Robert Hooks



Robert Hooks

Production credits:

Ceremonies in Dark Old Men
Negro Ensemble Company
Ford’s Theatre
Washington, DC
February 5 – March 3, 1985


Here’s a throwback to one of my favorite friends and colleagues in life Glynn Turman. This was a classic (and fun) scene from the great playwright Lonne Elder III’s “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men”. Glynn’s “Theo” and my “Blue Haven”. –  {“Glynn Turman and I have been close and dear friends for decades, but had never shared a stage together until this unforgettable production of “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men” This was one of the first NEC productions to move from stage to television, and I had the enormous pleasure of ‘finally’ acting with Glynn. Here In this scene, I was Harlem badass gangster “Blue Haven” in the classic confrontation scene with Glynn’s “Theo Parker”! I have never been so soul-satisfied as an actor than playing opposite the masterful Glynn Turman!” ) 

“I remember when Douglas Turner Ward asked me if I would play the role of ” Blue Haven’ in the ABC television version of Lonne Elder III’s “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men”. I said “Doug I swore I’d never act in any of our NEC projects”,’s not why we created the company! He then reminded me that ABC insisted that I play “Blue Haven” or they would back away from the TV special. So, naturally, I agreed to play Blue Haven,.. BUT only if Glynn Turman was cast as “Theo” in the film!…AND Glynn was indeed cast in the role, AND… as we all expected, he was an amazing ‘Theo Parker’. And together with Douglas Turner Ward, Rosalind Cash, Godfrey Cambridge, Jerry Bell, Glynn, and I, we made it happen. A big successful film from a play that did great justice to the extraordinary original story from literary giant playwright Lonne Elder III. Here,… Glynn and I, give the audience “Theo” and “Blue” in “Ceremonies”!!… It was a thrilling experience to act with Glynn!”


Hallelujah, Baby!
Martin Beck Theatre
New York, NY
April 26, 1967 – January 13, 1968


Robert Hooks and Leslie Uggams –
Hallelujah, Baby!, written by Arthur Laurents, with a score by Jule Styne and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green opened at the Martin Beck Theatre on April 26, 1967, it ran for 293 performances.

© 2020 Sony Music Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

Talk about Broadway musical giants, we had the ‘legendary best’ on “Baby”: Book by Arthur Laurents, Music by Jule Styne, Lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green, Dance Orchestrations by Luther Henderson, Directed by Burt Shevelove! and other greats from the musical world of Broadway!

Hallelujah, Baby!: Watch My Dust


Where’s Daddy?

Clem * (1966) Stage Play: Where’s Daddy? Comedy. Written by William Inge. Directed by Harold Clurman [final Broadway credit]. Billy Rose Theatre: 2 Mar 1966- 26 Mar 1966 (21 performances + 14 previews that began on 17 Feb 1966). Cast: Beau Bridges (as “Tom”) [Broadway debut], Barbara Dana (as “Teena”) [final Broadway role], Betty Field (as “Mrs. Bigelow”), Robert Hooks (as “Razz”), Hiram Sherman (as “Pinky”), Barbara Ann Teer (as “Helen”). Standby actor: Dortha Duckworth. Produced by Michael Wager. Produced by arrangement with Robert Whitehead.


Founded: 1967
Headquarters: New York, NY
Robert Hooks, Gerald S. Krone, and, Douglas Turner Ward

(1967) Co-founders of the renowned theatrical troupe The Negro Ensemble Company.



Robert Hooks, Douglas Turner Ward, Gerald S. Krone, 



At the end of NEC’s first (and very successful) theatre season, staff photographer Bert Andrews set up this awesome photo assemblage of many company members gathered and celebrating our ‘four’ electrifying plays that year!
Here, with the three founders front, are other NEC artists, staff, and trainees, making up a proud and dedicated new Black Theatre Company, that was dubbed a national treasure’ by top New York theatre critics!

Robert Hooks, Douglas Turner Ward, and Gerald Krone (front row from left), the founders of the Negro Ensemble Company, with other members of the company in 1969 – “At the end of NEC’s first (and very successful) theatre season, staff photographer Bert Andrews set up this awesome photo assemblage of many company members gathered and celebrating our ‘four’ electrifying plays that year!
Here, with the three founders are other NEC artists, staff, and trainees, making up a proud and dedicated new Black Theatre Company, that was dubbed a national treasure’ by top New York theatre critics!”
Credit…Bettmann, via Getty Images


Douglas Turner Ward and Robert Hooks. 


