The Arvada Center is turning up the volume on stories that have been silenced for too long. This summer, the center has released a free six-part video series, Amplify, showcasing 30 Black performers from across Colorado. The series was produced by Betty Hart, an award-winning actress, director and member of the Actor’s Equity Association. Hart first got involved with the Arvada Center when she starred in its production of “The Mountaintop,” a play about the last night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.
Hart has viewed 2020 as a year of racial reckoning in America — and in the midst of that reckoning, the actress and the Arvada Center were looking for a way to say they wanted to be part of a solution.
Enter Amplify. The series aired June 26 with Season 1, a three-part season magnifying the voices, stories and talent of 15 Black male performers. Now, a three-part Season 2 is doing the same for 15 Black female performers. And with the final episode airing September 11, 303 Magazine sat down with Hart to talk about her inspiration, production process and future plans.
303 Magazine: Can you tell me more about your process for putting this series together?
Betty Hart: The first edition has 15 Black men and the way it began was that each episode had five performers and was 25 minutes long. In each episode, you could see someone singing, playing piano, giving a monologue, dancing. They have no parameters. I told them to simply let us know what’s in their mind, their soul, their spirit. We have people who talk about the fears of being Black in America, we have poems, we have comedy, we have monologues related to race and monologues not related to race. There’s lots and lots of creativity.
Every performer is responsible for where they record it, thanks to COVID. Especially with the women’s episodes, you have all kinds of different backgrounds, and it’s exquisite.
303: How did you select the performers who are featured in the series?
BH: When this opportunity came, most of the theater world had been shut down because of COVID, so to select people and give them the opportunity to create — and pay them — was pretty compelling. I chose these performers because I’ve seen their work somewhere along the way. If I’m not creating, I’m watching others, so I know tons and tons of performers. The hardest part of this series was having to choose only 15 men and 15 women. These are just some of the artists out there.
303: In what ways do you think the Amplify series contributes to the conversation our country is having about racial equality?
BH: I became an actor because I believe theater is an amazing educational tool. It’s a really great way to help people learn, discover and see new things. I think the only way for us to move forward as a country is to really see each other as humans and as fully human, not as a stereotype. If you only know Black people through film or radio, perhaps you have a perception that isn’t fully formed. This series directly addresses what’s happening in our country because you get a chance to hear from Black people exactly how it’s affecting them. I hope Amplify will allow the audience to be touched and to have increased empathy, and I want people to see the vibrancy that is the Black experience.
303: Do you have any plans as far as continuing this project in the future?
BH: People keep asking that! My response is that as long as the audience is fully engaged and wants more, we’ll continue to create more. It won’t be exactly what we’ve done and it’s not going to be whatever people are thinking, but I do have an idea.
To view the Amplify video series go here.