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.
THE BIRTHPLACE OF SUCCESS
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 great political satirist/comic, Dick Gregory made his theatrical comeback after twenty years on the BHT stage, and audiences were also treated to the reunion of Good Times stars Ralph Carter and John Amos.
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 (long before his Tony Award nominated play, Home), legendary jazz musician Weldon Irvine (lyricist for the classic anthem “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”), and John Henry Redwood (The Old Settler). Musicians Victor Willis and Alex Briley met and performed at BHT eight months prior to forming The Village People, and Grammy Award winning bassist and producer extraordinaire Marcus Miller performed in the BHT pit band.