Robert Hooks, Douglas Turner Ward, Gerald S. Krone 

“Staying in celebration mode of the world-famous NEC, and in honor and tribute to its recently departed Artistic Director, Douglas Turner Ward. Photographed here is an August assemblage of NEC alumni joining in its 50th Anniversary Founders Tour in Atlanta Ga.! Standing, Ruben Santiago Hudson, Louis Gossett Jr., the late Walter Dallas, and Oz Scott. Seated: Douglas Turner Ward, Pearl Cleague, and Me. What a grand and auspicious coming together of some of our NEC greats!”

A Raisin In The Sun

Robert Hooks and Diana in the original production of A RAISIN IN THE SUN.  Mr. Hooks—then known as Bobby Dean Hooks—replaced Louis Gossett, Jr. during the show’s Broadway run and later appeared with Diana on the national tour.

“I was studying theatre at the Bessie V. Hicks School of Drama in Philadelphia when I saw “A Raisin in the Sun” at the Walnut Street Theatre on its way to Broadway. Little did I know when I was studying acting in Philadelphia and attended on that fateful evening …my very first professional play with an all-Black cast during its pre-Broadway run, that I would soon be hired for that same Broadway production a few months later!

The great beginning and turning point in my acting career! Here, as George, I’m trying hard to ‘woo’ Beneatha, but she wasn’t havin’ it!

Of course, by that time it had become a huge Broadway hit and the first to be written, directed, and performed by Black artists. “A Raisin in the Sun” had become the most critically acclaimed Broadway play ever, and I was cast to replace Louis Gossett (who played DIANA SANDS’ suitor…hence me and Diana!) in the role of George Murchison in that original production! Louis was on his way to Hollywood to reprise his role in the film version. And I was the extraordinarily lucky young thespian fresh in New York, getting his first Broadway job in the same play that changed my life and prompted me to make the move to New York. And performing with THE GREATS!

 I closed out Raisin on Broadway and toured for a year on the national Raisin tour, and when I returned to New York, I couldn’t stop working both on and Off Broadway for years …I had a pocket full of dreams!”

{“Louis Gossett was responsible for me getting to perform in my first Broadway play, the one that prompted me to move to NYC from Philadelphia. After its tremendous and historic 1959 success, “A Raisin in the Sun“, (which Louis co-starred in,) Hollywood producers immediately bought the movie rights. When Louis left the play to act in the movie (while it was still enjoying its busy Broadway run), director Lloyd Richards selected me to replace him to finish the Broadway production run and continue with the countrywide tour. Lou and I became good friends and colleagues in the brand new and promising Black theatre movement at the turn of the 1960s. We also both played for the Negro Actor’s Guild with teammates Lonne Elder, III, Robert MacBeth, Hal DeWindt, Reni Santoni, and (believe it or not) George C. Scott -who declared, “I just want to pitch for the Negro Actor’s Guild!”- and pitch he did! We won the Broadway Show League championship two years in a row! Louis and I soon worked on stage together in Jean Genet’s “The Blacks” and then he went on to great success in film and television winning the Academy Award for “An Officer and a Gentleman” and an Emmy Award for his brilliant character “Fiddler” in “Roots“! Google Louis Gossett Jr. for more information on his brilliant career. He is, was, and forever remains a true Black Theatre Pioneer!“}

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

BoothTheatre (1962)

Broadway play “Tiger Tiger Burning Bright” which opened at the Booth Theatre in December 1962, here is Cicely Tyson and me, playing brother and sister in the Peter Feibleman drama. The play also co-starred Alvin Ailey in his first (and only dramatic) acting role in a Broadway play! There was a stupendous array of Black talent in “Tiger Tiger”: Diana Sands, Ellen Holly, Roscoe Lee Browne, Claudia McNeil, Al Freeman Jr., Robert Macbeth, and Janet MacLaughlin among others.

Though I had already appeared in two Broadway plays, replacing Louis Gossett Jr. in “A Raisin in the Sun” and taking over for Billy Dee Williams in “A Taste of Honey”, it was in “Tiger Tiger Burning Bright” that allowed me my first “original role” to create! Written by Peter S, Feibleman , Directed by Joshua Logan, and Produced by Oliver Smith and Roger L. Stevens. The New Orleans drama opened at the Booth Theater (circa 1962) and featured some of the best Black dramatic talent ever assembled on a Broadway stage. In this scene are: Claudia McNeil (holding) Ellen Holly, Roscoe Lee Browne (kneeling), Me, and Cicely Tyson. Also starring in ‘Tiger’ but not seen here were: Alvin Ailey, Diana Sands, Al Freeman Jr. Robert Macbeth, Janet MacLachlin, Paul Barry, and Rudy Challenger. Because of a citywide New York newspaper strike, the play closed after a short run.


