It’s hard to wrap 20 years of performances, songs, dances, scripts, applause, and tears into three nights but Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company is going to give it a go Nov. 11-13 at the Southwest Arts Center.

The nonprofit theater company was founded by its namesake – the former Alliance Theatre artistic director and now Tony Award-winning Broadway director – with a mission to tell Black stories by way of the stage.

Two decades later, Managing Director Chandra Stephens-Albright and Artistic Director Jamil Jude are running the show and are equally invested in continuing to tell those stories of pain and pleasure, losing and winning.

“It started as a way to center Black work, then evolved into Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company to honor his legacy,” said Stephens-Albright, who has been in her position with the company since 2017. 

Asked what it means to be celebrating two decades of art during a time of Amazon Prime, Netflix, and TikTok, Jude said it means a lot to everyone involved. “What it means for a Black arts organization is everything,” said Jude, who also joined the company in 2017 and was later promoted to artistic director in 2019. “Most of our organizations don’t live to see 20.”

There will be multiple celebrations in order to maximize the unique milestone. It is also a way to raise funds for future performances said Stephens-Albright. “Black arts institutions are seriously underfunded,” she said. “We are trying to encourage people to join our True Colors troupe in order to help sustain us.” The different tiers for memberships are listed on the True Colors website

The multiple performances – billed as “Cabaret and Fundraiser: 20 Years in 90 Minutes” – are also a way to demonstrate the versatility of the company. “It’s not just an organization that our best days are behind us,” he said. “There’s something special about a Black theater company in the Black Mecca.” 

The anniversary performances will be the same during all three days and will “Highlight what has been and what’s to come,” at the theater company, said Jude. 

Long Time Coming

The pandemic led to fewer shows from the company, so Jude and Stephens-Albright are hoping this anniversary celebration makes up for lost time. “We haven’t been on stage as much as I would like,” said Jude. “We like to put on shows and we felt like we couldn’t wrap that up in a single day.”

Stephens-Albright believes it has been a long time coming for a celebration of this size. “This is another example of innovation, another way to bring our brand of family to our guest with this gala,” she said. 

Jude expects the crowds in attendance to be fully engaged in the shows and for them to have a good time next month. “We’re going to have fun, a lot of people are going to be there,” he said. “True Colors has always been a place where we invite people to meet us where we are.” 

Individual tickets for the performances are $75 each and are available at truecolorstheatre.org .

Donnell Suggs

Donnell Suggs is an Atlanta-based journalist.