Pittsburgh Playwrights’ ‘Savior Samuel’ Heads to the 2022 National Black Theater Festival

By Sharon Eberson

Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company will present Mark Clayton Southers’ Savior Samuel at the “world’s largest event in Black theater,” the National Black Theatre Festival, during the first week of August. 

Among the honorees at the biennial festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., is Pittsburgh native Vivian Reed, who will receive the Living Legend award, along with Wilsonian actor Stephen McKinley Henderson, Charles Dumas, and Lundeana M. Thomas. Ben Vereen will receive the Sidney Poitier Lifetime Achievement Award.

The festival will be held Aug. 1-6 after a postponement last year due to COVID-19.

“Billed as the world’s largest event in Black theater, the festival had over 60,000 attendees when it was last held in 2019 and expected to have a similar number of attendees this year,” reported the Winston-Salem Journal.

Jonathan Berry, Wali Jamal and Aaliyah Sanders in Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre’s 2019 production of Savior Samuel. (Mark Clayton Southers photo)

In 2019, Pittsburgh Playwrights produced Savior Samuel, the second of Southers’ plays exploring lives and themes of African-American life in the 19th century, at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Arts Education Center. It is the story of an African-American family trying to survive in the Midwest in 1877, when an unexplained event changes their lives and the lives of those in their orbit. Deaf actress  Aaliyah Sanders of Pittsburgh played the pivotal role of Essie in the production.

Two-time Tony Award-nominee Reed, a singer, actress, and clothing designer, began her career on Broadway and toured the world in the revue Bubbling Brown Sugar. Among her many stage and screen credits, she portrayed Lena Horne in a More Than A Song with the Pittsburgh Ballet Company, and, in 2017, she launched a series of New York City concerts celebrating Horne to mark the 100th anniversary of her birth.

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