WINSTON-SALEM — When it opens Monday, the National Black Theatre Festival will attract plays from across the country and abroad — and from its own backyard.
Troupes from The Pointe! Studio of Dance and N.C. A&T in Greensboro will bring productions to the 15th biennial festival, which runs from Monday through Aug. 5 at various Winston-Salem venues.
The Pointe!, in association with Elise Jonell Performance Ensemble, will ease on down the road to present “The Fantasy and Adventure of Oz,” a dance adaptation of the Broadway hit musical, “The Wiz.”
Student dancers from The Pointe! will retell the classic story through ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary dance and hip-hop, danced to the show’s famous tunes including “(I’m a) Mean Ole Lion,” “Home,” and of course, “Ease on Down the Road.”
“We are superexcited about it,” said Gina Tate, the executive producer and artistic executive choreographer at The Pointe!
A&T theater arts students will present “In the Red and Brown Water” as part of the Collegiate Fringe Festival.
A&T’s resident costume designer Gregory Horton will be honored at Monday’s opening night gala for outstanding achievement in costume design on the collegiate and professional stage.
A festival selection committee chose the Greensboro productions among 40 new works and black classics, to be performed by black theater companies. Because they are presented multiple times, the festival will feature more than 140 performances.
“This is turning out to be an amazing festival,” said Brian McLaughlin, its media relations director. “You are going to see a lot of powerful musicals and a lot of powerful dramas.”
Musicals such as “Five Guys Named Moe,” celebrating singer and bandleader Louis Jordan; “Men of Soul” about soul music; and “How I Got Over,” about gospel music.
Dramas such as “Anne and Emmett,” an imaginary conversation between Anne Frank and Emmett Till.
Other plays will honor legends such as Sammy Davis Jr.
“I am so excited, and this is not the Diet Coke talking,” McLaughlin said.
The festival attracts more than 60,000 patrons, who come to see celebrities of stage and screen, theatrical productions, a readers’ theater of new works, midnight poetry jams, workshops, a film festival, a youth talent show, a TeenTastic minifestival for teens, an international colloquium a and vendors market.
Actors Obba Babatunde and Anna Marie Horsford will act as celebrity co-chairmen.
Among the other celebrities scheduled to attend is Academy Award-winner Louis Gossett Jr., who will receive the Sidney Poitier Lifelong Achievement Award.
The comedian Sinbad will open the week with a pre-festival comedy show Saturday in the Annex Endstage at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds.
The late Larry Leon Hamlin started the festival in 1989 as the international outreach arm of his Winston-Salem-based North Carolina Black Repertory Company.
Wearing purple and black garb and purple shades, he would open each festival with the pledge of a “marvtastic” time for everyone.
Since his death in 2007, his widow, Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, the repertory company and festival supporters have carried on his quest to ensure the survival of black theater.
“His vision was to make sure that black theater is not only surviving, but thriving,” McLaughlin said of Hamlin.
The repertory company and UNC School of the Arts both will present plays at the festival.
A&T will present a drama written by Tarell Alvin McCraney.
McCraney co-wrote the 2016 film “Moonlight,” based on his own play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” for which he received an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay.
Set in the Louisiana bayou, track runner Oya sacrifices a scholarship to care for her ailing mother. A love triangle ensues among Oya; a stable man with a stutter, Ogun; and bad boy Shango.
A&T’s production, directed by Darius Williams, follows its April performances in Greensboro.
Tate of The Pointe! and Robin T. Rich-McGhie of the Elise Jonell Performance Ensemble joined forces to produce “The Fantasy and Adventure of Oz.”
Two years ago, they brought “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” a dance adaptation of “Annie,” to the festival.
“They treated the kids like stars,” Tate said. “They put up the kids in hotels and gave us transportation. That was pretty awesome to come to something of this caliber and see what artists all over the world get treated like when they are famous.”
Tate noticed how that experience benefited the young dance students.
“It took them to another level,” she said. “We are training professionals, and we teach the kids, ‘This is what professionalism looks like. These are the expectations. Carry yourself as performers and be respectful.’ ”
Dancers know “The Fantasy and Adventure of Oz” well. This marks the fifth year that they have performed it at Harrison Auditorium at A&T.
Four years ago, the festival invited them to perform an excerpt at its youth talent showcase.
“Now they are giving us opportunity to perform the whole show, which is amazing,” Tate said.