Barry Scott, Nashville’s American Negro Playwright, Dies

Barry Scott

NASHVILLE, TN — Barry Scott was Nashville’s finest actor and clearly Music City’s highest-profiled theatrical performer nationally and recognized as one of the most versatile practitioners of his art. He was widely known for his successes as an actor, producer, director, motivational speaker and voiceover artist. Scott was also a writer  with more than a half dozen produced scripts to his credit, often celebrating black pride, including “Harlem Voices” and “A Joyful Noise.” As a  director it extended his logical extension of his energy, his involvement, his experience and his always-developing talent. He was the founder and producing artistic director of the American Negro Playwright Theatre at Tennessee State University, where his parents  and grandparents graduated. Scott was one of the leading theatre artists in the city he loved – Nashville. His impressive acting credits were nationwide, including television’s “I’ll Fly Away” and “In the Heat of the Night.” He was a member of the Screen Actors Guild, Actor’s Equity Association, American Film Radio & Television Association and served on the board of the Tennessee Arts Commission.

An authority on the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Scott wrote and starred in “Ain’t Got Long to Stay Here” as a tribute to Dr. King and he taught a generation of students about one of America’s most violent and inspiring times, and the man who literally changed the entire nation. Scott was so convincing in his portrayal of Dr. King, that Coretta Scott King once cornered him between acts of a play to compliment him on his realistic and honest depiction of her late husband. He has performed excerpts of King’s speeches for the Humanitarian Awards Ceremony honoring President Jimmy Carter and was recorded on the March On album benefiting the National Civil Rights Museum. Just a few of the prominent venues in which Scott has recreated Dr. King’s speeches included: the Beacon Theater in New York, the Fox Theater in Atlanta, the Seattle Children’s Theater, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the Boutwell Performing Arts Center in Birmingham, the  historic Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, the Masonic Temple in Memphis, the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, and the Actors Theater in Louisville.

Scott’s professional work as a writer include the plays “Lisa’s Story,” “Harlem Voices,” “An American Slavery Play,” “Stones of Promise,” “Joyful Noise,” “When I Grow Up I’m Gonna’ Get Me Some Big Words,” “Oh Freedom,” “A Man Named York” and “The Last Negro.”

Scott’s film and television roles include appearances in “I’ll Fly Away “and “Rescue 911,” and a recurring role as a minister in the successful series “In the Heat of the Night.” Many people recognize him as the disabled Vietnam Veteran in the award winning Travis Tritt music video trilogy, “Anymore” He also co-starred with Jim Varney in the Touchstone picture, “Ernest Goes to Jail.” Scott’s talents were tapped as Script Consultant in “Slam Dunk Ernest” and he was featured in the role of Captain Jackson in “The Expert,” starring Jeff Speakman.

He has performed for the Tennessee Repertory Theatre in many productions including “Fences,” “Macbeth,” “Othello,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “Blood Knot,” “Man of La Mancha,” “Camelot,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Pirates of Penzance,” “Evita,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and “Big River.”

He has conducted workshops on acting and has received several awards including the Ingram Fellowship Award for Theatre and the Partnership in Access and Appreciation Grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission. He also won the Ralph Edmondson National Award for Play Writing for Lisa’s Story, which he wrote, produced, directed and starred in.

Scott was a much-requested motivational speaker, lecturer and orator. His leadership speech “Courage To Lead” is a regular part of the curriculum at the prestigious Owen School of Management at Vanderbilt University.

Scott created the Living With Theatre program – a forum to discuss important social issues with school aged children. He was the moderator for the Let Me Speak and Be Heard program for the Metropolitan Nashville School system. He also wrote and directed the video series, Stones of Promise, an inspirational teaching tool celebrating the black family for United Methodist Communications. He wrote “Oh Freedom,” a play with music that starred Scott and Grammy award winner Patti Austin along with the Nashville Symphony. Scott was recognized for his altruistic work by being named Nashvillian of the Year in 1993 in the Nashville Scene Newspaper.

In 2004 Scott received rave reviews for his performance in the play “Looking Over The President’s Shoulder” directed by Emmy Award winning actor Mr. Robert Guillume. In 2005 Scott was named Best Actor by the Nashville Scene Newspaper for his starring role in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson directed by the Tony Award winning producer-director Mr. Woodie King Jr. In an interview with the Tennessean Newspaper Mr. King commented that “Barry Scott is a brilliant artist. He easily moves from actor to playwright to director. In a unique world of theatre, Barry has mastered each, and he is so giving. He shares his knowledge with younger Blacks who want to be a part of the Black theatre. He always brings new insights into a rehearsal.”

Scott’s voice could be heard on commercials and PSA’s around the country. He has voiced work for ESPN (the National Football League – Regular Season Games, Playoff Games & the Super Bowl, The National Basketball Association – Regular Season Games, Playoff Games & the Championship Finals, Professional Baseball – Home Run Derby, the NHL, and the PGA), CBS, ABC, NBC, Disney, SPIKE TV – TNA Wrestling,The Discovery Channel, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, McDonalds, The American Heart Association and many more.

 Unbeknownst to many, Scott had a potentially life-changing opportunity auditioning in Los Angeles for Norman Lear’s Good Times. “It went well,” Scott said, “but I didn’t wind up with the role. It was quite an education for me as a young boy from Nashville, living in Hollywood in the 1970s and discovering how the games are played. So, if you were not Sidney Poitier or Bill Cosby, opportunities were actually few. I was always auditioning for the ‘cool black dude,’ ‘the jive black dude,’ ‘the convict black dude,’ ‘the pimp black dude.’ You had to be a buffoon. Plus, I wasn’t mature enough to understand and digest all of that.”

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