Henry V

(1965) Stage: Appeared (as “Henry V”) in “Henry V” at the New York Shakespeare Festival.

The New York Shakespeare Festival’s (NYSF) production of “Henry V”, with Joe Papp cast me as King Henry and performed in Central Park at the Delacourt Theatre.


New York Shakespeare Festival’s prolific and innovative producer Joseph Papp was ready to cast a Black actor in the complex and powerful role of Henry V… and offered me the role. Although I had always had a passion for Shakespeare, I hadn’t performed in Shakespeare since studying theatre at the Bessie V. Hicks School of Drama back when I was a young fledgling upstart. I was always a serious student of the ‘Bard’ , but never imagined a Black actor would ever be hired to play anything but Othello on the professional American stage. Joe Papp thought differently, assuring me I would be a wonderful Henry. And indeed I had a ball doing the play at his famed New York Shakespeare Festival in the Park, and then touring the city performing in the neighborhood parks in all the five major boroughs to plant the seeds of theatre around the city. Here, Henry readies for the mighty Battle of Agincourt. 


Well, I’m not a king (I’ll leave that business to the new King Charles III of England) But I did play one on stage! I played the title role in Shakespeare’s “King Henry V”, directed by Joseph Papp, and presented at the Delacorte Theatre in New York’s Central Park – opening in June of 1965. As seen here, Henry V is preparing for the Battle of Agincourt. A drama in two parts, the action takes place in England and France. The profoundly talented and beautiful Ellen Holly played Katherine, along with a great and large cast of the top classical actors from the New York stage, as (of course) the great Festival creator Joseph Papp was famous for. It was the first time a Black actor was cast as Henry V and I was honored! The New York theatre audiences at the Central Park Delacorte (and afterward on the Summer City tour with the Delacorte Mobile Theatre) were thrilled at this extraordinary Shakespeare production. 
On the City Tour, and in addition to my evening performances of Henry V, my brand new teenage theatre company – The Group Theatre Workshop – was hired by Papp to perform its own show – Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool” – in the afternoons WITH PAY for the community youngsters on all the stops on the summer Shakespeare tour! What a fabulous experience for us all! Many of the GTW students even got their Equity cards as a result of the Papp hire!


Joseph Papp (right), founder, producer, and director of the New York Shakespeare Festival coaches Robert Hooks, Ellen Holly, and Lynn Hamilton (l. to r.) for a production at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. (Photo by Paul DeMaria/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

The great theatre impresario Joseph Papp and his New York Shakespeare Festival thought it was time to cast a Black actor as King Henry V. I had just closed in Dutchman when I got the call from Papp. I’ve always read and studied Shakespeare but never pursued playing the Bard on stage. However, being offered the title role of Henry V, my mind changed immediately. Joe Papp would be directing me and the lovely and brilliant Ellen Holly would play Katherine,… I was too thrilled. The play was a success, and not only did we play the Delacourt Theatre in Central Park, we then toured the city on the fabulous summer Mobile Unit. Seen here in rehearsal are Lance Cunard, Ellen Holly, and Me. (circa 1965)

New York Shakespeare Festival in repertory with “Taming of the Shrew” and “Henry V” playing the Delacourt in the park, then touring the five boroughs. Here is the beautiful and deeply talented actress Ellen Holly as “Katherine” in “Shrew” and Me as “Henry” doing PR for the city tour. That’s masterful Shakespearean Lance Cunard looking on. Both productions were directed by Joseph Papp! Also touring with the festival and performing in the afternoons at each location for the community youth- was my brand new teenage Group Theatre Workshop (20 actors strong) presenting Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool, A Live Teenage Show” directed by Barbara Ann Teer and Ron Mack. What an amazing summer for us ALL!

Where’s Daddy


From the pen of the great William Inge comes his comedy in two acts “Where’s Daddy” Opening in March 1966 at Broadway’s Billy Rose Theatre. Produced by Michael Wager (by arrangement with Robert Whitehead.) Directed by Harold Clurman (of The Group Theatre fame). Seen here are (l to r) Barbara Ann Teer, Robert Hooks and Barbara Dana. Also starring were Betty Field, Hiram Sherman and Beau Bridges.


