Document Type

Case Study

Publication Date



Valerie Curtis-Newton; Vivian Phillips; Kurt Beattie; Reginald A. Jackson


Susan Kunimatsu


This research paper examines the early years in the life of The Hansberry Project, an African American theater lab in Seattle, Washington. Despite being the fifth whitest city in the United States, Seattle has seen bursts of important black theater during the 20th century. Theater in Seattle, as a whole, thrived towards the end of the century, but when the city’s economy faced hardship, so too did theaters and theater artists, particularly artists of color. By the end of the century, there was a dearth of diversity in Seattle’s theater scene and established theaters faced uncertain futures. In the midst of this crisis, a conversation between two theater leaders sparked the genesis of what would become The Hansberry Project. “Rooted in the convictions that black artists should be at the center of the artistic process, that the community deserves excellence in its art, and that theatre’s fundamental function is to put people in relationship to one another,” The Hansberry Project originated as a partnership with ACT Theatre, a historically white-led and white-focused major regional theater (The Hansberry Project website, n.d.). Over the next 17 years, the company would give voice to dozens of developing writers through workshops, commissions, and collaborations with theaters across the country, demonstrating how one theater has sustained and thrived in a challenging environment through a commitment to mission, innovation, and strategic collaboration.

Organization or Event

The Hansberry Project; A Contemporary Theatre (ACT)

Form of Entity


Area of Activity

Producer, Arts in Community Development, Arts in Social Justice, Services for Artists

Artistic Discipline

Theatre, Music, Dance