Anthony Bean talks Gentilly site plans as summer shows come to close
In anticipation of Anthony Bean Community Theater’s final summer camp performances, the theater looks to raise $2 million to complete renovations on its new block-wide space on 3738 Paris Avenue, according to founder Anthony Bean.
Since stationing The Anthony Bean Community Theater Summer Performing Arts Camp at Southern University New Orleans, Bean said they have been primarily serving children coming from Gentilly, followed by New Orleans East and the West Bank.
“I lost my Uptown/Carrolton people, but I gained Gentilly,” Bean said. “I think what I’m impressed about with Gentilly is I’m going to a place where there was no theater, so I’m literally introducing them to the arts. That’s something exciting.”
Bean, winner of the Big Easy Theater Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theater, said dedication and a belief in what the theater does has been the factor that’s allowed him and his associates to thrive as they have now. He said he thinks his longevity comes from him being the only one doing this kind of theater work in the Southern region.
“I think if I was to say what keeps me going, it’s what you see around here–young people,” Bean said.
The Anthony Bean Theater commits itself to the youth by training those aged 7 to 17 in how to be producers, directors, scriptwriters, and how to appreciate the arts and use that to make one a better person.
This summer, the theater’s summer camp enrolled around 110 children. Bean said their numbers usually never dip below 50 and that he would like to particularly work with children from the Columbia Parc residential community in Gentilly.
“The problem with our [African American] representation in the arts and in anything is that we were never introduced to it,” Bean said.
Bean described how the African American community can redefine the art of acting, just like he said they have redefined music and dance.
“Only because we’re so dramatic–because things have happened so dramatic in this country that we put it into our music, our dance–we can do the same thing with acting,” Bean said.
Bean believes there’s a unique way one can teach a black child to act, and he said he’s currently trying to write a book for his definition on how to approach African American children with acting. Bean said he already incorporates this methodology, which uses an emotional connection with African American history, into his school, which is what makes the program special.
Bean’s plans for the new Gentilly site to include a dance studio, recording studio, and African American museum for New Orleans musicians. Bean said it’s going to be like a cultural center.
“This is something that I would like to leave behind. If there is a legacy, it would be that,” Bean said.
Other projects are on hold as the theater tries to raise the funds to operate in their own space, according to Bean.
The final weekend performances of “Ol’ Skool” and “Soulville” by The Anthony Bean Theater’s Summer Performing Arts Camp take place at 8 p.m. Aug. 4 and Aug. 5 and at 3 p.m. Aug. 6 at Southern University New Orleans, located at 6400 Press Drive. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children ages 12 years and under.