BNHA Arena Players

Interpretive Framework

Gaining Freedom for All: African American Heritage and the Struggle for Equality

Shaping a Monumental City: The City’s Growth in the 20th Century

Star Attractions

Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail

Resource Type

Points of Interest

Performing Arts Venue

801 McCulloh St

Baltimore, Maryland 21201

The Arena Players is the oldest continuously running African American community theatre in the United States, and in 2008, celebrated 55 years of performances. Founded in 1953 by Samuel Wilson with the assistance of June Thorn, the first black woman to host a local Baltimore television show, and George Barrett, an arts educator, Arena Players was initially envisioned as a dramatic arts youth theatre. The Arena Players’ first home was Coppin State College, later moving to the Druid Heights YMCA. Wilson raised $500,000 to renovate the building into a true theatre space with costume closets, dressing rooms, classrooms, and art, music, and dance studios. Actors Howard Rollins (A Soldiers Story), Charles Dutton (Roc, The Corner) and Damon Evans (The Jeffersons) can trace their early years to Arena Players.