National Black Theatre Receives Its First Obie

Company in Harlem since 1968

By: - Jul 20, 2020

One of the oldest Black theater companies in the country has received its first Obie Award. This is an honor recognizing excellence Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway.

In fact, the Obie recognition came a little less than a month after the Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre (NBT) in Harlem took home an Antonyo Award. The  Antonyos, which debuted last month, spotlight the best in Black theater.

“Both honors reflect the theater world’s recognition of the trailblazing path of NBT and its singular legacy,” a press release notes. The company is New York City’s oldest continuously run Black theater. It’s also the nation’s first revenue-generating Black arts complex. NBT has helped shape Black theater and played host to titans of Black thought and culture.”

Specifically, those titans have included James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez.

Among other accomplishments, the NBT has garnered more than 45 AUDELCO Black Theatre Excellence Awards. In addition, it received a CEBA Award of Merit for the award-winning production of Legacy: Memories of the Gospel Song.” That aired on CBS in 1988.

Since the company’s founding in 1968, its has produced more than 300 original theater works. The pieces have toured the U.S., the Caribbean, Central America, Africa, and Asia. Also, the company holds the distinction of being among the longest owned and operated by a woman of color.

“Dr. Teer envisioned NBT as a means to educate, enrich, entertain, empower, and inform the national conscience around current social justice issues that impact our community,” according to its website.

Sade Lythcott, Dr. Teer’s daughter, said: “This honor from the Obie Awards is both an acknowledgment of our years of dedicated work in presenting and crafting stories that show the fullness and diversity of Black life and a call to further action.

“During a period when so much of what is happening on a national and global level mirrors what was taking place when Dr. Teer founded NBT in the 60’s as a way to provide a safe and open space for Black creatives, our work is more vital and necessary than ever.”

For more information about NBT, visit Also, you can follow the company on Facebook at @nationalblacktheatre. Meanwhile, NBT’s Twitter and Instagram’s handle is @natblacktheatre.

Here are the other 2020 Obie Award winners:


  • Kenny Leon for Much Ado About Nothing (The Public Theater).
  • JoAnne Akalaitis for MUD/Drowning (Mabou Mines, Weathervane Productions, and The Days and Nights Festival).
  • Whitney White for Our Dear Dead Drug Lord (WP Theater, Second Stage Theater, by special arrangement with Benjamin Simpson and Joseph Longthorne.)
  • Les Waters for Sustained Excellence in Direction.

Special Obie Citation/Establishment of Michael Feingold Award

  • Michael Feingold, Special Citation.

Lifetime Achievement

  • Vinie Burrows
  • Tim Sanford


  • Will Arbery for Heroes of the Fourth Turning (Playwrights Horizons)
  • Haruna Lee for the conception and writing of Suicide Forest (MaYi Theater Company, Bushwick Starr).
  • Michael R. Jackson for A Strange Loop (Playwrights Horizons, Page 73).


  • Camille A. Brown for Sustained Excellence in Choreography.


  • Liza Colón-Zayas and Elizabeth Rodriguez for ?Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven (Atlantic Theater, LAByrinth Theater Company)
  • Emily Davis  for Is This A Room ?(Vineyard Theatre)

  • Edmund Donovan  for ?Greater Clements? (Lincoln Center Theater)

  • April Matthis for ?Toni Stone ?(Roundabout Theatre Company)

  • Joe Ngo for Cambodian Rock Band ?(Signature Theatre Company)

  • Deirdre O’Connell for Dana H. ?(Vineyard Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Center Theatre Group)


  • Yu-Hsuan Chen: Set Design, ?Our Dear Dead Drug Lord (?WP Theater, Second Stage, by special arrangement with Benjamin Simpson and Joseph Longthorne)

  • Mikhail Fiksel: Sound Design, ?Dana H. ?(Vineyard Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Center Theatre Group) and ?Cambodian Rock Band (?Signature Theatre Company)

  • Andrea Hood: Costume Design with Public Works (The Public Theater)

  • Arnulfo Maldonado for Sustained Excellence in Set Design

  • Jen Schriever for Sustained Excellence in Lighting Design

Special Citation

  • Creative Team and Ensemble of A Strange Loop
  • Creative Team and Ensemble of Heroes of the Fourth Turning
  • David Cale for the writing and performance of We’re Only Alive For a Short Time (The Public Theater)
  • David Neumann and Marcella Murray for the creation and performance of Distances Smaller Than This Are Not Confirmed (Advanced Beginner Group, Abrons Arts Center, Chocolate Factory Theater, Mabou Mines)
  • Dave Malloy, Or Matias, and Hidenori Nakajo for their collaboration on the music and sound of Octet (Signature Theatre)
  • Tina Satter for the conception and direction of Is This a Room (Vineyard Theatre)
  • Alexandria Wailes for Sustained Excellence as an Artist and Advocate
  • AAPAC (Asian American Performers Action Coalition) for advocacy in the field of equity, diversity, and inclusion

Institutional Recognition

  • National Black Theatre for Sustained Excellence in Production and continued Advocacy on behalf of Black Artists.
  • Page 73 for Providing Extraordinary Support for Early Career Playwrights
  • The Tank for Providing Extraordinary Support for Emerging Artists