Hallelujah, Baby!


(1967) Stage Play: Hallelujah, Baby! Musical. Music by Jule Styne. Lyrics by Adolph Green and Betty Comden. Book by Arthur Laurents. Musical Director: Buster Davis. Vocal arrangements by Buster Davis. Music orchestrated by Peter Matz. Dance arrangements by Luther Henderson. Choreographed by Kevin Carlisle. Scenic Design by William Eckart and Jean Eckart. Directed by Burt Shevelove. Martin Beck Theatre: 26 Apr 1967- 13 Jan 1968 (293 performances + 22 previews that began on 6 Apr 1967). Cast: Allen Case (as “Harvey”), Robert Hooks (as “Clem”), Leslie Uggams (as “Georgina”), Lou Angel (as “Calhoun”), Chad Dee Block (as “Bouncer”), Hope Clarke (as “Maid/Ensemble”), Marilyn Cooper (as “Mrs. Charles/Mistress/Ethel/Dorothy”), Carol Flemming (as “Princess”), Frank Hamilton (as “Mister Charles/Timmy”), Lillian Hayman (as “Momma”), Winston DeWitt (as “Hemsley Tip/G.I.”), Justin McDonough (as “Captain Yankee/Ensemble”), Saundra McPherson (as “Cutie”), Garrett Morris (as “Prover/Ensemble”) [Broadway debut], Michele Murray (as “Cutie”), Alan Peterson (as “Director”), Ann Rachel (as “Brenda”), Barbara Sharma (as “Mary”), Don Strong (as “Sugar Daddy/Master”), Bud Vest (as “Prince/Ensemble”), Alan Weeks (as “Prover/Tap/G.I.”), Standby: Norma Donaldson (as “Georgina”). Understudy: Justin McDonough (as “Harvey”). Replacement actors: Clifford Allen (as “Ensemble/G.I./Prover”), Lou Angel (as “Ensemble”), Judith Austin (as “Ensemble”), Michael Beirne (as “Captain Yankee/Ensemble”), Chad Dee Block (as “Ensemble/Official”), Carol Flemming (as “Ensemble”), Lee Hooper (as “Ensemble”), Bernard Johnson (as “Ensemble/G.I./Tip”), Louis Johnson (as “Ensemble”), Carolyn Kirsch (as “Ensemble”), Saundra McPherson (as “Ensemble/Maid”), Gerrianne Raphael (as “Dorothy/Ethel/Mistress/Mrs. Charles”), Larry Roquemore (as “Ensemble/Prince”), Kenneth Scott (as “Ensemble/G.I./Prover”), Don Strong (as “Ensemble”), Ella Thompson (as “Ensemble”), Billy Dee Williams (as “Clem”). Standbys: Lincoln Kilpatrick (as “Clem”), Lu Parks (as “Momma”), Freda Payne (as “Georgina”). Understudies: Michael Beirne (as “Harvey”), Carol Flemming (as “Ethel”), Louis Johnson (as “Tap/Tip”), Suzanne Rogers (as “Mary”). Produced by Albert W. Selden, Hal James, Jane C. Nussbaum, and Harry Rigby. Note: Mr. Hooks was nominated for Tony Award as Best Actor (Musical).


Hallelujah, Baby!: Watch My Dust

Hallelujah, Baby! (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

℗ Originally released 1967 Sony Music Entertainment


The great Leslie Uggams and me fooling around in the Columbia Records Studio, singing and recording the Original Cast album from our Tony Award-winning musical “Hallelujah Baby” (circa 1968). Talk about Broadway musical giants, we had the ‘legendary best’ on “Baby”: Book by Arthur Laurents, Music by Jule Styne, Lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green, Dance Orchestrations by Luther Henderson, Directed by Burt Shevelove! and other greats from the musical world of Broadway!


