The Black Theatre Troupe, Inc. has been providing training, employment and performance opportunities for multi-ethnic and under-served artists since 1970 and acts to make significant contributions toward fostering the arts, specifically theater, within the State of Arizona. It operates to enhance the cultural and artistic awareness of the community by providing productions that illuminate the African-American experience and culture. It is our purpose and mission to educate, enlighten, and entertain a diverse, multi-cultural audience by using local, regional and national talent with the emphasis on providing exposure to black culture and ideology.
On February 1, 2013 BTT celebrated the opening of their new home in downtown Phoenix, The Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center.
With a mission of educating and entertaining a diverse community, with an emphasis on people of color, the Black Theatre Troupe (BTT) was born out of a need to serve the community during racial tensions in the 1970s. In an effort to give voice to people of color and avert impending racial unrest, Helen Katherine Mason, a city of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Deputy Manager, started a series of open-door community forums at Eastlake Park, where opinions and frustrations could be expressed in poetry and improvisations.
From those proud but humble beginnings, the Black Theatre Troupe was formed and is now a highly recognized professional company that continues to be an important part of the cultural fabric of Phoenix. During its fledgling years the company performed in several city facilities before getting its first home in 1976. One of the most important facilities that the City of Phoenix provided during those times was a meeting room at Eastlake Park in downtown Phoenix. Eastlake Park has served the inhabitants of Phoenix since the late 1880s. Originally known as Patton’s Park, it was developed by the Phoenix Railway Company to serve as a recreational area for the white patrons of the city’s trolley system. The park eventually became a place where people of all races could meet to relax and celebrate special events without violating separatist laws which existed in the nation and state during the first half of the 20th century.
After moving from that community room at Eastlake Park the company used various locations in the city, until 1983 when they purchased the historic Temple Beth Hebrew Synagogue in downtown Phoenix, in the heart of what is now the Roosevelt Row District. After an electrical fire in 2001, the company again used multiple facilities. In 2006, a city of Phoenix Bond Election awarded the company $2.5 million for a new home.
On February 1, 2013, after a long and successful capital campaign to raise additional funds, BTT celebrated the opening of their new home, The Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center. This new state of the art facility is located at Washington and 14th Street in downtown Phoenix – exactly two blocks from where it all began: the historic Eastlake Park.