In the wake of recent concerns & hardline press attention, supporters & critics alike have wondered if Harlem’s National Black Theatre, spearheaded by the late great Doctor Barbara Ann Teer, will be able to make it through the tough economic climate so many artistic establishments are facing. A home for countless milestones in the New York cultural & politico-social scene, NBT has presented to the world a unique & inspiring genus of consciously themed plays, classes, galas, seminars, religious services, music, art, and various other aesthetically provocative events. Like countless other places of similar ilk, the theatre has pressing choices to make if it is to keep open its doors for the public to access its rich history and indelible contributions to the region, and, indeed, the world. However, there is a new bright spot in the sometimes nebulous area of such matters, and it can be found in a monthly performance series that is barely past its two-year mark, but is already making waves in the community.
The idea for the Fertile Ground; New Music & Art series came about in the Fall of 2009, when a group of producers & performers affiliated with the theatre got together and decided to start a new artists’ showcase. While there are already dozens of well-advertised showcase events taking place in Manhattan, one of the major reasons behind their idea came from a common realization: a lack of platforms for artists to truly take their songs, poems, spoken word, hip-hop verses, and other creative ideas and present them to an audience for the first time, in a safe, non-judgmental space, with access to a live professional band, without having to worry about the expense of hiring one. With this in mind, and after some more planning, “Fertile Ground” debuted in October of 2009.
“Fertile Ground” is a novel display of fresh talent and new faces. In a town where so much music & art is going on, it’s not surprising to see some of the same people up on various stages; with F.G. many of the artists are local and still in development. The audience has a chance to see tomorrow’s creators at the beginning of their journey to artistic achievement. Hosted by singer/songwriter & co-creator Olamide Faison (formerly of R&B Group Imajin), the show’s band is headed by brilliant musician/producer & industry veteran Bert Price (Imajin, Kenny Thomas), and includes some of New York City’s most accomplished players.
Since it’s debut, Fertile Ground has witnessed some of the Arts Community’s most talented performers bless its stage. From music theatre veteran Kevin Anthony (Grease, Dreamgirls, Nat’l Tour), to legendary saxophonist & producer V. Jeffrey Smith (Paula Abdul, Darryl Hall, Des’ree), to Educator & Award-winning composer/singer Sara Holtzschue (ASCAPlus Award, 3yrs), the list of seasoned creative minds cosigning this monthly event continues to grow at an exponential rate. These incomparable creators have been gracious enough to share that stage with newer artists (ex: Nisha Asnani, Mr. Reed, Pauline Pisano, Neon Dynamite) who are themselves some of the Tri-State area’s brightest & best.
Through NBT’s Communication Arts Program, the generosity of its directors Shirley Faison & Nabii Faison, and the hard work of executive producer Jackie Jeffries, Fertile Ground continues to draw in both new performers from all genres, and new audience members seeking that ‘special something’ they have been craving from other shows. It perpetuates the light & inspiration that are at the heart of Dr. Teer’s vision when she set about creating & cultivating the National Black Theatre. And its adherents work tirelessly in the hopes of maintaining the level of artistic & creative excellence put forth by the generations of events & performances that have come before it in the same space.
In times like these, it can be argued that such hope & excellence are all we can ask for, but hope, when combined with determination, can put forth some amazing outcomes.
Fertile Ground happens every 2nd Thursday of the month at NBT.
Tickets are $10 – http://fertilegroundnyc.eventbrite.com/
Their official site is: http://fertilegroundnyc.tumblr.com/