Inspiring Theatre Arts Related Ted Talks by People of Color

Written by Tiffany Wilkie

June 4, 2020

TED Talks are small lectures (both fun and serious) that are given by professionals from all over the world. These lectures are designed to inspire, instruct, and guide audiences to rediscover their lives and how they look at the world. Below, explore 12 inspirational and thought-provoking talks by distinguished people of color in the arts speaking on topics ranging from service, dreams, leadership, transformation, and much more.

“Is performing art worth the struggle?” with Vie Boheme

When you check all the boxes on paper, but have nothing to show for it, how do you define success? Vie Boheme uses the power of performance to coax her audience into a state of empathy, better understanding the lessons learned by struggling through life like swimming in honey. Vie Boheme eliminates the boundary between the seen and heard to reveal vulnerability and authenticity. Her sound is a fusion of Soul, Funk, Jazz, R&B and Pop music blended with athletic agility and choreographed expression. Viie uses poetry, monologue and song in collaboration with dance to explore complex and sometimes dark narratives.  

“Redefining service to dream the impossible dream” with Alton Fitzgerald White

After more than 4,000 performances as Mufasa in “The Lion King” on Broadway, Alton Fitzgerald White knows a thing or two about performing at a high level consistently. In this talk he shares the secret to staying engaged and avoiding burnout or boredom: Service. See how redefining what service means can help you stay grounded and achieve your impossible dreams.

“Be a trojan horse — the power of being underestimated” with Angel Rich

If you want to succeed in life, Angel Rich says to look no further than the “Iliad” and the story of the Trojan Horse. By letting people underestimate you, and by using their own egos against them, you can “get inside the walls” and change things from within. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Broadway, Rich explains how people with strategy, patience, guts and grit will transform the world – from the inside.

“Performing arts as a path to youth leadership” with IMPACT Repertory Theatre

In a short set of songs and choreographed dance pieces, ranging from R&B to Rap, this group of Harlem youth share their passion for achievement, leadership, politics, social issues, and the arts.

“The power of no: making rejection work for you” with Ann Akin

Ann Akin emphasises the importance of the word ‘No’, encouraging others to take life into their own hands and make rejection work for you. “Ann Akin, is a professional actress, producer and workshop facilitator.

“The dancer, the singer, the cellist … and a moment of creative magic” with Bill T. Jones

Legendary dance choreographer Bill T. Jones and TED Fellows Joshua Roman and Somi didn’t know exactly what was going to happen when they took the stage at TED2015. They just knew they wanted to offer the audience an opportunity to witness creative collaboration in action. The result: An improvised piece they call “The Red Circle and the Blue Curtain,” so extraordinary it had to be shared …

“Embracing otherness, embracing myself” with Thandie Newton

Actor Thandie Newton tells the story of finding her “otherness” — first, as a child growing up in two distinct cultures, and then as an actor playing with many different selves.

“Singing the primal mystery” with Claron McFadden

“The human voice: mysterious, spontaneous, primal.” With these words, soprano Claron McFadden invites us to explore the mysteries of breathing and singing, as she performs the intriguing modern song “Aria,” by John Cage.

“How art gives shape to cultural change” with Thelma Golden

Thelma Golden, curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, talks through three recent shows that explore how art examines and redefines culture. The “post-black” artists she works with are using their art to provoke a new dialogue about race and culture — and about the meaning of art itself.

“Revelations from a lifetime of dance” with Judith Jamison and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Dance can elevate our human experience beyond words,” says Judith Jamison, artistic director emerita of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In between performances of excerpts from Alvin Ailey’s classic works “Revelations” and “Cry,” Jamison reflects on the enduring power of dance to transform history into art that thrills audiences around the world. (Performances by Solomon Dumas, Samantha Figgins and Constance Stamatiou)

“More than funny” with Michael Jr.

With comedy, you not only laugh but you also gain understanding in a unique way. Comedy has a setup and then a punch line. The setup moves the audience in one direction-toward what is expected. The punch line occurs when you change direction and take the audience to the unexpected. This same process can be applied to life. Comedian Michael Jr. shows how to take your life’s setups and then change direction in a way that brings fulfillment, revelation, and joy not only to you but also to those around you.

“Jumping Over the Fourth Wall” with Rhonda Wilson

Being in a theater has a transformative and powerful impact on audience members. Rhonda Wilson, founder and director of a children’s theatre in Gainesville, Florida, shares just how powerful our role as observers truly is. As we exit to the real world, we are empowered to enact change.

“Hip hop and theatre: a potential symbiosis” with Kori Alston

Kori’s TEDx talk focuses on the intersection of hip-hop and theatre and the potential and necessary symbiotic relationship that could exist between the two art forms.

Tiffany Wilkie is the Director of Marketing and Theatricals for