Douglas Turner Ward

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Douglas Turner Ward
Ward in the 2012 documentary, The Lion at Rest
Ward in the 2012 documentary, The Lion at Rest
BornRoosevelt Ward Jr.
(1930-05-05)May 5, 1930
Burnside, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedFebruary 20, 2021(2021-02-20) (aged 90)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
OccupationPlaywright, actor, director, theatrical producer
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
Period1959–2021
Notable awardsDrama Desk Award
Happy Ending and Day of Absence
Website
www.douglasturnerward.com

Douglas Turner Ward (May 5, 1930 – February 20, 2021) was an American playwright, actor, director, and theatrical producer. He was noted for being a founder and artistic director of the Negro Ensemble Company (NEC).[1] He was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play in 1974 for his role in The River Niger, which he also directed.

Early life[edit]

Ward was born Roosevelt Ward Jr. in Burnside, Louisiana, on May 5, 1930.[2] His parents, Roosevelt Ward and Dorothy (Short),[3] were poor farmers who also owned a tailoring business. They relocated to New Orleans when Ward was eight years old, and he went to Xavier University Preparatory School. He was accepted by Wilberforce University in 1946, before transferring to the University of Michigan. He majored in politics and theater, but dropped out of college at the age of 19 and relocated to New York City. There, he became friends with Lorraine Hansberry and Lonne Elder III.[2]

Ward became a member of the Progressive Party at the end of the 1940s and aligned himself on the left of the political spectrum. He was imprisoned in New Orleans while appealing his conviction for draft evasion. After his conviction was reversed, he returned to New York and worked as a reporter for the Daily Worker. Ward also joined the Paul Mann Actors Workshop to study theater. He subsequently adopted the stage name Douglas Turner Ward, a tribute to his two role models: Frederick Douglass and Nat Turner.[2]

Career[edit]

As an actor, Turner made one of his first performances in The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill in 1956, at the Circle in the Square Theatre.[2] Three years later, he made his Broadway debut in a small role in A Raisin in the Sun, alongside Sidney Poitier and Claudia McNeil.[2][4] His first significant artistic achievement would be as a playwright, however.

Happy Ending/Day of Absence, a program of two one-act plays, premiered at the St. Mark's Playhouse in Manhattan on November 15, 1965.[5][6] It ultimately ran for 504 performances over 15 months,[5] enduring through the 1966 transit strike.[2] That same year, Ward authored an opinion piece in The New York Times titled "American Theater: For Whites Only?"[2] The piece garnered a grant from W. McNeil Lowry of the Ford Foundation.[2] He later received his first Drama Desk Award for outstanding new playwright.[2][5]

Ward was one of the founders of the Negro Ensemble Company in 1967, and served for many years as its artistic director. It notably produced The River Niger (1972), which won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1974 and was adapted as a film of the same name two years later. Ward himself acted in and directed that play, receiving a nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play. The company also produced Home (1979) by Samm-Art Williams and A Soldier's Play (1981) by Charles Fuller. The latter won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was adapted into the film A Soldier's Story.[2]

Ward was enshrined into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1996. He was also conferred the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award. He published The Haitian Chronicles in March 2020, having worked on the three-play series for around four decades. He viewed the series, which focused on the Haitian Revolution, as his magnum opus and intended to have it staged by NEC alumni.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Ward married Diana Powell Ward in 1966.[2] Together, they had two children: Elizabeth Ward–Cuprill[7] and Douglas Powell Ward.[2]

Ward died on February 20, 2021, at his home in Manhattan. He was 90.[2]

Selected credits[edit]

Theatre[edit]

Directing[edit]

Year Production Theatre(s) Notes
1982 A Soldier's Play[8] Lucille Lortel Theatre Drama Desk Award nomination[6]
1980 Zooman and the Sign[9] Theatre Four
1979 Home[10][11] St. Mark's Playhouse
1975 The First Breeze of Summer[12] St. Mark's Playhouse
1972 The River Niger[13] St. Mark's Playhouse
1970 Day of Absence[14] St. Mark's Playhouse Part of a program of two one-act plays with Brotherhood
Brotherhood[14] St. Mark's Playhouse Part of a program of two one-act plays with Day of Absence
1968 Daddy Goodness[15] St. Mark's Playhouse

