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In Not a Moment, But a Movement, 3 Theatres Join in the Pursuit of Elevating Black Artists

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Sheria Irving in “Crowndation; I Will Not Lie to David” captured at the Kirk Douglas Theatre and pressented as part of the first episode of Not a Moment, But a Movement. Image courtesy of Center Theatre Group.

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L–R: Tyrone Davis, Cezar Williams, and Bruce Lemon

“It was great because it wasn’t just for me–this is for us. This is for Black people. I hear a story that I see myself reflected in, and it’s right here. And that’s really special.”

—Bruce Lemon, Co-Artistic Director of Watts Village Theater Company

 

In January, we premiered Crowndation: I Will Not Lie to David, the first episode of a new program, Not a Moment, But a Movement, on our Digital Stage presented in partnership with Watts Village Theater Company and The Fire This Time Festival. This play-reading series was spearheaded by Center Theatre Group’s Associate Artistic Director Tyrone Davis and aims to create an interdisciplinary collaboration that celebrates Black voices and to explore the intersection between art and social justice. “I didn’t anticipate Not a Moment, But a Movement to be the name of the series,” Davis said. “It was just the idea—this wasn’t just something we were going to do once. We’re just contributing to this movement that has been going on for as long as I can remember.”

Davis wanted to tell Black stories with the people who have already been laying down the groundwork for Black theatre in America. He wanted to utilize the power of Center Theatre Group’s platform to amplify Black stories, artists, and organizations like Watts Village Theater Company and The Fire This Time Festival that have already been telling these stories. “I wanted to show that folks, especially those from marginalized communities, have a place at Center Theatre Group and will be taken care of and cultivated as artists.”

The combination of Center Theatre Group’s platform and the innovative artistic visions of Davis, Watts Village Theater Company’s Co-Artistic Director Bruce Lemon, and The Fire This Time Festival’s Artistic Director Cezar Williams, along with the cast and creative team brought Crowndation to life—but to make it all come to fruition has been challenging. The digitization of theatre has forced the industry to not only quickly adapt to the new virtual landscape, but also learn how to create art that stands out amongst the surplus of digital content already flooding the medium. “The shift has been painful and has come with a lot,” said Lemon. “But Black people are good at finding something in a sea of terror and turning it into joy and taking advantage of these opportunities.”

In addition to upheavals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the theatre industry at large is reconciling with its racist past and present. In the summer of 2020, in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, BIPOC theatremakers (We See You White American Theatre) from around the country released a set of demands to white theatre institutions calling for equity and anti-racism in the American theatre. Williams, director of Crowndation, recalled how predominately white theatre institutions would reach out to Fire This Time for a “partnership” that was by design exploitative in nature. It wasn’t until the murder of George Floyd that Williams noticed a change in the way that these institutions communicated and behaved. “They can be sensitive. They can be equitable and treat us like we matter,” he recalled. “So when Tyrone reached out to me, the idea really moved me. We can partner with an organization like Center Theatre Group and work in concert with each other and try to merge these cultures together to create amazing art. We haven’t mastered everything yet, but I’m proud of the way we’ve come together to pull this off.”

Although Crowndation closes on the Digital Stage at the end of March, Davis, Lemon, and Williams all agree that the partnership will continue. Not only are there two more not-yet-announced shows slated to stream as part of Not a Moment, But a Movement, but the trio is also creating an enduring support system between institutions of all sizes to amplify the work of Black artists in a space that often neglects them. “I’m excited for the Black artists who are just hopping into it and those who have been in it, that they have these new routes to get the shine that they deserve,” said Lemon.

Introduced by Vanessa Williams and hosted by Lemon, the first episode of Not a Moment, But a Movement features Angelica Chéri’s one-person play Crowndation; I Will Not Lie to David starring Sheria Irving, paired with the music of Jessica Lá Rel and the work of visual artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle and is available through March 22, 2021.

Learn more about Center Theatre Group’s social accountability actions in a dedicated section of our website, where we continue to enumerate our progress towards becoming an anti-racist organization and reflect on the ongoing steps we are taking and planning. While not an all-inclusive list, it is an ongoing collection of our actions and plans shared in the spirit of transparency.

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