The Riant Theatre & The Black Experimental Theatre

Providing a nurturing environment to develop new plays and outstanding artists.

The Black Experimental Theatre (BET) a.k.a. The Riant Theatre, was founded in 1979, as a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization, by Artistic Director, Van Dirk Fisher.BET is a theatre that entertains as well as teaches by nurturing and developing new works by playwrights that encompass the historic and social progression of the Afro-American and the contributions the Afro-American has made in the United States.

Through the years BET has grown to include all nationalities (Asians, Afro-Americans, Hispanics, Anglo-Saxon, etc.) as its main focus, because we believe that by furthering the understanding between the races we can all advance as a people and learn to live in harmony. We celebrate our diversity and take joy in sharing our cultural differences and similarities. To this end BET was founded. We acknowledge that theatre is an important tool that has been used for centuries to help people see themselves in a new light and achieve a new perception of themselves and the world in which they live.

The Riant (which means merriment and laughter in French) has grown to become a place where artists (singers, writers, actors, directors, musicians, & visual artists) can come together to collaborate on new works and share ideas.

In 1991, the Riant Theatre opened it’s doors at 161 Hudson Street, in the heart of Tribeca. The first play presented was THE ATLANTA AFFAIR, a drama, written by Van Dirk Fisher, based on the Atlanta child murders, which haunted Atlanta from 1979 – 1981.

Over the years other productions have included the classics: ANTHONY & CLEOPATRA, A FEW GOOD MEN, ALL MY SONS, OUR TOWN. MEDEA and THE MAIDS, to name a few.

In 1995, The Strawberry One-Act Festival began, in which one-act plays were chosen from all over the country to compete for the title of BEST Play of the season.The twist was to invite the audience to be judges in helping to select the Best play, with the winning playwright receiving a development deal to have a full-length play developed and produced by the Riant Theatre.

Now twice year, during the Winter and Summer, the Riant Theatre produces the Strawberry One-Act Festival. In July of 2011 we will be celebrating our 20th season with the Strawberry Festival. It has served as a wonderful showcase for the Riant to discover outstanding artists and provide them with an environment to flourish and develop their craft.

Eight anthologies of THE BEST PLAYS FROM THE STRAWBERRY ONE-ACT FESTIVAL: Volume 1 – 8, have provided a wonderful source for theatre lovers and companies around the world to enjoy these plays and perform them. The plays have also proven to be an excellent learning tool for schools and community organizations. The subject matter covers a wide range of topics such as teenage suicide in CUT SHORT by Jonathan Zungre (Volume 3), to genocide in COLD APRIL by John P. McEneny, which is set in Rawanda in 1994, in which a thirteen-year old girl refuses to hand over her friends to the Hutu rebels, (Volume 5), to romance in BIG CRUNCH by Helen Hill, a pas de deux between two prospective lovers who meet in a train station (Volume 2).

The Riant Theatre reaches out to our community and our youth with innovative programs in education that encourages and nurtures artistic expression with an impressive internship and professional training program. In addition, special programs have been created to provide a comfortable environment to address issues for teens-at-risk and substance abusers. Our Outreach Program visits the shut-ins at hospitals, nursing homes, detention centers and senior citizen centers. The Riant Theatre’s goal is to reach the widest audience possible.We intend to do this with our touring unit, as well as extended performances of in-house productions, transferring shows to larger theatres and collaborating with other theatre institutions.

We judge our success by the number of artists lives we have helped over the years by giving them a home where they can develop their craft in a nurturing environment. We also offer the networking capabilities of referring artists for work at other theatres as well as job opportunities in film, television and radio.We consider our home The Riant, a vessel which many ships may harbor, trading their ideas, talents and experiences before moving on to the world beyond our shores.We believe everyone has the potential to succeed. It is our mission to help the artist discover and tap that talent inside their souls and help them grow! Let’s make it happen.We look forward to seeing you at one of our upcoming performances.