Ujima Theatre has happily announced that they will reopen their performance venue theatre at 429 Plymouth Avenue in October 2021 with live performances for audience members. There will be a dedication ceremony on opening night to rename the theatre the “Lorna C. Hill” Theatre. And in July, Ujima will announce their 21-22 season of 4 plays with guest directors, and Ujima’s first full season in their new space.
“As a collective we took the past year to be present in the “once in a lifetime” organizational transition to a future absent of a founder. As background, in the 1970’s there were 300 black led theatres in the United States. Now there are 100. Founded in 78, Ujima qualifies as a long-time organizational survivor of scarcity budgets for black led nonprofit theatres. This theatre company is a very big deal and very important to many people! We did not feel the need to rush our decisions, “says Margaret M. Smith, Ujima Company Managing Director.
As a priority, the Board of Directors, Staff and Company Members have engaged in completing a three (3) year Strategic Plan, begun by Lorna C. Hill with the counsel of Creative Consultant, Debora Ott. That mantle was picked up and is nearing completion as originally intended. Work has begun on a plan for the Lorna C. Hill archives possibly with Buffalo State College. In addition, a relationship has been established between the collective and Dartmouth College’s Lorna C Hill Legacy Committee. Lorna was the first woman to graduate from Dartmouth and they wish to honor and preserve that LCH Legacy.
Ujima Company is one of the few theatres in the country to receive funding from a first-time initiative called The Black Seed, exclusively for black led theatres. This past year, with donors and funders stepping up, allowed Ujima to absorb the change internally and reorganize administratively to best practices. In addition to Ujima’s pivot to a virtual performing art season during the pandemic, a pivot was imposed unexpectedly organization-wide to replace the everyday decision making of the company’s Founder and Artistic Director. “We are still learning how to listen to Lorna retrospectively.” says Maria Ta, Program Director
Work will begin this summer to complete the capital campaign work that was halted by COVID which includes a build out of the Tech Booth, and completion of costume areas and dressing rooms. The donor wall for the successfully completed capital campaign will be installed this summer along with a mural of Lorna in the hallway outside the theatre. Plans are being made to begin a search for a new Artistic Director. The formal search committee once formed will announce what the public process will be. All activities of this committee will be shared with the public.
Lorna’s Celebration of Life will be held this fall to coincide with the re-opening of WNY theatres and the return of in person audiences. Details to follow soon. Sarah Norat-Phillips continues as interim Artistic Director, with additional support provided by the Artistic Advisory Committee of Stephen McKinley Henderson, Ron OJ Parsons, Alexis De Veaux, Gary Earl Ross and Daniel Croix. Margaret M. Smith is the Managing Director and Maria Ta is the Program Director. Currently company member and actor Brian Brown volunteers as the Marketing Coordinator. Staff may be contacted through the Ujima website.