Do you know that feeling of being seen? That spark of recognition when someone's words or struggle or celebration aligns so closely with your own memories, your own experiences, your own truth?
The word "theater" originates from the Greek word "to see." That's especially fitting for The Billie Holiday Theatre, as it was founded as a place for the all-too-often unheard and invisibilized voices of black actors, writers and directors to tell their stories to the all-too-often underserved audiences of Bedford Stuyvesant and Central Brooklyn, home to the largest black community in the nation.
A place for us to be seen. Authentically.
And while much has changed since our founding in 1972, the need for people to come together and truly be able to see themselves, truly be able to see others, persists.
The Billie Holiday Theatre's mission goes beyond world-class performances. Our work includes free matinees for hundreds of local high school students, talks about issues that directly impact our community, and playwriting workshops to help the next generation of Black writers develop their voices in partnership with the Obie Award-winning Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop, led by Garland Lee Thompson, Jr.
As a proud member of RestorationART's artistic coalition, working together to ensure the sustainability of arts institutions devoted to the stories of people of African descent, we look to the future with a deepened resolve to develop and present world-class storytelling from the heart of Bed-Stuy. We believe that telling stories that matter continues to be deeply critical as our nation moves through a time of transition and uncertainty. We are reminded of this again in the words of Toni Morrison:
"This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal."
Thank you for joining us on our 45-year journey and looking forward to seeing you at The Billie!
Dr. Indira Etwaroo