The Apollo Theater's Executive Producer On Maintaining Harlem's Rich Legacy

Photo by Shahar Azran/SA PRO, Inc.
“Even if the community around us shifts and changes, we have to remain that beacon,” the historic theater’s Executive Producer told ESSENCE.

With a background in theater, Broadway, and television, Kamilah Forbes has found her way to the Apollo as their Executive Producer. A daughter of two immigrant parents from Jamaica, Forbes has joined the team at the historic theater where entertainers like Lauryn Hill, Steve Harvey and Dave Chappelle have all started their career. Here’s how this Howard graduate has created a unique path for herself while continuing to uphold the dynamic legacy of The Apollo Theater. 

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Full Name: Kamilah Forbes

Title/Company: Executive Producer/ Apollo Theater

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Age: 40

Location: Harlem, New York

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Hometown: Chicago by way of Jamaica 

Social Media: @kamilahf

The Gig: At The Apollo Theater, my role as the Executive Producer means that I'm in charge of all things artistic including the programming and strategic partnerships that we garner.

The Significance Of Maintaining Harlem’s Rich History: Now, more than ever, it’s so critical that the Apollo continue to build a broader base for African-American culture and creativity. Even if the community around us shifts and changes, we have to remain that beacon. 

A Dynamic History In The Arts: My work as a theater director prepared me greatly for my current role because it brought a lot of that sensibility of building and crafting artistic work for this stage. I've worked a lot with institutions like The Kennedy Center while generating large-scale international festivals. I bring all of that to this position as The Apollo intersects a live performance across media, music, theater, opera and dance, which is exciting to have one place to play with all my tools.

Creating Opportunity For Yourself: As a young director trying to build your career, it's sometimes hard, particularly for young women of color because you don't always get the kind of work experience that you need to really grow and advance. I overcame that by dabbling into other mediums and not just theater. I overcame that frustration by finding ways to create other avenues for myself.

Advice For Black Women Interested In Theater: It's all about creating. You are making the road by walking and that can be frustrating at times but know that sometimes a ‘no’ just means that you have to find another way in or build your own door.

Her Superpower: Listening. 

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