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Ernie McClintock papers

Identifier: MSS 16810

Content Description

This collection contains the papers of Ernie McClintock (1937-2003), an American director, producer, actor, writer, teacher, and theatre artist who was a major force in the Black Arts Movement. He taught acting to hundreds of students across the country and directed award-winning plays in Harlem, New York (1960-1989), and Richmond, Virginia (1989-2003). The McClintock papers are a living archive for future drama students and communities interested in Black theatre. They represent the works and dreams of a Black and Gay theatre director who persisted in giving voice to the Black and multicultural communities where he lived. His work spanned beyond one dimensional categories, and he was well-known behind the scenes with famous actors, directors, and playwrights, and was the recipient of seven prestigious Audelco awards for excellence in Black theater. He worked with Tupac Shakur, Ossie Davis, James Earl Jones, Felicia Rashad, Morgan Freeman, Lou Gossett, Jr., Dr. Walter Turnbull, Woody King, Jr. and others. McClintock was committed to world class excellence in theatre and to introducing more Black theatre productions to the community. He directed over two hundred performances from classics like A Raisin in the Sun to Tupac Shakur's Rose Grew Out of Cement, and new plays written by young playwrights and actors like Derome Scott Smith in R.I.O.T. or Jerome Hairston. His personal papers and theatre papers are combined because his life and family were inseparable from the theatre. He also won the Billy Graham artistic excellence award in 2002. (There are two scripts in the collection written by Billy Graham about Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis). Too expansive to put in one category, anyone studying Black Theatre Arts will repeatedly come across the exemplary work of Ernie McClintock.

One of the highlights of the collection are McClintock’s personal notebooks (over a hundred journals) that lay out his driving passion to create a world-class, first-rate theatre and his commitment to live in a world of honesty, pure intention, and love. The journals also contain many personal peptalks that he wrote to inspire himself to keep working toward his goals. He developed his own "Jazz Style Acting Technique" where actors imagine the character beyond the script to become the person in the play. His lesson plans include a series of questions and exercises that require the actor to discover himself as an actor and in character. He taught Black actors how to express themselves using their own Black experiences instead of the general acting techniques that were based on white experiences. His colleagues remarked that once an actor had worked with Ernie McClintock, their life and acting was transformed. He was a taskmaster that demanded commitment and excellence and his legacy was the improvement of individual actors and the promotion of Black theatre in communities. The reward was love for each other, and the investment of full emotional expression, and dynamic physical movement in theatre which could be healing to a community that has been so greatly ignored and mistreated.

The collection also includes personal and professional correspondence, financial documents, contracts, and manuscript notes which represent a significant piece of Ernie McClintock's creative output. There are also scripts and typescripts of plays McClintock produced and collected. The collection also contains newspaper clippings, reviews, articles, awards, promotional materials, playbills, programs, photographs, and audiovisual materials documenting his life and work.

McClintock started the Afro-American Actors Studio for Acting and Speech in New York City, and the Jazz Actors Theatre in Richmond, Virginia and he also worked with the community to create outstanding theatre productions, including the National Black Theatre Festival. His time was consumed with directing, teaching, fundraising, and writing drafts of promotional literature for events and workshops to promote theatre and excellence.

Also included are casting files which include headshots, resumes, and other casting/booking documents from McClintock-affiliated productions, and production files which contain programs and contract agreements for McClintock's productions. Many of the actors from the Afro-American Acting Studio in New York, followed McClintock to his Jazz Actors Theatre in Richmond, Virginia. They include Thaddeus Daniels, Joan Green, Helen Butler, Valerie Drummond, Lee Cooper, Hazel Smith, d. l. Hopkins, Leonard Wilson, Janice Jenkins, Jessie Holmes, Ed Broaddus, Jerome Preston Bates, Antonio Charity, J. Ron Fleming, Lee Levy Simon and many more. Other actors and theatre directors mentioned are Derome Scott Smith, Randy Strawderman, Mary Hodges, Mary Sue Carroll, Zaria Griffin, Bolanye Edwards, and Dr. Cumber Dance.

Included in the collection is information about and from Ronald "Ronn" Tyrone Walker, McClintock's long-time partner and technical director. Walker, an artist in his own right, received three Audelco awards for his amazing work with free standing scene designs and lighting.

The photographic materials document performances, rehearsals, events, and McClintock's personal life, and the life of Ronn Walker. The bulk of the photographs are in color, taken in Richmond circa 1991-2003. There are photographs of Ernie McClintock with Tupac Shakur. There is also a photograph of Sammy Davis, Jr. with the Boys Choir of Harlem, a contact sheet with James (J. J.) Walker (Dyn-O-mite from Good Times television show), and many photographs of playwrights, directors, and actors of note.

The A-V materials include audiocassette tapes where one can hear the voice of Ernie McClintock, and mostly mixtapes of music, and the reel-to-reel audiotapes including interviews and audio for performances and lesson plans from the Afro-American Actors Studio for Acting and Speech. There is one CD-R containing a Microsoft Publisher file (of an artist wanting to share her work with Ernie McClintock.)


