Third Annual Black Theatre Symposium

Third Annual Black Theatre Symposium

Embracing Inclusion and Diversity in American Theatre
Saturday, April 2, 2016 . 9:30AM
Johnetta Boone
Johnetta Boone

Event Attributes

Welcome to the Third Annual Black Theatre Symposium:

“Embracing Inclusion and Diversity in American Theatre”

 Featuring keynote speaker Johnetta Boone. 

Starting as an aspiring art student at the Duke Ellington School Of The Performing Arts and continuing her studies at FIT, Johnetta Boone has served as a stylist and designer for still photography, television, commercial and feature film arenas for more than two decades. Her images have been featured in EssenceGerman VogueEntertainment Weekly and Us Magazines. As a costume designer she has worked on such notable films as Cadillac Records featuring Beyoncé, The Jane Austen Book ClubThe Notebook, Runaway Bride and Beloved. Most recently Ms. Boone has become a collaborator with Tyler Perry on films and TV Shows including TemptationThe Haves and the Have NotsFor Better or For Worse and Love Thy Neighbor.

Sponsored by the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, the 2016 Black Theatre Symposium (BTS) continues to champion efforts towards inclusion and diversity in American theatre.

In its third year, the BTS symposium will address the overriding theme: “Black Aesthetics:  Past, Present, and Future.” Through panel discussions, workshops, and performances, BTS will explore the following:

  • What is a “Black Theatre Aesthetic”?
  • Which institutions are successfully cultivating black theatre scholars and artists?
  • How do we facilitate inclusion and diversity in the technical and design aspects of the field? 
  • Racial Battle Fatigue — How can theatre positively impact the current cultural climate and racial tensions?


Theatre professionals, scholars, and students will convene to discuss and take action around these questions in order to influence and expand practices of inclusion in the field of theatre.

Mentorship Program

High School and College Students -

Come join us at the 2016 Black Theatre Symposium.

Our mentorship program will pair each student with a working professional to spend the day with at the conference.

  • Attendance at the conference and participation in the mentorship program is free!
  • Learn more about professional theatre!
  • Gain new skills!
  • Meet new people and build your network!
  • There is no reason not to do this!

To apply, please fill out the link below:


10:00 AM Kick Off
Gildenhorn Recital Hall

Leigh Wilson Smiley
School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies
University of Maryland

Dean Bonnie Thornton Dill
College of Arts and Humanities
University of Maryland

Keynote Speaker
Johnetta Boone
Costume Designer and Stylist for Television and Film

Followed by a conversation led by
Scot Reese
Head of Undergraduate Theatre Studies
University of Maryland


12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Breakouts

Inclusion and Diversity in the Arts on College Campuses
UMD’s diversity troupe, Kreativity invites students and educators from local colleges and universities to discuss issues of inclusion and diversity in the arts from the student perspective.
UMD Kreativity Diversity Troupe facilitator

Best Practices in Teaching African American Drama
Panelists will reflect upon and promote discussion about some of the best ways to introduce students to the histories, personalities, plays, and movements that chronicle the development of African American drama.
Faedra Chatard Carpenter facilitator
Director of Undergraduate Studies, UMD

Racial Battle Fatigue
Description available in 5:00 PM time slot
Caleen Sinette Jennings facilitator
Professor of Theatre, American University


1:15 PM – 2:15 PM Lunch Chat ‘n Chew

Diversity in Production
The issue of diversity is usually raised when referencing the more “visible roles” in theatre (performers, directors, audiences, board members, etc.) – but what about those “behind the scenes”?
Cary Gillett facilitator
Production Manager, UMD


2:30 PM – 3:30 PM Breakouts

Hip Hop
One of our most popular panels returns. Practitioners, scholars, performers, and writers will further the dialogue on how Hip Hop continues to invigorate the fields of theatre, dance, and performance.
Baye Harrell facilitator
Theatre Artist

Black Theatre Companies in America: Past, Present & Future
A reflection on the origins, trajectory, and cultural impact of American theatre companies that have specialized in theatre for, by, and about Black people over the past 100 years. This discussion will culminate in a forecast of the future of black theatre companies in this country.
Jennifer L. Nelson facilitator
Freelance Director; Resident Director Mosaic Theatre Company; and Senior Advisor, Ford’s Theatre

Racial Battle Fatigue
Description available in 5:00 PM time slot
Alvin Mayes facilitator
Director of Undergraduate Dance Studies, UMD


3:45 PM – 4:45 PM Breakouts

Teaching Artists: Building Capacity and Establishing a Professional Learning Community
An exploration of teaching artistry and its impact in the Washington DC area. This workshop will provide tangible resources and networking opportunities for the professional development of aspiring, emerging, and experienced teaching artists. 
Paige Hernandez facilitator
Master Teaching Artist: Poetry, Hip-Hop, Dance and Education Fusion

The Visibility of Blackness on Local Stages
This panel will discuss how the selection of theatrical works may drive the black theatre aesthetic and cultivate black culture in the D.C. metro area.  It includes representatives from academic theatre, professional theatre, and children's theatre.  
Dr. Gail Medford facilitator
Chair of the Fine and Performing Arts Department, Bowie State University

Racial Battle Fatigue
Description available below
Shirley Basfield-Dunlap facilitator
Coordinator of Theatre Arts, Morgan State University


5:00 PM – 5:30 PM General Session

Racial Battle Fatigue
In the early 2000s, University of Utah researcher William A. Smith coined the term “racial battle fatigue” while studying how racialized microagressions — the relatively inconspicuous, but potent degradation of marginalized people — affected black students at predominately white colleges and universities. This year we will end our symposium with all attendees having the opportunity to discuss RBF, the toll it takes on students, artists and scholars and how we can move forward as a community. 
Scot Reese facilitator
Head of Undergraduate Theatre Studies, UMD


7:30 Performance
A Second Season production presented in collaboration with Kreativity Diversity Troupe

Ghetto Symphony
written and directed by TDPS undergraduate students Tyasia Velines and Avery Collins

Dance Theatre
Ghetto Symphony illustrates the everyday life of Black urban youth in Baltimore. Mike, the central character, struggles with achieving his dreams while navigating between various roles that are unconsciously dictated to him by those who see him as the lesser.  This Hip H'Opera chronicles Mike's discovery of his purpose in life and the manifestation of his dreams. Please join the company for a discussion following the performance.

This project was made possible by a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this Black Theatre Symposium do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Maryland Humanities Council.