Black theater lovers across New York City and the nation are mourning the loss and celebrating the contributions of Grace Jones, board president of AUDELCO (Audience Development Committee, Inc.). Jones passed away on Monday (?) at age __ after 13 years heading the valued New York City based organization. Founded in 1973 by Vivian Robinson and friends to honor and celebrate Black theater and its artists, Audelco promoted the wealth of excellent work and initiative being ignored by white arts media by producing an award show with honors. The nonprofit’s award is called The Viv, in Robinson’s honor.
Joining the organization in the early 1980s, Jones played a role in giving Black actors, playwrights, directors, dancers, choreographers, and other performers their due. An enthusiastic volunteer, she loved organizing theater parties, speaking to school groups and serving as an ambassador at times for Robinson at special events. She excelled at outreach and networking, making sure the organization and its initiatives remined on media radar.
Jones was very proud of Theater for the Future, a young audiences’ series produced by Audelco each year, in which young people are exposed to the theater by taking acting classes and seeing how scenes and sets are built. Then, when they go to the theater for the first time, Jones said, she would see a change in them right away, as they witnessed another level of what is possible.
Her work helped Audelco to become the major player that it is in Black theater. Whether it’s August Wilson or Kerry Washington, Barbara Ann Teer or Vinette Carroll, Woodie King Jr. or Debbie Allen, Pearl Primus or Eubie Blake, Ruben Santiago Hudson or Brandon Dirden, many brilliant theater lights were first shining at Audelco, recognized—now in 19 categories, long before the world knew who they were. Jones wants all to receive their due – not in due time – but right now.
Audelco is a member organization and still does monthly theater parties and other programs. A membership would be a great way to honor the memory of Grace Jones.