THE BILLIE IS ONE OF THE LAST REMAINING THEATERS FORGED IN THE AESTHETIC AND SOCIOCULTURAL KILN OF AMERICA’S CIVIL RIGHTS/BLACK ARTS MOVEMENTS.
The Obie and AUDELCO Award-winning Billie Holiday Theatre is a state-of-the-art creative campus located at Restoration Plaza in the historic Black cultural mecca of Bedford Stuyvesant, home to such artistic luminaries as Lena Horne, Max Roach, Eubie Blake, Stepahnie Mills, Ben Vereen, Jay Z, Yasiin Bey, and more and the only multi-platform performing arts center with a 22-year old education program led by, for, and accountable to people of African descent in the heart of the largest African American community in the nation: Central Brooklyn. For 50 years, The Billie has elevated and promoted the critical voices of Black artists, and the stories of the complex journey toward freedom for people of African descent, a journey that is far from over.
“…a neighborhood jewel and one of the nation’s premier Black playhouses.”
– New York Daily News
“An unsung institution of our own distinction which produces some of the best dramatic productions in the country, a monument — more deserving than the great white way.”
– The Crisis
In 1981, BHT made history when it transferred the hit play Inacent Black to Broadway with fifty percent of the financing being derived from the Black community; a first in the theatre world (as cited in The New York Times), and unheard of prior to Inacent Black.
Many of today’s successful actors, writers, designers, and musicians developed their craft at The Billie Holiday Theatre. Actors such as Samuel L. Jackson, Debbie Allen, Tichina Arnold, Bill Cobbs, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Carol Woods, Elaine Graham and Ebony JoAnn to name but a few.
The legendary William “Smokey” Robinson had his first musical, Raisin’ Hell, produced at BHT, while other notable authors whose debut plays were produced at BHT include: Samm Art Williams, legendary jazz musician Weldon Irvine, and John Henry Redwood (The Old Settler).
The goal of the Billie Holiday Theatre is to provide audiences with complete and authentic portrayals of the experiences of people of African descent across the world. To provide artists of African descent pure and unapologetic artistic freedom. We do this by producing and presenting all forms of art, and by challenging unjust systems that would prevent artists, institutions, and communities full access to world-class arts, creative spaces, and resources.
A Letter From The Billie Holiday Theatre:
“So much of what makes this country rich in art and all manners of spiritual life is the contributions that we as African Americans have made. To give expression to the spirit that has been shaped and fashioned by our history is of necessity to give voice and vent to the history itself. It must remain for us a history of triumph.” – August Wilson
With this year marking a particularly special milestone for The Billie as we prepare to celebrate our 50th Anniversary season, the institution remains committed to presenting world class theater for our community and to amplifying Black voices, Black stories and Black genius. For five decades, The Billie has stood firmly as a beacon for artistic brilliance and innovation rooted in social justice and we are excited to build on that legacy as a thriving multi platform performing arts destination located in the heart of Bed-Stuy.
As we look ahead, The Billie will continue to be dedicated to providing our community with complete and authentic portrayals of the experiences of people of African descent across the world and providing artists of African descent pure and unapologetic artistic freedom. We produce and present all forms of art and education while challenging unjust systems that would prevent artists, institutions, and communities full access to world-class, creative spaces, and resources.
We look forward to returning to live performances and events this Season and invite you to join us on this journey as we have so many exciting announcements to share over the coming months. We are delighted to be back with you, in this our 50th anniversary year, as we present Our Stories, Our Truth at The Billie, Our Theater.
-The Billie Team
Board Chair, The Billie Executive Director, Institute of Jazz Studies
Director, Board of Directors, The Billie Chief Operating Officer, Ford Foundation
Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, The Billie President and CEO, Bedford Stuy Restoration Corporation
VP for Philanthropic Initiatives, The New York Community Trust, Mosaic Network and Fund
Antonia Yuille Williams
Treasurer, Director of Public Affairs, Brooklyn Division Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, Inc.
Actor producer; founder Pontchartrain Park Community Development Corporation
THE BILLIE REIMAGINING ADVISORY COMMITTEE
- Pauletta Pearson Washington, Co-Chair, Actress and Philanthropist
- Antonia Yuillie Williams, Co-Chair, Director of Public Affairs, Brooklyn Division Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, Inc.
- Cey Adams, Internationally renowned creative director and visual artist
- Camille Brown, Tony Award-nominated choreographer
- Karen Brooks Hopkins, President Emerita, Brooklyn Academy of Music; Jerome L Greene Foundation Board Member; Senior Advisor to the Onassis Foundation
- Stephen Byrd, Co-Founder, Front Row Productions; 2019 Broadway Global Producer of the Year
- Stephen McKinley Henderson, Award-winning actor, professor, and leading expert on August Wilson
- Tonya Lewis Lee, American film and television producer, author, entrepreneur and advocate for women
- Dawnn Lewis, Award-winning TV, film and Broadway actress, as well as founder of non-profit for youth empowerment
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- Kamilah Long, Interim Senior Director of Individual Giving & Development Operations, Oregon Shakespeare Festival
- Dafina McMillan, Co-founder Crux VR
- Lynne Nottage, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright
- Fiona Rudin, Board Chair, 42nd Street Theaters
- Lauren Ruffin, Co-founder Crux VR; nonprofit and for-profit policy, marketing, business development, and strategic planning expert
- Carl Hancock Rux, Brooklyn-based, award-winning writer and performance artist
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Tony Award-winning Director, leading August Wilson interpreter
- Michele Shay, Tony Award-winning actor and director; Professor at NYU, Juilliard, and Columbia
- Mikki Shepard, Chairman of the Board, Mertz Gilmore Foundation; Tony Award Nominating Committee (2018-19)
- Laura Walker, Former President & CEO, New York Public Radio; Executive Fellow, Yale School of Management
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IN THE NEWS
- BK Reader: The Billie Holiday Theatre to Host Star-Studded Virtual Show, ’50in50: Shattering the Glass Ceiling’
- The New York Times: Theater to Stream: A Musical Throwback and ‘The Normal Heart’
- Black Film TV:Star-Studded Lineup To Featured in The Billie Holiday Theatre’s Virtual Premiere of 50in50:Shattering The Glass Ceiling
- NBC New York: WNBC ‘s Black History Month vignette feature on The Billie Holiday Theatre as part of its BHM Recognition Campaign
- New York Daily News: ‘A signal of what’s possible’: Brooklyn street painted over with massive Black Lives Matter mural
- BET: Brooklyn Street Loudly Proclaims ‘Black Lives Matter’ in Blocklong Mural
- NY1: Black Lives Matter Mural Unveiled on Bed-Stuy Street
- CBS New York: Black Lives Matter Mural Unveiled In Brooklyn
- The New York Times Review: Tales of Brutality From ‘Twelve Angry Men … and Women’
- NY Daily News: Wendell Pierce leads socially-distanced reading of ‘12 Angry Men’ at Black Lives Matter mural in Brooklyn’s Restoration Plaza
- BK Reader: Billie Holiday Theater Spotlights Breonna Taylor in Performance Addressing Racial Injustice
- PBS: Black artists and creators are coming up with new ways to address the moment.
- The New York Times: Mellon Foundation to Provide $5 Million to Aid Black Theaters
- American TheatreR: After Years of Talk, Finally Some Money for Black Artists and Theatres
- Playbill: Brooklyn’s Billie Holiday Theater to Spearhead Black Theatre Strategic Initiative
- Broadway World: Billie Holliday Theatre Will Lead The Black Seed to Provide Financial Support for Black Theaters Across the Country