Posted in Black History Month, tributes

Short Bios for Black History Month

carribean woman

Dear Readers,

I want to do some illustrated short pieces for Black History Month-I hope you enjoy these.

Today’s bio is on Ellen Stewart, founder and director of La Mama Experimental Theater Club & off-Broadway theatre. She was born in 1919 in Alexandria, Louisiana. When she came to New York to study fashion, she was hired by Saks to run the elevators, “the highest position a colored person could get.” Later when she became a designer, whites wouldn’t work with her because they couldn’t stand to have an African-American boss. It was Jewish women who had survived the Holocaust who worked with her, and for her, as designers.

Stewart brought a new focus to the actors themselves as catalysts and performers; it was the people who made the vibrational essence of the play.  She shared, “I’m interested in the person. If the person beeps, we do it.” She was radical and influential-so much so that African-Americans rejected her because she didn’t focus solely on black culture. “La Mama was boycotted by blacks because I was not a black theater. My life was threatened. I think our public is about five per cent black after twenty-five years.” The Syrians LOVED LaMama, and Stewart eventually decided to move out of the US. She relocated to Italy.

Stewart seemed fearless when she said, “I get invited to fly my broom to all kinds of places to be with people to create, to make workshops.”

She died in 2011 at the age of 91.

Long live creative people!