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Abena Joan Brown, Black Theater Pioneer, Dies After Short Illness

Norman Parish | 7/16/2015, 4:35 p.m.
Abena Joan Brown, founder of the ETA Creative Arts Theater on Chicago’s South Side, died Sunday after a short illness.
Abena Joan Brown

Abena Joan Brown, founder of the ETA Creative Arts Theater on Chicago’s South Side, died Sunday after a short illness.

Brown, recognized as a major figure in black theater, is credited with helping to put Chicago’s black arts scene on a world stage. She also mentored hundreds of artists and entertainers.

“She was a pioneer, a historian and a cultural artist,” said Kemati Porter, interim executive director of the eta theater at 7558 S. South Chicago Ave.

The Chicago native began her interest in the arts at age 3 when she began dancing.

Brown’s passion for the arts continued into adulthood. She gained widespread experience as an actress, company manager, stage manager and producer.

Brown served as president and producer of ETA from its start in 1971. She retired from the posts in 2011 after producing more than 200 theatre productions.

Brown was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame of Chicago in 1991 and into the Literary Hall of Fame at the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State University in 2000.

Brown received a bachelor’s degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago and a master’s degree from the University of Chicago.

Funeral arrangements had not been made by the Chicago Citizen Newspaper’s presstime.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the following organizations: ETA Creative Arts Foundation, 7558 S. South Chicago Ave., Chicago, Ill., 60619 or Munta Dance Theatre of Chicago, 1806 E. 71st Street, #203, Chicago Ill.