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African-American Plays Staged for DVD Debut

15 Jun, 2005 By: Dan Bennett

The works of African-American playwrights arrive on DVD next month through a new, ambitious theater-to-DVD series from UrbanWorks Entertainment.

In partnership with NCAA-award-winning playwright David E. Talbert, UrbanWorks has launched the “Soul Theatre Series” DVD brand. Numerous inspirational stage plays by Talbert and other leading African-American playwrights, such as Angela Barrow and Michael Matthews, will be filmed especially for the DVD series.

The Talbert-penned plays The Fabric of a Man and He Say … She Say … But What Does God Say? kick off the series July 26. Following Oct. 25 is Love on Layaway. Future releases include Love Makes Things Happen, What Goes Around Comes Around and A Fool and His Money.

“We felt like it was time to put these plays on DVD,” said UrbanWorks Entertainment director of marketing Brett Dismuke. “So many people wanted to take these plays home with them, but of course they weren't able to do that. Now they will have the opportunity.”

The idea for the series arrived in part, Dismuke said, from the success of numerous gospel and faith-themed plays, films, books and television series featuring African-American characters and talent, such as Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Woman Thou Art Loosed.

UrbanWorks is staging the plays for one-week runs at various Los Angeles theaters for taping by eight cameras in Dolby Digital 5.1. Following the release of the first two titles, subsequent titles will be shot in high definition. Though the plays have all been staged before, UrbanWorks and Talbert have recast them in some cases, using well-known African-American actors and singers, including Clifton Powell, Darren DeWitt Henson and Alexander O'Neal.

“So many times in the past, plays were shot using one camera, and you don't necessarily get the feel of a stage look that's desired,” Dismuke said. “This series will bring the quality of filming a stage play to a new level. And getting the right cast is key. We want to have names on stage, so that consumers can follow not only the storylines, but some of their favorite actors and singers.”

Marketing, Dismuke said, will focus not only on gospel-audience markets, but also on mainstream African-American adult markets.

“We'll send out thousands of trailers to subscribers of Gospel Truth magazine,” Dismuke said. “We'll also target a lot of faith-based conventions and events.”

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