  • Creation: 1961-2006


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Biographical / Historical

Ernie McClintock (1937-2003) was an award-winning American director, teacher, and theatre artist who was a major force behind the scenes of the Black Arts Movement (1965-1975). He was well-known to famous Black actors, directors, and playwrights. He worked with Tupac Shakur, Ossie Davis, James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Morgan Freeman, Lou Gossett, Jr., Sammy Davis, Jr., Dr. Walter Turnbull, Marc Primus, Woody King, Jr., Ntozake Shange, Amiri Bakara, and many others. He earned seven Audelco awards for his theatre work including Dramatic Production of the Year for River Niger and Equus. He won Best Director for Equus, Moon On a Rainbow Shawl and Outstanding Musical Creation for Tabernacle. McClintock was known in the theatre for bringing a unique blend of clarity, boldness and intense dramatic effect to his productions. He has been most acclaimed for his innovative and award winning productions of Shango, Do Lord Remember Me, Dream On Monkey Mountain and Spell #7 He was also the 1997 recipient of the Living Legend Award from the National Black Theatre.

After McClintock saw his first play, A Hatful of Rain starring Frank Silvera when he was in high school in Chicago,he was deeply moved by the intense emotional performance of the lead actor. He started acting in plays in high school, at Crane College (now Malcolm X College)and in local Chicago productions.

Around 1965, after returning from two years of service in the U.S. Army, McClintock moved to New York City. After one of his performances, actor Lou Gossett, Jr. was so impressed that he hired McClintock to teach at his school. This experience would be crucial in the development of teaching theatre to hundreds of students across the country.

In 1966, McClintock founded his first acting studio, the Afro-American Studio for Acting and Speech, based in Harlem. In 1968, he opened the 127th Street Repertory Ensemble, which served as the professional extension of the school. Beginning around this time, McClintock also worked with the famous Boy’s Choir of Harlem as a stage director and choreographer, a role that would last for the next decade. In 1986, McClintock created the Harlem Jazz Theatre.

Through his teaching, McClintock developed his own acting technique that he called, “Jazz Acting,” or a “Common Sense Approach” to acting which according to McClintock "allows actors to use their own life experiences to enhance their characterizations on the stage." An actor asks himself a series a questions about identity to better understand the character beyond the script and also learn who he is an actor. He taught Black actors how to express themselves using their own Black experiences instead of the general acting techniques that were based on white experience. He directed over 200 theatrical productions, concerts, musicals, and club acts. McClintock believed that the depiction of hard life circumstances and the expressions of emotions in Black Theatre was a way of healing for African Americans.

In 1989, he and his partner, the artist, and designer Ronald Tyrone Walker, moved their life and work to Richmond, Virginia, renaming their studio the Jazz Actor’s Theatre. "Ronn" Walker was born in St. Louis and met Ernie McClintock in 1962 in Chicago. He won three Audelco awards for his technical scenes and creative work on set design and lighting. Walker was known for being amazingly resourceful in creating stunning visual images for the stage.

McClintock and Walker became heavily invested in the performing arts community in Richmond, bringing back the annual National Black Theatre Festival (which McClintock founded in 1989) and collaborating on the “Theatre for All the People” program with the Richmond Department of Parks and Recreation. After Ronald Walker died in 1999, McClintock created a new artspace for African Americans with a focus on multiculturism - the Ronald Tyrone Walker Memorial Gallery for the Creative Arts. McClintock consistently directed excellent theatre performances in his community and worked with local government throughout his life to promote world class Black theatre productions. He died in 2003 in Richmond, Virginia but his legacy lives on in this collection.

Source: Material in collection

Apreciation for Dr. Elizabeth Cismar, Geno Brantley (adopted son of Ernie and Ronn), Geno's partner and stage director Donna Pendarvis, actor and filmographer Derome Scott Smith, actors Mary Hodges, and Iman Shabazz for sharing their knowledge of the collection with the University of Virginia libary. The collection is a living archive of the work and legacy of Ernie McClintock and Ronn Walker for our users and future drama students.


24.44 Cubic Feet (40 document boxes, 1 cubic of awards, and several cubics of A-V materials)

0.0093 Gigabytes (1 PUB file) : 1 CDR

Language of Materials



The collection is organized into seven series with 5 subseries under Series 1. Series 1. Black Theatre Development. Subseries 1. Afro-American Actors Studio for Acting and Speaking, Subseries 2. Boys Choir of Harlem, 3. Jazz Actors Studio, 4. Jazz Theatre of Richmond, Subseries 5. Personal papers and career, Series 2. Scripts, production files, and poems, Series 3. Programs, Series 4. Reviews, articles, theatres, and theatre education, Series 5. Scrapbooks, photographs, and negatives, Series 6. Awards and certificates, Series 7. A-V materials.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was purchased from Geno Brantley and Donna Pendarvis by the Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia Library on 15 March 2023.

Condition Description



This material may contain offensive or harmful language or imagery. The purpose of this note is to give users the opportunity to decide whether they need or want to view these materials, or at least, to mentally or emotionally prepare themselves to view the materials. Photographs have some nudity.

Ernie McClintock papers
Ellen Welch
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States