> 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.