Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Rosetta LeNoire-Champion of The Arts
Not long ago, a postcard arrived advertising a musical called "Sprang Thang"at the "Amas Musical Theater" in Greenwich Village. A closer inspection revealed that the theater had been founded in 1968 by none other than Rosetta LeNoire ,the consummate actress and social activist who spent many years in the Riverton.
LeNoire, whose incredible career spanned some seventy years, devoted most of her working life to the struggle for racial equity. At times her views placed her at odds with the powers that be, as the spectre of blacklisting loomed over those in the entertainment industry who dared to speak out during the McCarthy era.
The GodChild of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, she was born in 1911 and had her acting debut as a kabuki dancer in the 1939 production of "The Hot Mikado". While time and space do not permit an exhaustive examination of her career, it should be noted that LeNoire is best known to modern audiences for her work in television. She had regular roles on the series Gimme a Break, and Amen , and is most closely identified with her role as Estelle "Mother" Winslow on Family Matters
In 1968, using her own savings, Rosetta founded the AMAS Repertory Theater Company, an interracial theater dedicated to multi-ethnic productions in New York City. With this company, Rosetta created an artistic community where members' individual skills were recognized without regard to race, creed, color, religion, or national origin. She became a successful and groundbreaking Broadway producer developing, among other things,"Bubbbling Brown Sugar". The Actors Equity Association awarded her the first award for helping contribute to the diversification of theater casting; in 1988, the award was named the Rosetta LeNoire Award. Happy Fortieth Birthday to the "Amas Theater"!!!