written by the two brothers, and it began drawing
audiences and reviews from the Times-Picayune.
“Even though I was only between 16 and 18 years old,
we were, all of a sudden, the new theatrical darlings,” Anthony
fondly recalled. “They treated us like Dashiki Theatre, NORD
Theatre and Le Petit. We were a legitimate theater.”
This venture was followed by Anthony’s enrollment in the theatre
program at the University of New Orleans and then it was on
to a ten-year stint in Los Angeles. While in L.A. he gave acting
workshops, performed one-man shows and continued pursuing
other stage acting roles before returning to New Orleans in the
“I wanted to be closer to my (then-14 year old) daughter, Toni,”
Anthony said, explaining his primary rationale for returning to his
home city. “But two years later she died of undetermined causes.
I was devastated. She was the love of my life,” he said.
Trying to take his mind off the tragedy, Anthony began formulating
the idea of opening up an acting school and theater. “I had
looked around and didn’t see any other schools for young black
kids so I knew I needed to create a school myself,” he explained.
“I felt that, if black kids don’t know who they are, then they’re
going to assimilate and not know where they came from.”
After learning that a church on South Carrollton Avenue had
a vacant school with a 100-seat auditorium, Anthony leased
the building and it became the home for the Anthony Bean
Community Theater for the next 18 years.
Dozens of plays and musicals were performed at his namesake
theater and school, many of which were local premieres, including
new works by New Orleans-based writers. Individually and collectively
as a theatrical venue, Anthony and ABCT won numerous
accolades and awards, including Big Easy Entertainment Awards.
“We don’t just do black-themed plays,” he emphasized, citing
specific ABCT productions performed with mixed casts.
“I like to think of myself as inter-generational,” he said. “I teach
from ages 7 to 17 and adults. I can transcend easily between them.
I’ve been doing this for many years and I enjoy it.”
Over the course of his long career, a sizable number of those
he taught went on to careers in the performing arts. The most
prominent of them was Wendell Pierce who starred in HBO’s
New Orleans-based “Treme” series and other TV shows, motion
pictures and stage productions.
To many of his young students, Anthony has become like a
father figure and, with no other children of his own after his
daughter’s passing, he has taken pride in his surrogate role.
“They say you get back the things that you’ve lost and it
restores you,” he said. “Nothing can take the place
of my daughter but I’ve got all these children
that I taught. Many of them grew up
in my program.”
In mid-January of this year Anthony was honored by the Center
for African and African American Studies at SUNO. Some of his
students, including Wendell Pierce, came in from as far away
as New York and Los Angeles to pay tribute to their teacher and
mentor. Emotionally touched by the occasion, Anthony said, “It
was like God saying ‘I took away your child but I’m giving you so
many more in return.’ That’s a testimony in itself.”
Anthony devotes considerable space to his late daughter in
an autobiographical book he has nearly completed. In the book,
titled “And God Stepped In,” Anthony details his journey of faith
throughout his life and career, from childhood to the present.
“I’m up to the last chapter, just waiting for something special to
happen before finishing it,” Anthony said, referencing his
efforts to acquire a permanent home for his theater
and acting school.
“That chapter,” he said, “Will be
where God stepped in.”
Tickets to the festival Gala can be purchased
by calling (504) 862-7529 or visiting the ABCT website at
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANTHONY BEAN
8 | BREAKTHRU MEDIA | breakthrumediamagazine.com MARC H / A P R I L 2 0 2 0