festival inWinston Salem, N.C.When I realized the fes- tival took place inAugust I was hesitant, I knew it was going to be hot. I decided to make the drive which was not bad, seven hours throughWestVirginia,Vir- ginia andNorth Carolina on a Sunday afternoon. Prior to the festival I re-

ceived my media creden- tials and a program detail- ing what was going to take place for the week. There were staged readings read by professional actors and written by renowned and aspiring playwrights, work- shops and seminars, a film festival,NBTF Poetry Jam, parties, press conferences, celebrity receptions and shopping at the Interna- tional Vendors’Market. One of the best parts of

the week is the celebrity sightings. I had an opportu- nity to speak to a few stars that Imetmany years ago. People like LouMyers, you remember theman who was the cook on “A Differ- entWorld?”He was there and so personable.He had been in Pittsburgh years ago working on the Piano Lesson.Glynn Turman, whose daughter Stephanie lives in Pittsburgh,was just as friendly; I reminded him that I sat next to himat a Kuntu Repertory perfor- mance. I had a great con- versation with Bern Nadette Stanis,Thelma fromGood Times. She looks great. She has authored several books and was set up for a book signing.One book is titled, “Situations 101:Relationships the good, the bad and the ugly” and also “ForMen Only,” a col- lection of poems dedicated to themen who have shown her love in her life time. While on the show“Good Times” brother J.J.was the artist, however Stanis is the artist in real life, some of her artwork is displayed on her website There has been a question

that Iwant to ask all actors fromthe seventies and eighties, are you getting your residuals? In short are you being paid properly for all of these reruns? Stanis toldme that she is getting residuals but it is based on a contract signedmany years ago.Somuch has changed since that time. Just think cable television has come along,DVD,Netflix and more.She said the contracts should be updated.Here is something I didn’t know about Stanis, she is a gradu- ate of Julliard and she is marriedwith two daughters. I also spoke with the man

who is the bailiff on Judge Judy, Petri Hawkins-Byrd. Hawkins–Byrd was actu- ally a bailiff in Brooklyn, N.Y., family court in the 1980s, guarding judges that included Sheindlin. He left that job and moved to California. In 1996, when Hawkins-Byrd was working as a high school guidance counselor in San Mateo, Calif., he read in Liz Smith’s syndicated gos- sip column that his former boss Judy Sheindlin had a show in the works.He sent a congratulatory note that included an offer to the ef- fect of, “If you ever need a bailiff,my uniform still fits.” The rest is history. Hawkins-Byrd was spotted at the festival and spoken word is his thing. I’m already making plans

for 2013, see you there. (E-mail the columnist at deb-

LIFESTYLES New Pittsburgh Courier AUGUST 10-16, 2011

Black Theatre Holy Ground

Local girl finalist in National Pageant B3


THE TURMANS AND FRIEND—Melinda Turman, Glynn Turman, Stephanie Turman (Glynn Turman’s daughter and Pittsburgh resident) and LouMyers (actor “A DifferentWorld”). (Photos by Debbie Norrell)

BEAUTY RUNS IN THE FAMILY—Eileen J. Morris with mom, Imelda Benson.

CELEBRITY CO-CHAIRS—T’Keyah Crystal Keymah and Lamman Rucker.

REPRESENTING THE AUGUST WILSON CENTER—Kennedy Guess, Andre Guess, Carter Redwood and Mark Clayton Southers.

TWO BILLS—Bill Cobbs and Billy Jackson.

by Debbie Norrell Courier Staff Writer

The National Black Theatre Festival has

been happening every odd year inWinston Salem,N.C., since 1989 and this “marvtas- tic” (aword coined by the late founder Leon Hamlin that means there is nothing greater or better than) biennial event brings more than 65,000 theatre enthusi- asts to Winston Salem for six days of the best in professional Black theatre. There aren’t too many places that you can go where a touch of Pittsburgh isn’t found and Pittsburgh theater royalty was well repre- sented throughout theNational BlackThe- atre Festival,Aug. 1-6. The festival is produced by the North

READY FOR THEIR CLOSEUP—Nana Malaya Rucker (former Pittsburgh resident) and Ted Lange.

Carolina Black Repertory Co. Eileen J. Morris, currently the artistic director for the Ensemble Theatre in Houston Texas and the former managing director of the Kuntu Repertory Theatre received the Larry Leon Hamlin Producer Award. Her acceptance of the award was a perfor- mance in itself. Formany years Pittsburgh claimed Morris as a resident and you can still see her from time to time in Pitts- burgh directing plays. An AugustWilson Playwright Award was presented to Charles Smith (producer

/writer) and Samm-Art Williams (pro- ducer/writer). Members of the Kuntu Repertory Theater were in attendance per- forming staged readings and workshops. Also spotted at the theatre festival was AndreGuess, president and CEOof theAu- gust Wilson center, along his daughter Kennedy; budding thespian Carter Red- wood; Mark Clayton Southers (artistic di- rector of the August Wilson Center); Kim- berly Ellis, aka Dr. Goddess; Dr. Vernell A. Lillie (founder and artistic director ofKuntu Repertory Theatre); and Billy Jackson. The opening gala was a who’s who of

stage and screens stars. Just imagine Ted Lange (“Love Boat”),Dawnn Lewis (“A Dif- ferentWorld”),BernNadette Stanis (“Good Times”), Glynn Turman (“Cooley High”), VanessaWilliams (“Soul Food”) and Tshidi Manye currently starring as Rafiki in the long-running Broadway musical “The Lion King,” performed “The Circle of Life” all in the same room. The parade of stars in- cluded Pittsburgh’s own Lamman Rucker (“Why Did I Get Married?”) and T’Keyah Crystal Keymah (“In Living Color”), serv- ing as the celebrity co-chairs. For those who love Black theatre and rub-

bing elbowswith the stars thiswas the place to be, the area that has been dubbed by the NBTF as “Black TheatreHoly Ground.”

KUNTU IN THE HOUSE—Shirley Biggs, Cheryl Biggs, Stevie Akers and Vernell A. Lillie.

ARRIVING AT THE GALA—Allie Woods (actor/director Negro Ensemble Co.) and Jeanine McKelvia (Pittsburgh native, actor/director).

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