The Al Hirschfeld Foundation

Leslie Uggams ` Lillian Hayman ~ Robert Hooks


Robert Hooks ~ Leslie Uggams ~ Allen Case  

Friedman-Abeles/New York Public Library

The Blacks


In 1961, an English translation of Jean Genet’s absurdist drama ‘The Blacks: A Clown Show’ opened at the St. Marks Playhouse in Greenwich Village. The play concerns a group of Black performers who must act out the murder of a white woman for the entertainment of a white tribunal, which is then required to judge the Blacks for the crime. The Blacks’ cast was made up of young, talented actors who later became very well known. Seen here are Cicely Tyson (far left) Roscoe Lee Browne, Godfrey Cambridge, Louise Stubbs (far right sitting on the ramp,) Cynthia Belgrave (behind her,) Helen Martin (in chair,) on top ramp level Maya Angelou, Larry ‘Flash’ Riley and Lex Munson. …Louis Gossett and James Earl Jones,m Raymond St Jacques, and Charles Gordone round out the brilliant cast! The Blacks ran for 1.400 performances, longer than any Off-Broadway non-musical of the decade! In 1962 I was truly fortunate to replace James Earl Jones in the original cast of the classic play!


 The original production of the play is here in its second year (it ran for nearly four.) James Earl left for a film I replaced him in the lead role opposite CicelyTyson, Roscoe Lee Browne, Lou Gossett, Maya Angelou, Louise Stubbs, Godfrey Cambridge, Chuck Gordone, Raymond St Jacques, Helen Martin, Vinnie Burrows, Lex Monson, Larry Riley, and other brilliant performers. As an artist, Nothing so soul-fulfilling for me since “The Blacks”!
 “The Blacks” (circa 1962) plays the amazing role of “Village”. Here I am (in a dance monologue) playing opposite the legendary Cicely Tyson (the first actress to shave her head bald in NY theatre history!) That’s the great Roscoe Lee Browne on the left ramp! along with other brilliant Black actors of the day!. Hands down one of the best and most intricate roles I ever got to play as a stage artist! The play ran for nearly 4 years Off-Broadway!



Though I had already performed in three Broadway plays portraying amazing young Black men and building a strong reputation on the New York stage. It wasn’t until ‘Dutchman’, the absolutely awesome two-character play by the then ‘brand new’ Black poet/playwright LeRoi Jones (later Imamu Baraka.) As an actor, it changed my career status big time, led to a higher cultural awareness, and created many cultural avenues for me as a Black artist, and eventually a successful theatre builder! Dutchman was a scathing confrontational drama set on a New York City subway train that shocked and enthralled Off-Broadway audiences throughout its popular run at Off Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theatre. Then we successfully toured Europe after closing. Here is the brilliant actress Jennifer West giving one of the great performances of that 1964 theatre season!


“Leroi Jones is great”… “He’s awful”, “He’s divine”, … “He’s dirty”,…” He’s talented”…” He’s terrible”! Over dinner tables and bars, across class lines and color, uptown and down, so it went about the brand new Black playwright Leroi Jones. During the 1964 season, Jones became the most talked-about dramatist in New York when he had five plays performed one after the other in four different houses. And the five one-acters attracted such attention pro and con that two of them were closed by orders of the police (long story) …By the time Dutchman was presented by Theatre 1964 word had gotten around concerning the startling talents of the amazing new playwright. Lines formed at the box office at the Cherry Lane Theatre and the play was a hit almost before it began. Set in a New York subway car in motion, the story concerns a white floozie across the aisle who so teases and baits an unknown young Ivy League Black man she had never seen before that he explodes, cusses out the crazy floozie, and ends up with her knife in his belly as a result. Jones (later Amiri Baraka)”Dutchman” coupled with a revival of Edward Albee’s “American Dream” was off to a great start, and sold out the West Village theatre for its entire run! …Here are its two stars Jennifer West and Robert Hooks. Directed by Edward Perone and produced by Theatre 1964, Off-Broadway New York.

This sassy young white girl got on the A Train just lookin’ for trouble. The young Black Ivy League brotha’ was just subwaying his way home. Then, all hell breaks loose!!
From the brilliant pen of Leroi Jones (later Amiri Baraka) comes his most successful play “Dutchman” the one-act gem that put the glowing and awesome then-new Black poet/playwright on America’s growing professional theatre map! Here are Dutchman’s two stars, Jennifer West and Me, just before the ‘big plot’ blowout!


A Soldier’s Play


Robert Hooks and Denzel Washington – A Soldier’s Play. Photo by Jay Thompson.                                    August 19 – October 2, 1982 – MARK TAPER FORUM.      


Bill Overton, Adolph Caesar, Charles Weldon, Larry Riley, Kene Holliday, Denzel Washington, Robert Hooks.Earl Billings, Cotter Smith, and Jesse Goins.


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