Adolph Coors Co., the Colorado brewery, has joined with the Orange County Black Actors Theatre to stage a drama series honoring Black History Month.
In its third year, the series will showcase black issues in plays and draw attention to the county's "struggling" black theater community, said Adleane Hunter, the troupe's producing artistic director.
Each performance will feature excerpts from some of the more influential plays by black dramatists, including Lorrain Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" and "Young, Gifted and Black," Ossie Davis' "Purple Victorious," Vinnette Carroll's "Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope," Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf" and Richard Gordon's "Evergreen."
The plays were chosen for their variety and importance to blacks, Hunter said. Most contain either positive role models or offer insight into the black experience and the fight for civil rights.
Controversy is another element that ties them together. "Most of these caused some sort of uproar, either among blacks or whites or both, when they first came out," Hunter said. "But we didn't want to avoid them because of that. They are good examples of the variety and quality in our theater."
The first performance will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Santa Ana City Hall Annex Auditorium. The show will also be offered Feb. 21 at Rancho Santiago College's Phillips Hall and Feb. 28 at the City Hall auditorium.
The performances are financed by a $3,000 grant from Coors. Half of the funding came from Coors' main headquarters in Golden, Colo., and half from Coors Distributing Co., an independent contractor representing Coors in Tustin, said Barbara Belcher, the Tustin firm's marketing manager.
Belcher said Coors' sponsorship was not directly tied to a commitment by the brewery to support black-owned businesses nationally after the company was boycotted by the NAACP and Latino groups in 1984. After being accused of racism in hiring and advancement, the company vowed to be more sensitive to minorities.
"I was aware of the problems (concerning allegations of bigotry) Coors had experienced, but that really wasn't in my mind when I agreed to sponsor the program," said Belcher. "Both our firm and Coors (in Colorado) felt it was a worthwhile program, that's all."
Belcher did acknowledge that the support is good for Coors' image in Orange County and might be seen as another step in overcoming the negative publicity resulting from the boycotts.
Hunter, of the Black Actors Theatre, said she knew of Coors' past troubles but did not target the company because of its 1984 commitment. She asked several local firms besides Coors to act as sponsors.
"We were delighted to get the money. It allows us to produce the show, buy the costumes and sets and everything else; we needed the money and appreciated their help."
Furthermore, the black actors group did not feel compromised by accepting the controversial brewery's money, Hunter said.
"We felt no uneasiness about approaching them; there wasn't anyone saying we had to take a moral stand," Hunter said. "Someone (in the repertory) may have said that they wouldn't buy their product, but that was about it.
"There's really much more that can be done (for local black theater) and this type of program generates interest and support," she continued. "We know that something good is happening because attendance has climbed each year."