Nonfiction from NER 37.2
Steve Carter (Horace E. Carter Jr.), also known professionally as steve carter, was born in New York City in 1929. His father was an African-American longshoreman raised in Richmond, Virginia, and his mother was from Trinidad. He graduated from New York City’s High School of Music and Art in 1948 and began his career as a playwright at the American Community Theatre in 1965, with a production of his short play Terraced Apartment (which would later become the longer play Terraces). His dark comedy, One Last Look, was produced off-off-Broadway in 1967 before he went on to work for the Negro Ensemble Company (NEC), the leading black theater company during the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. In addition to being literary manager/dramaturge, Carter ultimately became responsible for NEC’s Playwrights Workshop. During those same years, NEC produced the first two plays of his “Caribbean trilogy”—Eden (1975) and Nevis Mountain Dew (1978)—which explored Caribbean immigrant families living in Manhattan.
Carter left NEC in 1981 and became the first playwright-in-residence at the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago, where the last of the trilogy, Dame Lorraine (1981), was produced. Other plays produced at the Victory Gardens Theater include House of Shadows (1984), the musical Shoot Me While I’m Happy (1986), and Pecong (1990). Carter also served as playwright-in-residence at George Mason University, and his play Spiele ’36 or the Fourth Medal (1991) had its world premiere at Theater of the First Amendment at George Mason University. Pecong, a Caribbean retelling of Euripides’ Medea, had successive productions at London’s Tricycle Theatre, American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, and Newark Symphony Hall.
Carter, who became a Dramatists Guild member in the 1970s, has received many awards for his writing, including the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award, and the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award. He is also a recipient of honors from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. In 2001, he received the Living Legend Award at the National Black Theatre Festival.
I originally sat down with Carter at his home in Queens in January 2011 and followed up by phone the following July; Carter was by then living in Houston, Texas. The third and final part of the interview took place via phone in May 2014.
Nathaniel G. Nesmith holds an MFA in playwriting and a PhD in theater from Columbia University. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Marymount Manhattan College, City College of New York, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and recently completed his Creating Connections Consortium Postdoctoral Fellowship at Middlebury College. He has published articles in American Theatre, the Dramatist, Drama Review, the New York Times, Yale Review, African American Review, and other publications.
Linny Coale Freeman is a unique artist and designer of paintings on silk fabrics, painted silk fashion accessories for women, and public art pieces. Her vibrant colors and bold designs take us on unique and magical journeys, creating pathways of light and space. Linny has a BFA in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute, and a BFA in graphic design from Kendall College of Art and Design. She is on the faculty at The Art Center of Highland Park, IL and The Evanston Art Center of Evanston, IL. Please visit Linny’s website at www.coaledesign.com.