My NBTF 2022 experience | WS Chronicle

  • 2 min read
  • Aug 10, 2022

My NBTF 2022 experience | WS Chronicle

Ben Varin and Rayonette Crowder

My NBTF 2022 experience

By Rayonette Crowder

The year was 1989. This was Winston-Salem, NC and this was the beginning of the National Black Theater Festival.

The National Black Theater Festival (NBTF) provides an opportunity to wear the formal colors of purple and black, or wear an outfit that makes you feel theater, celebrity, and party ready again.

The festival is back! The colors purple and black now seem synonymous with NBTF, reinforcing the importance and impact of theater in our community. During this week, whenever I saw purple and black being worn, I immediately thought there had to be some connection to NBTF, and in most, if not all, cases, conversations started with strangers mentioning some connection to NBTF.

Everywhere you looked there were purple and black ties, suits, dresses, gowns, pants, shirts, t-shirts, gowns, scarves, shoes, scarves, fans, and of course my favorite accessory this year – the mask. Due to concerns over covid, I wore masks provided by Winslow Lowry and Ramsey Cathy/Kaisers.

Many celebrities and attendees walk to the beat of drums and dance from the festivities at the Benton Convention Center. As in years past, celebrities drive off as the limousine doors open to flash cameras. In previous years, we were all entertained by dance groups, but what seemed unique in 2022 was that many celebrities participated in the dance. Could it be that COVID-19, with its restrictions and limited interactions in their moment, will incite movement and make them dance? Rhythm and Dance serves as the final introduction to NBTF before the initial theater experience. This year many celebrities, actors and actresses from film and television joined in and added an element of entertainment from those who danced in front of the dance floor. Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem. Our hometown actress, Faye Hauser Price, was one of the first celebrities to do the dance.

With concerns over covid, some of the usual celebrity interactions were limited, but I was excited to get photos with the likes of Ben Vereen. I quickly remembered to take the picture and said I was worried about how my eyes looked in a selfie, so we took another picture and she said, “You have beautiful eyes.” I thought Ben Verin just told me I had beautiful eyes. That made my night! It was good because in previous years there was no welcome to meet and greet celebrities.

Even with covid, wearing masks for some, social distancing and caution for all, I’m still excited to live in Winston-Salem, the host city of the National Black Theater Festival. Larry Leon Hamlin and his wife Sylvia Sprinkle Hamlin are committed to providing professional black theater right here in our own community. A true tribute to their legacy. The National Black Theater continues to be an international celebration of the arts and theater, providing opportunities to attend workshops, vendor markets and productions throughout the city.

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