Coalition of Theatres of Color Honors Gertrude Hadley Jeannette For Her Remarkable 70-Year Career in Stage, Television and Film

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Gertrude Hadley Jeannette, the First Woman to be a Licensed Taxicab Driver in New York City, is Saluted by Friend Oscar Nominee Ruby Dee and Presented a Proclamation from the Office of Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel

The Coalition of Theatres of Color (CTC) honored contemporary Black theater pioneer Gertrude Hadley Jeannette, 96, Founder and CEO Emeritus of the H.A.D.L.E.Y Players, on March 28 at a Women's History Month press conference at the Dwyer Cultural Center in Harlem. It included a presentation by actress Ruby Dee and a proclamation from the office of Congressman Charles Rangel.

A pioneer in contemporary Black theater, Ms. Jeannette's 70-year career spans theater, television, and movies. Yet, she also made New York City motor vehicle history. In 1935, she was New York City's first woman to get motorcycle license and in 1942, due to the shortage of male taxicab drivers, she was the city's first woman cab driver.

"The Coalition of Theatres of Color is about preserving the history and commitment of Black theatre in New York City and New York State. No one exemplifies that better for Women's History Month than Gertrude Jeannette," said award-winning theater producer Woodie King, chairman of CTC and the founder and producing director, New Federal Theatre. "She covers over 70 years of theater in New York as an actor, playwright, director and producer. She's done it all."                                

Ruby Dee saluted her longtime friend, who she met at the American Negro Theater during the 1940's, while working with actors like Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte and Ossie Davis. Ms. Dee and her late husband Ossie Davis were instrumental in founding the Coalition of Theatres of Color.

The impact of this multi-talented actress, playwright, producer and director dates back to the1930's, when she was a gofer at the Harlem's Lafayette Theatre, the site of Orson Welle's famed Black Macbeth. By the 1940's, she was a member of the acclaimed American Negro Theater. Performing on Broadway, she originated roles in shows like "Lost in the Stars," "Nobody Loves an Albatross," "Amen Corner" and, "The Great White Hope". For Tennessee Williams' Broadway play "Vieux Carre," she helped him rewrite her part. In 1950, when Pearl Bailey dropped out of the live CBS network broadcast of James Weldon Johnson's "God's Trombone," the first African American network special, Jeannette stepped into the starring role. Her film credits include: "Nothing but a Man," "Shaft," "Cotton Comes to Harlem" and "Black Girl."

In 1979, Ms. Jeannette founded the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players to give artists a chance to develop their talents and skills in the theatre and to enrich the cultural life in Harlem. It means Harlem, Artists, Development, League, Especially, for You. This Audelco Award winning theater showcases three major productions every year. All productions are under the Equity Showcase Code. Her many honors include induction into the Arkansas Black Hall and receiving the prestigious Paul Robeson Award from the Actor's Equity Association.

The Coalition of Theatres of Color (CTC) is a non-profit alliance of renowned multi-cultural theatre arts organizations in New York State. These institutions have joined forces to ensure sustainability and longevity of theatre of color in multicultural communities. Each institution brings over 25 years of artistic achievement with critically acclaimed and award-winning work and for nurturing the artistry of some of the world's finest actors, directors, playwrights, producers, musicians and choreographers. New York City theatres are Billie Holiday Theatre, Black Spectrum Theatre, H.A.D.L.E.Y Players, National Black Theatre, New Federal Theatre, New Heritage Theatre Group and Paul Robeson Performing Arts Company. Acclaimed producer Woodie King is chairman of CTC, which is supported through grants from the New York City Council Committee, chaired by James Van Bramer and also from The New York Community Trust.

PHOTO CREDITS: Gerry Goldstein

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