In 1966, Douglas Turner Ward, Robert Hooks, and Gerald Krone sat down in a Greenwich Village restaurant to try and bring a dream to life: a permanent home in which black theatre artists could oversee, control and promote their own artistic destinies. The success of their Off-Broadway productions of Douglas Turner Ward’s plays Day of Absence
and Happy Ending
had attracted the attention of the Ford Foundation, who gave the company a $1 million grant to start it off on its journey through history.
The NEC’s record of success is amply documented with a Pulitzer Prize, Tony Awards, Drama Desk Award, more than a dozen Obie Awards, and critical recognition worldwide. The company has an extensive theatre training program and has produced more than 200 new plays. The NEC’s distinguished alumni include writers such as Stephen Carter, Lonne Elder, Charlers Fuller, Leslie Lee, Joseph Walker and Samm-Art Williams, and actors Angela Bassett, Roscoe Lee Brown, Adolph Caesar, Antonio Fargas, Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Esther Rolle and Denzel Washington.
Today, the NEC continues to achieve its mission by presenting theatre by and about black people to a culturally diverse but underserved audience, as well as offering a unique place for black voices to sing in harmony and discord and to conflict and debate.