American Negro Theater

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The American Negro Theater (ANT) was formed in Harlem on June 5, 1940 by writer Abram Hill and actor Frederick O'Neal. It produced 19 plays before closing in 1949. Designed as a community theater group, performances were held in Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In 1942, ANT began its Studio Theatre training program for beginning actors. Graduates include Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte.

Its most successful production, Anna Lucasta, fundamentally transformed the ANT. A white author, Phillip Yordan, wrote the play about a Polish family, but could not find a company to perform it. So he rewrote it to feature a black family. It was performed by the ANT in 1944. Five weeks later the play opened on Broadway. The ANT received few royalties and the next three ANT plays to appear on Broadway were not successful. Despite this, following the success of Anna Lucasta the ANT became less community-centered. From then on, the ANT only featured plays from established white playwrights, and young actors viewed the ANT as a means to break into Broadway productions.