L. Earl Ford, Ed.D.
President and Founder
Les Ford developed a great love for the Performing Arts early on in life. As a young boy growing up in the rural South, he had numerous chances to follow his interests in the Arts. His family embraced the Arts as desirable and practical and this was a comfort to Les. His older sister wrote bible-based plays that the family performed throughout their community. These plays gave Les occasions to whet his appetite for the stage and were instrumental in the formation of his career path. After high school he migrated to NYC and pursued professional training in the Arts. He entered Brooklyn College School of Drama and completed his BA and Masters in Theatre. From the early 80’s through most of the 90’s he worked as an actor and playwright, however, the experience was not intellectually and psychologically fulfilling. Les was saddened by the degraded nature of the arts in public schools and the paucity of opportunities artists of color had to cultivate their careers.
Les changed his life course as an artist; he completed his doctorate in education in 1997, and formed NIA Theatrical Production Company in 1998. As he was forming Nia, he worked as a consultant with the NYC Department of Education Office of Arts Education. His three-year tenure as theatre specialist allowed him to develop performing arts curricula for school systems and facilitate professional development seminars for teachers and principals. This experience reinforced Les’ notions of arts-in-education and formed the basis of the Company's three programmatic actions: (a) combine theatre arts techniques and educational theories to develop arts-based programs, which would improve the educational environment in public schools, (b) create theatre for the future by procuring to emerging artists opportunities to jump start their careers, and (c) bring exciting and culturally affirming theatrical events to underserved communities.
The company’s programmatic activities are situated in underserved areas of NYC with primary focus on such areas as Brownsville and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Since its inception, the company’s Arts-in-Education programs have procured to over twenty school systems programs for students and teachers. Moreover, in 2002, through the auspices of the NYC Board of Education, Les brought together a team of educators and performing artists to create a performing arts school. The school designed was accepted and was awarded certification. The Performing Arts and Technology High School had its inaugural year September 2004, in Brownsville Brooklyn, NY.
In 2000, Les introduced the company’s Play Production program. The program seeks to give emerging artists assistance in perfecting their craft and then bringing their renderings to the community by producing plays in parks, at community centers and other venues around NYC’s underserved communities. More than 15 playwrights and hundreds of actors and technical theatre professionals have found work and received exposure through the company’s Play Production program. The company produces two main stage productions each year.