Vinnette Carroll

Vinnette Carroll

Vinnette Carroll was the first African-American woman to direct a production on Broadway. Vinnette Carroll was born on March 11, 1922 in New York City to Florence and Edgar Carroll. When Vinnette was three the family moved to Jamaica; subsequently, she spent much of her childhood in the West Indies. She received a BA from Long Island University in 1944; and an MA from New York University in 1946; followed by doctoral work in psychology at Columbia University. Carroll’s father encouraged his daughters to become physicians, and as a compromise, Vinnette chose psychology. Carroll worked as a clinical psychologist with the NYC Bureau of Child Guidance before beginning to study acting.

In 1948 she accepted a scholarship to attend the Erwin Piscator’s Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research and studied with Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Margaret Barker, and Susan Steele. She made her professional stage debut at the Falmouth Playhouse acting in Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion. 

Later in response to the scarcity of roles, Carroll created a one-woman show and toured the United States and the West Indies. For eleven years she taught theater arts and directed productions as a member of the faculty of the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. Her Broadway acting debut came in 1956 when she appeared in a revival of A Streetcar Named Desire.

In 1967 she founded the Urban Arts Corps in New York City. One of the goals of the Corps was to assist minority performers in all theatrical disciplines. Serving as Artistic Director, Carroll selected and directed all of the Urban Arts Corps’ productions, specializing in works by black writers and composers, sometimes writing the material herself.

1972 saw Carroll begin her collaboration with songwriter Micki Grant. Carroll became the first African-American woman to direct a production on Broadway when Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope opened at the Playhouse Theatre. The two women have collaborated on pieces such as Your Arms Too Short ot Box with God and Ups and Downs of Theophilus Maitland.

A talented actress, playwright, and director, Vinnette Carroll has received numerous honors and awards including an Emmy Award, an Obie Award, three Tony Award nominations, and was inducted into the Black Film Makers Hall of Fame in 1979. She is a member of Actors Equity Association and the Screen Actors Guild and is currently the Producing Artistic Director, as well as the founder, of the Vinnette Carroll Repertory Company, which has its permanent home in a church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.