ELMART Theatre Service provides bus rides from the greater-Newark, NJ area to the Black theater (Broadway, Off-Broadway and Regional) in the tri-state area. Our mission is to support African American (of African Diasporan) plays, playwrights and actors and to stimulate a dialog about the future of Black theater. We also enjoy receptions with the artists and dine at local restaurants.
Celeste Bateman & Associates (CB&A) is a Jersey-based, licensed booking agency that represents artists and speakers who specialize in art forms and topics relative to the African Diaspora. In the interest of keeping ELMART Theatre Service going after its co-founders Elma T. Bateman and Art Wilson retired in 2013 after 44 years; continuing to provide our clients with quality theatrical excursions and expanding the mission of CB&A, we have taken on this great service — providing bus rides to the Black theater, extraordinary dining experiences while supporting African-American owned businesses and organizations.
A Glimpse at the 48-Year History of Bringing Folks to the Black Theater
ELMART Theatre Service was founded in 1969 by Elma T. Bateman and Arthur L. Wilson, both members of Queen of Angels Players, an amateur theater group based at Queen of Angels R.C. Church in Newark, NJ. They participated in variety and well known plays from about 1957 until the late l960s when the group had to disband due the rising costs of production and people moving on to other activities.
They then turned their attention to attending Broadway and off-Broadway shows, particularly in the African-American circuit. When A Raisin in the Sun came to Broadway in 1969 (the 10th anniversary celebration of the play’s 1959 Broadway debut), they decided to charter a bus and take people to see it. They combined their names — Elma and Art — and became ELMART. They sent out flyers to friends and church members and ELMART Theatre Service was born.
Elma is a retired secretary and medical assistant; Art, who passed away in 2015, retired as principal of St. Rose of Lima Grammar School in Newark. Both were founding Board members and served as president of New Community Corp., a non-profit housing development organization in Newark. ELMART Theatre Service was not a money-maker for them, but a labor of love. From 1969 to 2013, they took theatergoers to over 150 plays by and/or about African Americans and/or the African Diaspora.
Operating on a small budget, it was their sole mission to get people to the Black theater and for 44 years, they did just that. Pictured: Elma T. Bateman and Arthur L. Wilson.
The Legacy Continues
Celeste Bateman & Assocs., LLC took over ELMART Theatre Service in 2014. Since then, we’ve gone to see “Master Harold”… and the Boys (March 2, 2014)* at Luna Stage in West Orange; While I Yet Live by Tony Award-winner Billy Porter at The Duke on 42nd, NYC (Oct. 11, 2014)*; Lines in the Dust by Obie Award-winning playwright Nikkole Salter at Luna Stage, (Nov. 9, 2014)*; Autumn (April 26, 2015)* by native Newarker, Richard Wesley at Crossroads, New Brunswick; Repairing a Nation at Crossroads (March 7, 2015) and Sistahs at St. Luke’s Theatre, NYC (Sept. 19, 2015). We also went to BB King’s Blues Club in NYC for their Gospel Brunch featuring the Harlem Gospel Choir (Dec. 14, 2014).
On two gorgeous weekends in October 2015, ELMART patrons enjoyed an extraordinary visit to the nation’s Capital. October 17-18 we visited the Capitol Building and October 24-25, ELMART travelers toured the White House. Both groups had a delicious lunch at the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl before heading to the awe-inspiring MLK monument. The second group got to visit the Anacostia Museum, a beautiful neighborhood facility in Southeast DC, part of the Smithsonian Institution. After an overnight stay at the Dulles Hyatt in Herndon, VA and a buffet breakfast, we headed to Philly where we partied at the renowned Warmdaddy’s where the brunch buffet and the entertainment were phenomenal.
On March 6, 2016 we saw The Brothers Size at Luna Stage in West Orange and hosted a closing reception for the cast. We went to Broadway twice in 2016. On April 23 we saw Shuffle Along at the Music Box Theater, an outstanding musical with choreography by Newark’s own Savion Glover. On June 18, we saw Eclipsed at the Golden Theatre, which featured Academy Award-winner Lupita Nyongo. On October 22 we saw Vy Higginson’s Alive, 55+ and Kicking at the Dempsey Theater in Harlem. We enjoyed breakfast at Amy Ruth’s on 116th Street before the play.
On March 19, 2017, we ventured to the National Museum of African American History and Culture with a busload of over 50 patrons and another trip is scheduled for April 23, 2017.
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