The 18th biennial International Black Theatre Festival rolls out the purple carpet July 29 - Aug. 3, 2024.
The world's most MARVTASTIC festival returns to Winston-Salem in 2024 with a new name and new look. Known for decades as the National Black Theatre Festival, the recently rebranded International Black Theatre Festival (IBTF) is set for July 29 - Aug. 3, 2024.
Held every two years in the summer months, the six-day festival will welcome more than 65,000 elite theatre-goers, transforming Winston-Salem into a mega-performing arts center with more than 100 performances on multiple stages. Theatre workshops, films, seminars, poetry slams, and a star-studded celebrity gala complement the performances, helping create one of America's biggest and best theatre festivals.
Aside from dozens of theatrical performances, the festival features a star-studded array of complementary events. This includes Youth Talent Showcase, International Colloquium, TeenTastic celebration, Midnight Poetry Jam, IBTF Film Fest, and the International Vendor's Market — which features vendors and crafts from every corner of the globe and live entertainment to add a little flair to your shopping experience. (Read more about the festival happenings here.)
PLAN YOUR VISIT NOW
Where to Stay - The headquarter hotel is the Marriott in Downtown Winston-Salem, conveniently connected to the Benton Convention Center. The nightly rate is $230 plus tax; Call 1-888-236-2427 and ask for the International Black Theatre Festival block.
A number of hotels in Winston-Salem offer special rates, bonus perks, and complimentary shuttle service for festival-goers. To see a list of participating partner hotels, CLICK HERE. Or, to view all local lodging options, click here.
Festival Schedule - While the festival schedule is still being finalized, details on performances, workshops, galas, and other events will be available in the coming months on the festival website.
Purchasing Tickets - Advance tickets may be purchased by calling the Festival box office at 336-723-7907. These tickets will be in the weeks prior to the festival or can be picked up at the Benton Convention Center. Tickets will also be available for purchase online at the IBTF website.
Getting Around - Treat yourself like a VIP and plan to ride the free shuttle, available from various locations downtown and selected hotels to get to the productions.
Late Night - Each night after the plays, social gatherings are held all over the city. Downtown streets and sidewalk cafes are filled with people and music. Celebrity receptions and jazz performances are held at the host hotel, and the Midnight Poetry Jam is a major attraction with overflow crowds.
Make Time - In addition to the performances, enjoy the myriad of cultural offerings in Winston-Salem. Such offerings include Old Salem Museums & Gardens, Reynolda, Delta Arts Center, and Diggs Gallery on the campus of Winston-Salem State University.
HISTORY OF THE INTERNATIONAL BLACK THEATRE FESTIVAL
Founded by the late Larry Leon Hamlin, the International Black Theatre Festival is a biennial event uniting Black theatre companies from around the world and ensuring the presence of this phenomenal genre. With the support of Dr. Maya Angelou, who served as the festival's first chairperson, the National Black Theatre Festival began with a bang in 1989. According to The New York Times, "The inaugural National Black Theatre Festival was one of the most historic and culturally significant events in the history of black theatre and American theatre in general." Hamlin himself described the inaugural event as only he could — "MARVTASTIC" — a term that continues to define the festival today.
In the years that followed, Winston-Salem's identity would be reshaped by the festival, as the city became known as "Black Theatre Holy Ground." For six days every other year, Winston-Salem became the center of the theatre universe, drawing more than 65,000 purple-clad theatre-lovers to town (a nod to Hamlin's favorite color). In addition to generating international acclaim, the festival has contributed more than $200 million to the local economy while bringing world-class theatre acts to town — just as Hamlin intended.
And while Hamlin was instrumental in growing the festival, it was his trailblazing wife, Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, who kept it going strong after his death in 2007, serving as the event's executive producer until her own death in 2022. The Hamlins' shared legacy now lives on in a festival that is equal parts welcoming, joyful, captivating, and fun. Their likeness also inspired the newly released logo for IBTF, as their profiles — melded together as one — are visible within the purple shield emblem.
The logo is also used by the festival's host organization, the North Carolina Black Repertory Company (aka, NC Black Rep), a groundbreaking performing arts organization Hamlin founded a decade before the National Black Theatre Festival. As the state's first professional Black theater company, NC Black Rep is committed to introducing diverse audiences to Black classics, the development and production of new works, improving artistic quality, and sustaining Black theatre internationally.
In addition to hosting the International Black Theatre Festival, NC Black Rep presents several productions annually featuring members of its ensemble or through collaborations with other theatre companies from around the country. The annual MLK Jr. Birthday Celebration and the holiday presentation of "Nativity According to the Gospels" (inspired by Langston Hughes' "Black Nativity") have become two of the company's staples. For more on the organization's 2023-24 performances or to purchase tickets to upcoming shows, go to NCBlackRep.org