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Spotlight: Black Spectrum Theater Founder Carl Clay



“I offer my shoulder for the new generation of Artist to stand on, as I have stood on the shoulders of my Ancestors and Mentors!” ― Carl Clay, Founder

Founded initially as a traveling theater company in 1970 by playwright, director and filmmaker Carl Clay, Black Spectrum Theatre today produces theater, film and video works which examine issues of concern to African-American, Caribbean-American and Latino populations.  The 325-seat theater space also doubles as a film/video studio. The complex also contains rehearsal spaces and a small cabaret theater.  If that’s not enough, programs for children include the Youth Theater Company, the Children’s Theater Company and the Summer Theater Camp. 

Let’s learn more about Carl Clay!


Carl Clay has produced over 350 plays, trained over 2000 actors, and has written and directed 25 films aimed at Urban Youth.  For nearly three decades, Black Spectrum Theatre’s founder has been a multi-discipline success story, having parlayed his creative talents into award-winning platforms from film and theater to music and community activism. As both founder and executive producer of the New York based theatre, he has produced critically acclaimed presentations nationally. One such notable production, August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson,” garnered him the Larry Leon Hamlin Producer of the Year Award in 2003 at the National Black Theatre Festival. In the film arena, his motion pictures and videos have gained legions of fans via national and international TV broadcast and film festivals. After working as a ticket sales manager for iconic filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, Clay made his debut in Peebles’ mainstream film, “Greased Lightning” with Richard Pryor, Pam Grier, and Bo Bridges. Other luminaries in the film industry that have facilitated broader opportunities for Clay include Preston Holmes, one of Spike Lee’s recurrent producers, and others firmly footed in both indie and Hollywood movie making.

When it comes to music, Clay’s lyrics and songs have not only laced movie soundtracks like the 70’s hit “Coffy” starring Pam Grier; hit makers such as Black Rob, & Ludicrous have sampled them. He is currently working on five albums, while providing songs for Jazz Fusion artists including legends Roy Ayers and also Norman Connors—who Clay joins as a producer on Connor’s upcoming 207 Jazz CD due in 2017. Recognized and awarded as a multi-talented and creative force; Clay has produced over 350 plays, trained over 2000 actors, and has written and directed 25 films aimed at Urban Youth. He’s produced over 40 jazz concerts with such artist as Roy Ayers, Roberta Flack, John Lucian, Freddie Hubbard, Lonnie Liston Smith, Paul Mooney, and Dick Gregory. His creative platforms have helped launched the careers of such notables as Lisa Carson (“Ally McBeal Show”) in her first feature film, Desiree Coleman (“Mama I Want To Sing”), Carlease Burke (2016 NBC sitcom “Crowded”), Debra Burrell Cleveland (original Broadway lead in “Dream Girls”), David Baptist (WB Network), and Byron Mims (August Wilson’s “Fences” on Broadway).

Clay’s work as a playwright/producer filmmaker/lyricist continuously receives recognition, such the AUDELCO AWARD for Producer of the Year with his “Deadwood Dick Legend of the West” and nomination as a writer for “The Healing Zone,” “Kingfish Amos & Andy” and “Timeless”. Citations as a songwriter include an ASCAP Music Lyricist Award for his songs in the motion picture “Coffey”, as well as 1st place Lyricist Award in the Annual Women’s Media for the ABC-TV special “Turkey Treasure”. He also received a National Library Association Award for his groundbreaking film “Babies Making Babies” and an International Film and TV Festival Bronze Metal Award for “The Follower” and “Clear Vision,” two films about male responsibility in teen pregnancy. In 2000 and 2001, his films “Urban Encounters (What to Do If You Get Stopped By the Police)” and “Justice is Done” were given National Black Programming PBS Awards for outstanding youth programming. Clay has been the recipient of numerous city, state, and civic citations for outstanding professional achievement. In acknowledgement of his social marketing skills, he received the 1999 Community Enterprise Award for Community Spirit by the City of New York.


Other advocacy involves serving as volunteer for the National March of Dimes, The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, The New York City Teen Pregnancy Task Force, Operation Read Aloud, and The American Health Foundation. As well, he is a member of the Los Angeles IATSE Union, and a Prince Hall Mason. In 2012, Clay released his first book entitled “Poor-ducing Theatre & Film” distributed by Black Currant Press and picked up by Barnes & Noble Bookstores. A strong advocate of educational empowerment for the youth, Clay himself is an avid scholar, furthering his New York based primary studies at Pace University in Education and Management, Brooklyn College Graduate School in Theatre & TV Directing, Third World Cinema, Rockport International TV & Film Academy, and Colombia University School for Non-profit Management. With his training, Clay has successfully managed over five million dollars of capital improvements to Black Spectrum Theatre in Roy Wilkins Park. In 2015, he engineered the launch of Black Spectrum’s E-Cap (performing arts after school program).

Clay credits his success on having stood on the shoulders of his belated parents and mentors, as well as the continued support of his wife, family, and friends. Current endeavors include a full roster of stage productions beginning October 2016 and running until May 2017, with headlining acts such as Ella Joyce and Dick Gregory. His community outreach keeps a heavy emphasis on youth, including many ongoing events targeting their artistic growth, awareness, and interaction. With a museum tucked inside the elegantly appointed Black Spectrum Theatre complex, Clay imparts a sense of historical achievement for the African American community, with it being an artistic force that has broken major barriers in the arts. The theatre’s longevity makes it a legendary landmark where youth and adults alike find a hearty helping of art for the soul, which Carl Clay’s productions continuously serves.

For more information about Carl Clay and the Black Spectrum Theater click here to visit their website.  To learn more about Carl Clay contact Angelo A. Ellerbee, Double XXposure Media Relations at







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