> OUR HISTORY
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. 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 in 1993, 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 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 Black Hand 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 career of legendary African-American performer 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 screenwriting 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 Suzan Lori Park’s national production of 365 Days – 365 Plays.
2008's dynamic season included the 10-Minute Play Festival 2, the premiere of "Passing SOLO" 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 included "Cool Negroes”; 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; 2010 Winter Edition of TST Times and the WORLD PREMIERE of "Langston & Nicolás”, which received 5 NAACP nominations, including Supporting Actor & Actress, and winning Best Costumes.
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, another original - 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 saw our final TST Kids production, and we included some of our adult TST actors in the original “TST Idol”. A Spring Celebration hosted friends and supporters with BBQ and TST Family fun.
2013 was our 20th Anniversary year! It was full of events throughout. The 6th Annual 10 Minute Play Festival, Readings of plays by members included a re-visit to one of our stellar productions, Joleta by Harriet Dickey. Our first Walk for the Arts took place and Harriet's play Jackleg was our mainstage production in 2013. A beautiful Calendar and 20th anniversary t-shirts helped commemorate this special milestone.
2014 The 7th Annual 10 Minute Play Festival was declared by many audiences to be our best year yet! For the first year, we had a 10-minute playwriting workshop alongside the festival. The Literary Series made its debut, featuring staged readings of excerpts by authors of color, and the 2nd Walk for the Arts took place. Two readings of new plays were our summer selections, including a new musical, "Marked" by our 5th year 10-minute play winner, Libba Beauchamp. The mainstage production for this year was "1969" by member Barbara White Morgan. The season concluded with a Literary Series selection and Christmas party in December.
2015 was a whirlwind year of events at TST! Kicking it off was the 8th Annual 10 Minute Play Festival, which revolved around women’s issues and was very well received by the audience. It was followed by the Company Month of presentations, which included a staged reading of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, a literary reading of Murder at Cape Three Points by Kwei Quartey’s, Raf Mauro’s one man show – Music I Heard Around the House, the first TST Monologue Slam, and the sketch comedy show Bitch Please!. In May, we co-produced E. Patrick Johnson’s Sweet Tea in conjunction with the Chicago based company, Project &. Summertime was easy with a Company picnic held at Griffith Park; Fall brought our Twitter Cocktail Party that raised awareness for Mental Health in the community, another Monologue Slam, Halloween Party and Bitch Please!. Ending the year was the premiere of our original show - In Response. As artists of color, and inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the company felt it had to respond to the recent numerous police shootings and violence against unarmed black men and women, and the systematic brutality suffered by African-Americans since slavery. A multi-media event, “In Response” is told through a collection of short plays, poetry, video and song from the 1800’s to 2016.