David Barr III has been very visible around Chicago as an actor and writer since 1986.
As an actor, David received a Joseph Jefferson Citation for an Actor In A Principal Role for his portrayal of Philip Mbuso in the critically - acclaimed drama Victims at the Organic Theatre Greenhouse in 1992. In 1994 he was a principal actor in the Chicago Theatre Company production of Pill Hill…which was the recipient of a Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Ensemble. Additional acting accolades that David has received include the Best Actor Award from the Association Of Theatre Artists & Friends in 1989 for his portrayal of Creon in the Stage Left production of Antigone.
As a writer, David has been very fortunate since the completion of his first, full - length play in 1991. That play, The Death Of The Black Jesus, helped David become a recipient of a 1995 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship. Black Jesus was the winner of the 1994 National Playwriting Award sponsored by The Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri and the winner of the 1993 Mixed Blood Versus America National Playwriting Contest sponsored by The Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Death Of The Black Jesus was first produced at The Unicorn Theatre in January 1995 and made its Chicagoland premiere in September 1996 at the Chicago Theatre Company. The play was published by Dramatic Publishing Company in May 1996.
His stage adaptation of the Walter Mosley novel A Red Death had its world premiere in September 1997 at the Chicago Theatre Company. A Red Death was winner…of the 1998 Edgar Allan Poe Award…sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America…in the Best New Play category.
David’s two act drama, Black Caesar, was the winner of the 1997 Theodore Ward Contest For Playwriting …sponsored by Chicago’s Columbia College. PerformInk, Chicago’s entertainment trade paper, published Black Caesar in October 1999 as a part of their New Plays Series. Black Caesar was the first play in this particular series to be chosen for publication by PerformInk. and had its world premiere professional staging at Pegasus Players in February 2007.
In January 1999, David received his second Illinois Arts Council Fellowship for Playwriting/Screenwriting. His play Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit, based on the life of Marian Anderson, was the winner of the 1999 Unicorn Theatre National Playwriting Award. It opened at the Unicorn Theatre Company in Kansas City, Missouri in June 1999. In the Summer of 2007 a monologue from Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit was included in Dramatic Publishing’s “Editor’s Choice: Audition Monologues for Women”.
In September 1999, David was fortunate enough to have two productions make their respective world premiers in Chicago. His full - length play, The Face Of Emmett Till (Formerly The State of Mississippi vs Emmett Till ) was developed with Mrs. Mamie Till Mobley and based on the life and tragic death of her son Emmett Till. The State of Mississippi vs Emmett Till debuted at Pegasus Players in early September 1999. State of Mississippi vs Emmett Till made its west - coast premiere in August 2000 at the Unity Players in Los Angeles, California…and made its east - coast premiere at the Paul Robeson Theatre Company in Buffalo, New York in February 2001. Both theater companies re-staged State Of Mississippi vs Emmett Till during the summer of 2001. A revival of The State Of Mississippi vs Emmett Till was staged in September 2003 to commemorate the 25th anniversary season of the Pegasus Players. The play, now simply titled The Face Of Emmett Till, made its southern debut at Dillard University in January 2005. The play also appeared at the Unity Players in St. Louis, Missouri, the University Of Louisville, Chicago State University, and Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland during the Fall of 2005.
The Face Of Emmett Till was published twice in 2005; first by Chicago Dramatists in an anthology titled “NEW CHICAGO PLAYS” on Chicago Dramatists Press and later in the Fall of 2005 by Dramatic Publishing.
David is also a co-adapter of The Journal of Ordinary Thought … a stage adaptation of poems and monologues written by members of the Neighborhood Writing Alliance. The Journal of Ordinary Thought also had it’s world premiere at the Chicago Theatre Company in late September 1999. The Journal of Ordinary Thought was also voted as one of the Best Plays Of 1999 by both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun - Times. In March 2000 The Journal Of Ordinary Thought was named the winner of the Festival Of Emerging American Theatre (FEAT) National Playwriting Competition … sponsored by Phoenix Theatre Company in Indianapolis, Indiana. Journal opened at the Phoenix Theatre Company in June 2000.
Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit, made its Chicago premiere at Pegasus Players in November 2000. It also was published by Dramatic Publishing in November 2004. Earlier in 2000, David was named a co-recipient of the David Ofner Prize. This award was given in the form of a playwriting commission to co-write an exciting new play, Music Of The Spheres, with Carson Grace Becker for the Goodman Theater in Chicago, Illinois. The play had its world premiere at The Goodman Theatre in February 2003.
David was named a 2000 recipient of the Donahue - Tremaine Trust Award for excellence in playwriting. That same year saw the world premiere of his stage adaptation of the Albert French novel, Billy, which opened at the Chicago Theatre Company. In 2001…David received his third Illinois Arts Council Fellowship for Playwriting/Screenwriting.
Several additional projects include The House That Rocked! (The Legacy of Fats Domino, Chuck Berry & Little Richard) opened in May of 2004 at Chicago’s legendary Black Ensemble Theatre and was nominated for two Joseph Jefferson Awards. David’s second play with the Black Ensemble is Memphis Soul: The Music Of STAX Records. This production opened in the Spring of 2007 and ran through the end of August. It subsequently garnered several 2007 Black Theatre Alliance Awards including Best New Musical, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Writing In A Play. His last play with The Black Ensemble was “I Gotcha! The Story Of Joe Tex and the Soul Clan”. Co-written with long time collaborator Joe Plummer, “I Gotcha!” opened in early February 2009 and was extended through the end of April that same year ."I Gotcha!" was nominated for EIGHT 2009 Black Theatre Alliance Awards including Best Writing, Musical or Play and Best Production, Musical or Play.
His Civil Rights docudrama titled My Soul Is A Witness with the JENA Theatre Company premiered in January 2005 on the campus of University of Mississippi and completed a 60 city, national tour at the University of Missouri in late March 2005. A subsequent national tour of the play began in January 2006 and ran through April. And in the Summer of 2007 a Pegasus Players production of My Soul IS A Witness appeared at the Hindu MetroPlus Theater Festival in Chennai, India. The play subsequently embarked on a three city Indian tour that included the cities of Kolkata, Mumbai, and Delhi. (The Summer 2007 tour of My Soul Is A Witness was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy, New Delhi and the Consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata.)
His second installment with the JENA Theatre Company is the biopic Jackie, Vi & Lena which embarked on a national tour in January 2007.
His work… The Upper Room… had its world premiere at Pegasus Players in late February 2005. In June of 2005, David received the prestigious Joseph Jefferson Citation for “BEST NEW WORK” for The Upper Room. The Upper Room was also nominated for a 2005 Black Excellence Award in the category of Outstanding Production … and also a 2004-2005 Best Writing Award by Chicago’s Black Theatre Alliance.
Lastly, his screen adaptation of the Zora Neale Hurston short story “The Gilded Six Bits” was aired on Chicago’s WTTW (the local PBS affiliate) in February 2007. The film is endorsed by noted historian and sociologist Dr. Cornell West, was named BEST PICTURE at the 2006 Twin Cities Film Festival, screened at the 2006 annual “Zora Fest” in Hurston’s native Eatonville, Florida and was recently added to Yale University’s permanent collection of African-American literature. Lastly... “The Gilded Six Bits” was an official selection of the 2008 Black Harvest Film International Festival of Film And Video.
In the Spring of 2006 he co-authored the dramatic/comedic vaudevillian production "Point Of Revue" -- a composite shot of African America through a varied collection of short plays and original songs -- with a number of internationally recognized artists including Kia Corthron, the Oscar nominated actor Don Cheadle ("Hotel Rwanda"), and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage. "Point Of Revue" was originally commissioned and produced by Mixed Blood Theatre, Minneapolis, Minnesota. It has been performed numerous times across the nation since it's original production and is currently available at Playscripts, Inc.
David worked for three years as a feature writer for EM-EBONY MAN MAGAZINE, a Johnson Publishing Company publication. He is proud to be a Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists and a member of the Black Ensemble Theatre’s … Black Playwright’s Initiative.