While the hip-hop community’s stories and concerns have primarily been voiced through song, the annual Hip-Hop Theater Festival aims to give emerging artists of the genre an alternative outlet. By showcasing a collection of talented hip-hop artists’ stories through professional theater, the festival samples the key elements of hip hop and plants them on stage. The event, now in its ninth year, is making its way to the District.

“The festival provides a unique stage for hip-hop generation artists to harness and fine tune their work in front of friendly and familiar audiences,” said Clyde Valentin, executive director of the Hip Hop Theater Festival, in statement. “The DC Festival is a staging ground for work that has the potential to break out and reach wider audiences.”

Combining film screenings, dance performances and hip hop shows, the HHTF calls on artists of the area to display their distinctive talents. According to event organizers, the festival’s mission is to support innovative work from hip hop and other urban forms of expression and to engage young people with this work through arts and education programs.

Originally launched in New York in 2000, the HHTF has branched out to other regions of the United States and has become one of the most influential outlets showcasing hip-hop performing arts. The event has also featured many big names in the hip-hop industry as performers including artists such as Common, Kanye West, The Roots and The Beatnuts.

“It feels really great to be involved in such a fantastic festival that combines dance, music and theater and that celebrates hip-hop culture,” Holly Bass, a dance performer in the HHTF told the AFRO in a recent interview.

The festival is sponsored by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and leaders from the organization expressed their impetus for supporting the event.

“We are proud to invest in the preservation of hip-hop culture by supporting this pioneering theater festival and by being the only state arts agency to offer a hip-hop community grant,” Gloria Nauden, executive director of the DCCAH, said in a statement.”

The Hip-Hop Theater Festival opens in Washington, D.C., on July 6 and will run until July 10 at multiple venues. For more information on the HHTF, visit: www.hhtf.org.


Gregory Dale

AFRO News Editor