As a part of Playbill's Juneteenth series, in partnership with BTC, all throughout this week, we're celebrating seven fabulous BIPOC theatre-makers you need to know! Today's spotlight is on Black Theatre Coalition Fellow Brandon Brooks who is getting a firsthand look at theatrical management. In his spare time, Brooks is also a musician (he's even played drums at MJ: The Musical as a substitute drummer).
"I want to combine my love for entertainment and my business degree, in an industry that I love, in a sector of the industry I'm very unaware of," says Brooks of why he's a BTC fellow.
The Black Theatre Coalition was founded by T. Oliver Reid, Warren Adams, and Reggie Van Lee in 2019. It works to dismantle the systemically racist and biased ideology in the theatrical job space. As part of its mission, BTC has launched the Black Theatre Coalition Fellowship, which immerses young talent in various areas of theatrical production, including producing, general management, directing, choreography, and other important jobs offstage. The fellowships immerse the fellows in the industry, allowing them to work alongside current industry professionals.
Brooks has just reached the finish line of his first season working on Broadway. Looking back on his BTC experience, he says "BTC has provided me the opportunity to get in the room with general managers and producers, understanding how this part of this industry works. As a Black person I am in rooms where my voice is heard...it definitely gives us an opportunity to have a seat at the table."
As part of his fellowship, Brooks works in general management at RCI Theatricals, where he oversees budgeting, accounting, and other essential tasks that keep the lights of Broadway shining on. Learn more about Brooks' first year on Broadway below.
Where did you grow up?
Brandon Brooks: I'm from Morristown, New Jersey, but grew up in Greenville, South Caroline.
What was your first experience/memory with theatre?
As a music student at the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, I remember playing djembe for one of the productions, and became interested in learning more about theatre and how I can contribute as a musician.
How did your fellowship impact your career?
Access, access, access. As minorities, we don’t typically have access to the type of resources that general managing commercial productions do (not to mention Tony-nominated and Tony award-winning productions brings).
How have you found navigating Broadway as a BTC Fellow?
Hard, but expected.
Tell us more about your work/fellowship—it can be a typical day-in-the-life, or a specific great memory or project you worked on.
This season, my team has opened four Broadway shows (& Juliet, Ohio State Murders, Pictures From Home, and Shucked). On top of that, we’ve managed over five developmental readings of a variety of projects. That said, everyday is busy and can be unexpected “adverntures.” A day in my life could include advising a producer, negotiating with agents, creating budgets, working with my favorite actors, completing audits, meeting Playbill deadlines, booking travel, playing drums at MJ: the Musical or another gig by night.
What are some of your career goals and aspirations?
To produce amazing Black art on all mediums. TV, film, print, theatre, music. All of it.
How do you feel BTC is helping you to reach those goals?
Access, access, access.
As a BTC Fellow, do you think your voice is heard in rooms that don’t predominantly look like you?
I think it helps that it gives me a seat at the table. But BTC or not, I'm still a Black man navigating a predominantly white space. I make sure that I share my thoughts and that’s all I can control.
As a BTC Fellow do you feel like you’re making a difference behind the scenes on Broadway and in what’s represented on stage?
Yes. Access, access, access. Just by being in this role, I've been in awe at the number of Black artists who are genuinely interested in this side of the industry but don’t have the access. I'm here for it.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would that be?
Access, access, access. On all fronts.
How are you celebrating Juneteenth this year?
Meeting with a friend to chat about budgeting and playing a show with my band, the Harlem Gospel Travelers.
The Black Theatre Coalition (BTC) is a 501(c)3 organization with the mission to remove the illusion of inclusion in the American Theatre, by building a sustainable, ethical roadmap that will increase employment opportunities for emerging, mid-career, and career-changing Black theater professionals. Through paid Fellowship and Apprenticeship opportunities, BTC opens doors for aspiring artists and creative leaders to have entry into the field, on-the-job-training, mentorship and potential career advancement. BTC's vision is to reshape the working ecosystem for those who have historically been marginalized from these spaces, and provide a pathway to true diversity in the arts.
Over the next month, and in honor of Juneteenth, BTC's goal is to raise $19,000 to help support the organization and the next cohort of paid BTC Fellows. To make a donation, please visit BTC's Donation Page.