Writing[edit]

Year Production Theatre(s) Notes
1983 The Redeemer[16] Theatre Four Part of a program of three one-act plays, entitled About Heaven and Earth
1970 Day of Absence[14] St. Mark's Playhouse Part of a program of two one-act plays with Brotherhood
Brotherhood[14] St. Mark's Playhouse Part of a program of two one-act plays with Day of Absence
1969 The Reckoning[17] St. Mark's Playhouse
1965 Day of Absence[18] St. Mark's Playhouse Part of a program of two one-act plays with Happy Ending
Happy Ending[18] St. Mark's Playhouse Part of a program of two one-act plays with Day of Absence

Acting[edit]

Year Production Role Theatre(s) Notes
1983 Tigus[16] Tigus Theatre Four Part of a program of three one-act plays, entitled About Heaven and Earth
1975 The First Breeze of Summer[12] Harper Edwards St. Mark's Playhouse
1972 The River Niger[19][20][21] Johnny Williams St. Mark's Playhouse[19]
Brooks Atkinson Theatre[20][21]
Obie Award, Distinguished Performance[19]
Tony Award nomination, Best Featured Actor in a Play[20]
1969 Ceremonies in Dark Old Men[22] Mr. Russell B. Parker St. Mark's Playhouse Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Performance[6]
1959 A Raisin in the Sun[4] Moving Man
Bobo (understudy)
Walter Lee Younger (understudy)
Ethel Barrymore Theatre
Belasco Theatre

Awards and nominations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lopez, Oscar (January 4, 2016). "Fighting with Guerrilla Theater After the Death of Eric Garner". Newsweek. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Nesmith, Nathaniel G. (February 22, 2021). "Douglas Turner Ward, Pioneer in Black Theater, Dies at 90". The New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  3. ^ "Douglas Turner Ward Chronology". The Douglas Turner Ward Quarterly. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "A Raisin in the Sun". New York, New York: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved December 3, 2009.
  5. ^ a b c "Happy Ending/Day of Absence". New York, New York: Lortel Archives:The Internet off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on September 13, 2007. Retrieved December 3, 2009.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Douglas Turner Ward". New York, New York: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved December 3, 2009.
  7. ^ "Weddings; Elizabeth Ward, Manuel Cuprill Jr". The New York Times. July 19, 1998. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  8. ^ "A Soldier's Play". New York, New York: Lortel Archives:Internet off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on January 6, 2005. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  9. ^ "Zooman and the Sign". New York, New York: Lortel Archives:Internet off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on September 17, 2007. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  10. ^ "Home". New York, New York: Lortel Archives:Internet off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  11. ^ "Home – Theatre Four — Cort Theatre". New York, New York: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  12. ^ a b "The First Breeze of Summer". New York, New York: Lortel Archives:Internet off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on October 2, 2007. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  13. ^ "The River Niger". New York, New York: Lortel Archives:Internet off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on October 2, 2007. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  14. ^ a b c d "Happy Ending/Day of Absence". New York, New York: Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  15. ^ "Daddy Goodness". New York, New York: Lortel Archives:Internet off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  16. ^ a b "About Heaven and Earth". New York, New York: Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  17. ^ "The Reckoning". New York, New York: Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  18. ^ a b "Happy Ending/Day of Absence". New York, New York: Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on September 13, 2007. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  19. ^ a b c "The River Niger". New York, New York: Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on October 2, 2007. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  20. ^ a b c "The River Niger". United States: Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  21. ^ a b "The River Niger". United States: Internet Theatre Database. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  22. ^ "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men". New York, New York: Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on August 12, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  23. ^ Genzlinger, Neil, Gerald Krone, 86, Founder Of Negro Theater Troupe Dies at 86, The New York Times, New York Edition, Section D, Page 6, March 9,

External links[edit]