Actors' Equity Association announced today that Emmy-Award winning director/producer and writer William Greaves is the recipient of the 2012 Paul Robeson Award. Created in 1971, the Award recognizes a person who best exemplifies the principles by which Mr. Robeson lived. The award will be presented to Mr. Greaves at the October 12 Eastern Regional Membership Meeting at the Union's headquarters in New York City.
William Greaves got his start in the film industry in front of the camera. He joined Actors' Equity in 1945 and worked on television, in film, and on Broadway from 1946 to 1952. He first appeared as an actor at the American Negro Theater, and later played the lead role in the stage production of A Young American. He was a featured actor in the Broadway hit Lost in the Stars, and was part of the all-black cast of the 1948 feature film Miracle in Harlem, and in The Fight Never Ends, which starred heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. In 1948, Greaves joined The Actor's Studio and studied alongside the likes of Marlon Brando, Julie Harris, Anthony Quinn, Shelley Winters, and others.
Greaves grew dissatisfied with the roles in which he was being cast, which were often stereotypes and derivative due to racism prevalent throughout American culture at the time, and turned his attention to film-making. He left the US in the 1950s to work for the National Film Board of Canada, where he edited, wrote and directed over 80 National Film Board films. He returned to the US in the early 1960s and worked for the US Information Agency's film division at the UN, where he made documentaries including The First World Festival of Negro Art (1966) featuring performances by such leading African-American artists as composer Duke Ellington, choreographers Alvin Ailey and Katherine Dunham, and poet Langston Hughes.
From 1968 to 1970, Greaves was Executive Producer and co-host of the ground-breaking public affairs series Black Journal, which earned him an Emmy award.
Greaves returned to film-making and released Ali, the Fighter, which focused on Muhammad Ali's first attempt to regain his heavyweight title. A few of his other film credits include: From These Roots, an in-depth study of the Harlem Renaissance; Booker T. Washington: Life and Legacy; Frederick Douglass: An American Life; Black Power in America: Myth or Reality?; and Ida B. Wells: An American Odyssey, which was narrated by Nobel- and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. Retrospectives of Greave's 200+ documentaries and films have been held at the Museum of Modern Art and the Brooklyn Museum.
In 2001, Greaves released one of his most ambitious works, Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey. Ten years in the making and narrated by Sidney Poitier, this two-hour PBS special paid tribute to one of the key, yet often overlooked, political figures in American history and the Civil Rights Movement.
His work behind the camera has earned him over 70 international film festival awards and four Emmy nominations. In 1980 he was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, and in the same year he was the recipient of a special homage at the first Black American Independent Film Festival in Paris. He was recently honored by the National Black Theater and Film Festival with its first award for Lifelong Achievement in Film and for Contributions to Black Theater.
Actors' Equity Association (AEA), celebrating its Centennial in 2013, represents more than 49,000 actors and stage managers in the United States. Equity seeks to advance, promote and foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of our society. Equity negotiates wages and working conditions, providing a wide range of benefits, including health and pension plans. AEA is a member of the AFL-CIO, and is affiliated with FIA, an international organization of performing arts unions. The Equity emblem is our mark of excellence. www.actorsequity.org