The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department proudly congratulates alumnus Chester Gregory ’95, HDR ’15, on his appointment as co-chair of the 2019 National Black Theatre Festival. Gregory is a 1995 graduate of the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Musical Theatre, and he received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Columbia College when he spoke at the school’s commencement ceremony in 2015. Gregory’s stage credits include the Broadway and national touring companies of the musicals Hairspray, Sister Act, Dreamgirls, and Motown the Musical, in which he portrayed Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, as well as his own one-man show about ’60s soul singer Jackie Wilson, The Eve of Jackie. He has also starred in regional productions of dramas by playwright August Wilson. In Chicago, Gregory won the Joseph Jefferson Award (Chicago’s top theatre prize) for his starring role in the Black Ensemble Theatre’s musical The Jackie Wilson Story.
The 16th biennial National Black Theatre Festival, produced by the North Carolina Black Repertory Company, runs July 29 through August 3, 2019, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with more than 100 performances scheduled in multiple venues. Theatre workshops, films, seminars, a teen poetry slam, and a star-studded celebrity gala all work together to accomplish the goal of making the National Black Theatre Festival one of the best theatre festivals in the country. Each year two celebrities are appointed to serve as co-chairs for the festival. Joining Gregory as co-chair of the 2019 festival is actress Margaret Avery, best known for her Oscar-nominated performance as blues singer Shug Avery in the 1985 film The Color Purple. Currently, Avery plays recurring character Helen Patterson in BET’s series Being Mary Jane.