Val Coleman

Val Coleman arrested on the New York City Hall steps in a civil rights protest (Daily Mirror photo)

Now a resident of Sandisfield, Massachusetts, a sprawling but sparsely populated township located 20 minutes due east of Great Barrington, former theatre advocate, civil rights activist and NYC Housing authority spokesman Val Coleman is anticipating the world premiere of his play, The Stamp Collection in August.

An energetic septuagenarian, Coleman’s path to the Sandisfield premiere began 50 years ago when he was embroiled in the “seminal period” of Off-Broadway’s development. “I was involved with the group that ultimately became Circle in the Square,” Coleman told Playbill On-Line. “We were the Loft Players, led by Jose Quintero.” Coleman acted and designed sets at Woodstock’s Maverick Theatre in the heady summer of 1950, working for both Quintero and producer Ted Mann. While Coleman’s early theatre work included building seating for Circle in the Square, it eventually brought him into close contact with the Civil Rights Movement where he became a spokesperson for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). CORE was the group that initiated the original 1961 “Freedom Ride,” the symbolic journey south from Washington, D.C., where whites took the rear seats on two buses and blacks took the front, in defiance of prevailing segregation laws. The original two buses were eventually confronted by the Klu Klux Klan in both Anniston and Birmingham, Alabama. These events prompted hundreds of subsequent Freedom Rides and marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s.

During a stint as a civil rights consultant for NBC News in 1968, Coleman was one of four people comprising news reporter Bob Teague’s crew when they took a serendipitous left turn and wound up in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel during the infamous Democratic Convention in Chicago. Teague’s now historic footage of those events could have easily been lost but for the determined efforts of that crew. Despite not having a mask to protect him from the tear gas, Coleman grabbed the film can and made it through the demonstration and delivered the tape to NBC for broadcast. It was this tape that contained the now memorable images of the crowd protesting police abuse while chanting, “The whole world is watching.” – Playbill

NFT Credits

Credit Type Production Season
PlaywrightGreatest Man on Earth 1975-76 Season
PlaywrightValentine’s Day 1997-98 Season
Actor Valentine’s Day 1997-98 Season