The primary Stages Off-Broadway Oral history Project

Celebrating the visionaries who created New York's vibrant Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theater.

Charles Weldon

Charles Weldon

Artistic Director of the Negro Ensemble Company, Actor, Director
Born on Saturday, June 1, 1940

Interviewed on: Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Location: Primary Stages Offices
Interviewed by: Casey Childs
Interview #84
"I call myself ‘the accidental actor.’ I never had any idea I’d be doing this. I really didn’t."
Charles Weldon Highlights
Video Length: 5 Minutes, 22 Seconds
Charles Weldon Interview
Video Length: 2 Hours, 2 Minutes

Charles Weldon, current Artistic Director of the Negro Ensemble Company, began his performance career, straight out of high school,  as a doo-wop singer. He was the lead singer with The Paradons and found overnight success with their first single, “Diamonds and Pearls.” The group later appeared on television with Dick Clark and toured with James Brown and Fats Domino. Weldon was brought unexpectedly into the theatre world by his sister, actress/singer Ann Weldon, who convinced him to audition for a musical, Big Time Buck White, in California. The show made the transfer to Broadway with Muhammad Ali as the lead, and, in 1969, Weldon found himself making his Broadway debut just months into his acting career. He first worked with the Negro Ensemble Company in 1970, appearing in their ODODO (TRUTH) at St. Mark’s Playhouse, and has been with them ever since. His other performance credits with the NEC include: PERRY’S MISSION (1971), THE RIVER NIGER (1972), THE GREAT MACDADDY (1974 and 1977), THE BROWNSVILLE RAID (1976), THE OFFERING (1977), and COLORED PEOPLE’S TIME (1982). He stayed with THE RIVER NIGER for its Broadway transfer, which won the 1974 Tony Award for Best Play and he also appeared in the film adaptation. Since becoming Artistic Director of the NEC in 2004, Weldon has directed a number of NEC productions, including: WITH AARON’S ARMS AROUND ME (2010), THE PICTURE BOX (2012), CABARET ÉMIGRÉ (2012), and HERCULES DIDN’T WADE IN THE WATER (2016).

Born in Wetumka, Oklahoma, Weldon grew up in Bakersfield, California. After his success with The Paradons, he also spent a few years as the lead singer with the group Blues for Sale. Weldon has extensive TV and film credits and is best known for his role as Blade in the film Stir Crazy (1980). In 2006, he received an AUDELCO Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in SEVEN GUITARS at Signature Theatre.

Mentioned in Interview

John Wayne, William Ball, Billy Dee Williams, Ann Weldon, Maxine Weldon, Tom O’Horgan, Adolph Caesar, Esther Rolle, Mary Alice, Jim Houghton, Oscar Brown, Jr., Louis Gossett, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Samuel L. Jackson, Douglas Turner Ward, Gus Edwards, Frances Foster, Israel Hicks, Samm-Art Williams, S. Epatha Merkerson, Charles Fuller, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Denzel Washington, Debbi Morgan, Eric Krebs, Theatre Four, The Orpheun, 45th Street Theater, Primary Stages, Theatre 80 St. Marks, Negro Ensemble Company, La MaMa E.T.C., Signature Theatre, Second Stage, Cherry Lane Theatre, Lucille Lortel Theatre, Theatre de Lys, SEVEN GUITARS, BIRDIE BLUE, BURNER’S FROLIC, COLORED PEOPLE’S TIME, THE OFFERING, THE GREAT MACDADDY, THE BROWNSVILLE RAID, IN THE DEEPEST PART OF SLEEP, THE RIVER NIGER, RIDE A BLACK HORSE, PERRY’S MISSION, ODODO (TRUTH), YOUR OWN THING, A SOLDIER’S PLAY, DREAM ON MONKEY MOUNTAIN