Coalition of Theatres of Color salutes Arthur French

From left, Woodie King, Fred Simmons, Assemblyman William Scarborough, Senator Shirley Huntley, Carl Clay, founder and executive director, Black Spectrum Theatre, honoree Arthur French, Ted Lange, actor “Isaac the Bartender” from “Loveboat” and Councilman Leroy Comrie.
Photo by Juliet Kaye
Photo by Juliet Kaye

The Coalition of Theatres of Color (CTC) honored award winning actor-director Arthur French with a Lifetime Achievement Award to commemorate his 50-year distinguished career in theatre, television and film at a special tribute hosted by actor Ted Lange on May 19 at Black Spectrum Theatre, 119-07 Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica, Queens.

Ted Lange, known as “Isaac Washington, the bartender” on television’s Love Boat presented the award. Recently, Lange performed in Harlem as Elijah Muhammad in a revival of “When the Chickens Came Home to Roost,” produced by New Heritage Theatre.

Arthur French, one of the founding actors of the Negro Ensemble Company, holds an Obie Award for “Sustained Excellence of Performance,” an Off-Broadway Lucille Lortel Award for August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running’ and several AUDELCO Awards, including Best Director for his direction of the Harlem revival of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

For more than 20 years, French has been a board member of Black Spectrum Theatre, which is under the direction of Carl Clay, its founder and executive director. French’s entertainment career spans key roles on Broadway, television and film.

His major NewYork stage work includes: Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Soldier’s Play,” August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom;” Melvin Van Peebles’ “Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death,” “You Can’t Take It With You” with Jason Robards, Horton Foote’s play “Dividing the Estate” with Elizabeth Ashley and “The Iceman Cometh” with James Earl Jones.

French has worked with George C. Scott in several theatre productions such as “All God’s Chillun Got Wings,” “Design for Living” and “Death of a Salesman”. His extensive film credits include “Car Wash,” “Crooklyn,” “Malcolm X,” “Kinsey” and “Three Days of the Condor.” He’s also appeared in dozens of television shows including: Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, and Nurse Jackie.

“The Coalition of Theatres of Color is proud to honor Arthur French,” said acclaimed Woodie King, chairman, CTC and the founder and producing director, New Federal Theatre. “Arthur French is a brilliant actor. He embodies all the attributes necessary to work, teach and direct in the American theatre. That is why he was a founding member of the legendary Negro Ensemble Company in the 1960s; why he continues to play leading roles on Broadway and direct all over New York.”

Carl Clay, founder and executive director of Black Spectrum Theatre, said, “Arthur French is an acting legend with heart, soul and plenty of humility to go with it. As a board member of Black Spectrum Theatre for over two decades, he has watched his two children grow up in our acting program at Black Spectrum.”

His commitment to the theatre community is huge and his dedication to his craft is without question exemplary. He’s done it all over his close to 50-year career, which includes Broadway, Hollywood, soap operas, major TV commercials, and sitcoms, his success in major commercial stage, screen and TV roles.

Yet, it has never kept him away from working in community theatres like The H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players, New Federal Theatre, Black Spectrum or training actors at HB Studios and being a mentor and support system for thousands of up and coming actors. Mr. French is a first class act and we are proud to salute the man, his talent and his dedication to craft with a Life Time Achievement Award as an acting icon.”

In addition, the press conference featured the announcement of Black Spectrum Theatre’s upcoming charter middle school, Spectrum Charter School for the Performing Arts and Media Technology, dedicated to teaching the performing arts to youth in Queens. Carl Clay emphasized the importance of education. “Education is the fuel we must all fill up on in order to reach our most distant dreams,” he said.

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