Photo Courtesy of Carl Clay
Photo Courtesy of Carl Clay


Carl Clay, Founder of Black Spectrum Theatre

In the early 80s and 90s, I spent a lot of time in Roy Wilkins Park in St. Albans, Queens. Back then, the park was known for four things: the pool, the camp, after-school programs, and the Black Spectrum Theatre. Though I’ve seen everything from movies to theater performances that included my younger siblings, a part of me feels I should have spent more time there.


Listen to Carl Clay tell his Story


One day, I sat at the table in my childhood home, getting buzzed off nostalgia and reminiscing about the good old days of Roy Wilkins Park. Then, we started talking about the origins of the Black Spectrum Theatre, which piqued my interest. I mean, I knew about it, but not really. And the only way I could get that story was to talk to the only man who truly knew it, Carl Clay. I reached out to Carl’s team, and they set it up. Days later, I found myself setting up microphones in a green room across from the theatre, preparing to record a conversation with Carl.

From the beginning of Carl’s career, with his groundbreaking film “Babies Making Babies,” which tackled the sensitive topic of teen pregnancy, Carl established himself as a fearless storyteller committed to shedding light on the harsh realities many face. This willingness to confront difficult subjects head-on has been a hallmark of his work, whether it’s exploring gun violence, racial identity, or other pressing societal challenges.

Through the Black Spectrum Theatre, which he founded, he has created a cultural hub in Queens that serves as a platform for artistic expression and as a catalyst for dialogue and understanding within the community. Carl’s dedication to using his art to reflect and address the issues that matter most to his community is truly inspiring in a world that often prioritizes commercial success over substance.

Another key takeaway from our conversation is the importance Carl places on nurturing young talent and providing educational opportunities in the arts. With over 350 plays directed and 26 films under his belt, Carl has established himself as a prolific artist and as a mentor and educator, ensuring that the next generation of artists has the tools and guidance they need to find their own voices.

Our discussion made it clear that Carl’s work is not confined to any single genre or topic. His versatility and willingness to explore diverse themes and styles demonstrate his commitment to storytelling in its purest form – a commitment to truth and reality. Carl understands that stories have the power to resonate deeply with audiences when they reflect the complexities and nuances of the human experience.

Reflecting on Carl Clay’s remarkable 50-year journey in the arts, it’s hard not to be filled with admiration and inspiration for all he has accomplished. Here is a man who has dedicated his life to using his creative talents to entertain, educate, challenge, and inspire.

Looking ahead, Carl’s dreams and plans for the future only reinforce his commitment to continuous growth and evolution as an artist. His journey is a powerful reminder that art is not a static endeavor but a living, breathing force that must constantly adapt and evolve to remain relevant and impactful.

This short reflection on my conversation with Carl Clay offers a glimpse of his story. However, for the full spectrum experience, try scrolling back up and listening to the entire conversation to unlock the complete story.


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