Newton Buchanan’s journey into the world of theater began when a high school friend of his invited him to come to an audition for a local theater group.
“And even though I didn’t quite know what an audition was, I decided to go with him and find out,” says Buchanan, looking back to those wonderful, naïve days.
Of course, no one was more surprised than Buchanan himself when he was tapped to join a youth group in Media that went into area schools to promote all kinds of things that lead to unhealthy living, like substance abuse, addiction, abstinence, and so on.
“The program was called ‘Yes Theatre’ and from that day on I was enthralled. I was with the program for three or four years, when something inside me decided I could do this for the rest of my life,” Buchanan recalls. “And the whole experience also helped me become more comfortable with myself.”
And so it went. After graduating from high school, Philadelphia-based actor decided to go to Hedgerow Theater for a few years, something he considers his “conservatory of learning.”
“It was like my boot camp,” he continues. “I did everything there, from acting, teaching, directing, box office sales, cleaning, marketing. I also did lighting and set design. I was there in their Fellowship Program. So after that experience I came to realize I could really handle everything that was theater-related.”
Today, among his many pursuits, Buchanan is co-hosting “Theatre Philadelphia: A Celebration” on Monday, Nov. 16. This celebration replaces the Barrymore Awards usually held at this time because the 2019-2020 theater season came to an abrupt end in March due to COVID-19.
And while this year’s celebration won’t resemble anything from the past, it will recognize the creativity and resilience of our local theater community. The streaming event will be a one-hour look back at the 2019-2020 season of theater.
“COVID has put an end to the Barrymore Awards for this year,” Buchanan explains. “A lot of productions had to shut down as well, so it’s unfair to hold a full awards ceremony when so many productions didn’t even have a chance to perform. So this is more a celebration rather than an awards ceremony. It’s kind of a recognition of those shows that were postponed and those that are being recognized.”
Buchanan himself is a Barrymore Award nominated performer and theater producer. He’s a co-founder of New Light Theater Company, a company dedicated to illuminating the human condition and providing opportunities for emerging young theater artists to work in a professional setting.
He is also co-founder of the newly-formed Black Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia, whose mission is geared toward the elevation and advocacy of Black theater artists in the Philadelphia area.
“I like to bring people together and help them. I like acting but I really like producing,” the man of many talents relates.
“Today, as I look back at the young Newton I know his biggest dream was reciting Shakespeare on the Broadway stage. But now I hope I can change the world and make it better.”
Still, Buchanan concludes, “I believe the 18-year-old Newton is still somewhere inside me as I hope it exists in everyone. There’s something about that child-like perspective on the world that can keep us empathetic, teach us compassion, and keep us gentle — even gentle to our own soul.”