John Beasley Theatre / LaFern Williams Centerstage
Located at the corner of 30th and R, the South Omaha Community YMCA has been the home for both the Center Stage Theatre company and the John Beasley Theatre
Research compiled by Ben A., Glenasha W., and Celine H.
The Afro Academy of Dramatic Arts was a program that developed a black cultural arts center for Omaha. They taught African Americans music, dance, art, theatre, and creative writing as a way to nurture a sense of pride within the African American community of Omaha. This was to show Omaha a more honest Black identity and allow African Americans to define themselves.
Harry Eure, along with his brother Daryl, started the Afro Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1969. Daryl was a student at Central High School. As a college junior, Harry wanted to give African American artists a chance to showcase their work. Harry and others wanted to get rid of stereotypes by telling stories about human tragedies that transcended racial boundaries. Some of the plays they performed were “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men", “Rose Red” (instead of “Snow White”), and “A Raisin in the Sun.”
Bill Davis was an achiever in making a theatrical outlet for
African Americans and other minorities. He Founded Center Stage in the
October of 1980. They performed shows such as the “West Side Story”,
which they changed from Puerto Ricans vs. Whites to Blacks vs. Whites.
Sadly, because of the lack of money and commercial advertising, the
theatre was shut down, but it was later opened again by John Beasley.
John Beasley is a famous, local actor, who re-opened Center Stage Theatre, renaming it the John Beasley Theatre, in November of 2000. He has maintained the same mission as Center Stage; present shows that everyone could relate to. Beasley greatly admires the playwright August Wilson who wrote a series of plays focusing on each decade of the 20th Century and the African American experience. They even have performed “Ain't Misbehavin'”again, which was a success. He has numerous classes and workshops for actresses and actors. This is very important because he brought back an award winning tradition.
"The stereotypes that white projected were the reason why a lot of Blacks wanted to become REAL performers... I now want to be, and do way more in my 'drama' life because of the struggles Black actors went through years ago."