The African Continuum Theater Company was founded in 1989 as the African Continuum Theater Coalition with the mission to assist African American community theaters in Washington DC to improve the quality and visibility of their work. The organization transitioned to a full theater company in 1995 and began producing professional-caliber plays with an African American perspective. ACTCo produced dozens of fully staged productions and hosted numerous public staged readings of new works by playwrights of color. After serving its community for a quarter of a century, ACTCo officially closed its doors in 2015. The ACTCo Collection consists of business and administrative records, press materials, performance recordings, photographs, prompt books, scenic art, and other organizational documents outlining its history.
This collection is opern for research use. Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Contact the curator for an appointment: http://www.lib.umd.edu/scpa/contact
Some files are restricted due to personally identifiable information. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder. Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff. Contact the curator for more information at www.lib.umd.edu/scpa/contact.
36.75 Linear Feet
The African Continuum Theatre Company records cover the period of 1980 to 2012, with the bulk of the documents dating from 1990 to 2009. The records consist of business, administrative and financial records outlining the activities of the organization, including records from Chair of the Board of Directors, Rubie Coles. There are also numerous press materials relating to most of the productions. Production documents include stage manager binders and prompt books, rehearsal notes, recordings, box office statistics, and audience feedback. There are some photographs, scenic art drawings and lighting plots, though most are not labeled or dated. Other memorabilia include two Helen Hayes Award medals, posters, and many performance programs.
The African Continuum Theater Company (ACTCo) was founded in 1989 under a slightly different name: The African Continuum Theater Coalition. The intent of the original organization was to be "a coalition of theatre professionals, organizations, and advocates dedicated to strengthening and giving visibility to Black theatre in the nation's capital." The mission statement goes on to further state "The Coalition collaborates on activities and initiatives that will increase its ability to serve and involve the community, promote awareness, and create a supportive working environment." After their fifth anniversary in 1994, the board of directors began to transition the organization into a full-fledged theater company. This expansion of the organization's focus is reflected in the name change from Coalition to Company. The mission of the organization fundamentally stayed the same.
The Company fulfilled its mission in a number of ways. Since 1995, ACTCo produced dozens of fully staged plays, including seven world premieres. ACTCo also produced a staged reading series that featured new works by playwrights of color. The Fresh Flavas festival was a large part of the success of this program. ACTCo also reached out into the community through its Back on the Block (BOBCo) program, school workshop programs, and touring companies.
Over a dozen of these productions earned nominations by theatre Washington for a Helen Hayes Award. Three productions won the Helen Hayes Award: Torn from the Headlines in the 1995-1996 season, Spunk in the 2000-2001 season, and Two Trains Running in the 2004-2005 season. Two of the medals awarded are part of this archive. The company has been recognized for its achievements by the DC Theater Scene Audience Choice Award, the Mayor's Arts Award and the Washington Post Award for Distinguished Service to the Community among others.
Many stages throughout Washington DC have hosted ACTCo productions, including the Kennedy Center and Ford's Theatre. Beginning in 2006 the company became a resident of Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street. Collaborative partners included Ford's Theatre, the University of Maryland, Adventure Theater-MTC, and Washington Shakespeare Company.
After serving its community for a quarter of a century, ACTCo officially closed its doors in 2015.
The collection is arranged into seven record groups. The first group contains all documents related to ACTCo's time as the African Continuum Theater Coalition. The second group consists documents pertaining to the African Continuum Theater Company Board of Directors. The third group contains African Continuum Theater Company administrative documents from the period after they switched from a coalition to a company. The fourth is the largest record group and contains all production documentation. This includes stage manager binders and prompt books, technical information and drawings, production contracts, press materials, box office information, audience feedback, memorabilia, photographs, and other related materials. The fifth group contains performance recordings, posters, and computer files. The sixth group contains documents related to obtaining financial grants and donations. The seventh group consists of materials donated by the Chair of the Board of Directors, Rubie Coles. Each record group is arranged mostly chronologically by year. In the fourth group files are further arranged so that most identifiable production documents are grouped together.
JoAnn Williams, a former Executive Director for the company, made the first gift of records 29 April 2009. Ms. Williams contributed four accruals in June 2009, July 2009, May 2012, and August 2012. Regrettably, no further accruals were made following changes in leadership during the final years of the company. At the present the records covering September 2012 until the company's closure in fall 2015 remain unaccounted for. Record group 7 was acquired in July 2019, a gift from long-time ACTCo board member and eventual Chair, Rubie Coles.
This collection has been received in multiple accessions. All documents have been kept in the original order as received to the greatest extent possible.
Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library