Carl Clay—a playwright, director, and filmmaker—founded Black Spectrum Theatre Company as a traveling theatrical troupe in 1970. He is now its executive producer. Since that time, Black Spectrum has grown into a multifaceted performing arts and media company that has produced and presented over 150 plays, 30 films, and numerous works of music, dance, and performance art. Black Spectrum Theatre is the recipient of ten AUDELCO Awards and three National Black Theatre Festival Awards for excellence in African-American theatre.
Carl’s organization began in a church in 1970. From there we used the basements and homes of members and their parents. As we grew in sophistication, we performed along the eastern seaboard in colleges, churches (including Cornell & Albany State), countless festivals, and event venues (including Lincoln Center in NY).
Next, we moved into a storefront on Linden in Queens, NY. It was previously an abandoned drug store, and we converted it into a 100-seat theater venue. We were there from 1977–86. Following that, we renovated, converted, and assisted in the architectural design of what was previously an abandoned Navel hospital’s Officers’ Club that hadn’t been used since World War II. Today it is the Roy Wilkins Family Center, and the Black Spectrum Theater is inside the building.
In 1986, Black Spectrum moved into our own 325-seat, state-of-the-art theatre, located in a city-owned recreation complex in Roy Wilkins Park, just three miles south of downtown Jamaica, Queens. The theatre is equipped to double as a film and video studio. We maintain our administration offices, rehearsal space, and a small cabaret theatre within the complex as well. In addition to the executive producer, Black Spectrum employs four full-time staffers and six part-time workers, as well as many actors, writers, musicians, artists, and technicians.