Ralph E. Greene
Ralph Eugene Greene, age 78, peacefully transitioned from this earth on May 15, 2020 due to complications from a late diagnosis of stomach cancer. He was born to the late Major and Irazona Knight-Greene on February 16, 1942 in Jacksonville, Florida.
He received his Bachelor of Science Degree in English and Speech Communication in 1963 from Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, Florida, where he was also an active member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, the renowned choral ensemble, the Alvin Green Choir; and where he met his first wife, Pequeno Geiger (deceased), who was the mother of his beloved son, Ralph Greene Jr. After college, Greene taught English and Literature at public high schools in both Sanford and Jacksonville, Florida. He also continued his studies in English Literature and Education with fellowships at Stetson University, Florida and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. In 1970, when life experiences convinced him it was time to make a long desired career change, he left the public school system and Florida to pursue a degree in theater arts on a Graduate Assistantship to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
After receiving his Master’s Degree in Theater Arts and Oral Interpretation of Literature in 1972, Greene remained at SIU Carbondale to continues his studies. During this time, he wrote and directed plays for the new theater company he co-founded, called the Kutana Players, he taught a black theater history course in the campus Black Studies Department and he maintained a President’s Fellow in PhD. studies of Theater Arts. He completed the PhD. course work, but, as fate would have it, he halted his dissertation oral requirement and accepted a theater administrative position offered to him by renowned dancer and anthropologist, Katherine Dunham (deceased). While developing the theater component of the then, Performing Arts Training Center, Greene managed to obtain additional arts administration certification from Sangamon State University in Springfield, Illinois (now known as University of Illinois Springfield). But he never felt the need to complete the academia doctorate. He did not need it to be a master at his craft.
From 1974 through 1996 he was Artist-in-Residence at the Katherine Dunham Center for Performing Arts, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, East St. Louis and in 1984 he was named the Administrative Director and remained in that position until his departure from the University in 1996.
He continued directing and producing theater from 1996 to 2018 in St. Louis area venues which included seven years at the 23rd Street Theater and several years at the Ivory Theater in south St. Louis.
He was the co-founder and Producing/Artistic Director of the Unity Theatre Ensemble (formerly known as the Kutana Players) whose performance history spans the decades from 1971 until the close of its encore production of A Raisin In The Sun in October 2012. At that time, health challenges required Greene to take a hiatus from the rigorous creative activities that had spanned a nonstop history of 41 years. In December 2017, he returned to limited creative activity with the theater company until his final production which was an encore run of Everything Must Change in May 2018.
Bonnie Harmon-Greene, wife and Managing Director of Unity Theatre Ensemble says of her late husband and best friend:
“We unite for the success of the show.” This was the mantra that Greene had each cast of Unity Theatre Ensemble productions repeat before the start of every performance. Honesty in performance and the message of the show were most important to him. The company of actors and technicians were the instruments and being unified gave strength and effectiveness to the message being conveyed to the audience.
For him, theater was not just entertainment but a way to teach, inspire, motivate and to sometimes question its audience. Whatever the goal of the show, audiences always walked away with something different.
Greene was balanced. And though he was often challenged and tested by opposition that attempted to halt success of his projects, he rarely raised his voice and always sought to keep harmony amidst the chaos. He knew that everything would come together for a successful outcome. And somehow it always did!
Greene was a builder. He knew which actor or vocalist was best-suited to convey each part of the show’s message. He saw performance potential in others and did his absolute best to draw it out of them. If you listened to his instruction and accepted his guidance, you learned more about yourself and improved as a performer. But, he also always left room for creative moments and input from performers. If it worked, he would say “keep it”.
Greene was an unforgettable master in his craft and if you were fortunate enough to have worked with him, remember that experience, it will take you far.
Greene and I were united until the end. I will miss him greatly in the body but I know he will be with me every step of the way as we continue his work.”
His son, Ralph E. Greene, Jr., who followed in his father’s creative footsteps, and is currently, Supervising Producer, on the Netflix series Family Reunion stated the following:
“My father, Ralph E. Greene, was an artist in every sense of the word. He worked tirelessly to present theater that entertained, inspired and most importantly to him…taught. He was a teacher in his soul. A soft-spoken man who let his works do his talking. Through the years he touched many people’s lives through his art and direction. He made people believe in themselves and he gave back in the form of community outreach projects. My life was spent watching him write and produce show after show to support his family and to put out his art. I will miss him terribly on earth, but I know he’s still with me until we meet again. He was always my best friend. I love you, dad.”
Greene received the Gateway East Metropolitan Ministry’s Drum Major Award in the Arts, two outstanding Arts Service Awards from the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Gateway Inroads Role Model Award, listed in the St. Louis Role Model Directory and honored with the arts service award at the Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Salute to Black Men in November 1996. In 2004, Greene received the Pathfinder’s Award at the Black Theater Network’s annual conference. Greene was a prolific writer and poet. He wrote and compiled several plays and musicals which were all successfully produced and performed by Unity Theatre Ensemble. Throughout his career, he was commissioned to write and produce performance presentations for special events hosted by several bi-state area civic and charitable organizations.
Aside from his lifetime love of performing arts, Ralph E. Greene was a very spiritual, serious and studious seeker of truth and the true meaning and purpose for life and living. Since,1976, he was a devoted student of the New Age Truth and his teacher, metaphysician and counselor, Dr. David M. Berry who he met AFTER having had a profound and prophetic dream in which he first saw and described Dr. Berry. Greene helped to organize and establish the Missouri Chapter of the New Age Truth formally named New Age Truth of Missouri, Incorporated, a not-for-profit focused on community service and self-help education programs. In 1977, when the organization was legally incorporated in the state of Missouri, Greene was named the “Chairman” by Dr. Berry and remained active in that lifetime position until his ascended transition from this earth plane.
Greene was preceded in death by his father, Major Greene; mother, Irazona Knight-Greene; brother, Isaac Greene; sister, Angie Nora Greene-Barlow; and step-daughter, Marie Girardeau-Bianchetta.
Family he leaves to cherish his memory include his wife, Bonnie Harmon-Greene, son, Ralph E. Greene Jr. (Tagan); Brother-in-Law, Charlie L. Barlow, nephew, Kenneth L. Barlow and his children Donisha, Craig and Christopher Barlow all of Jacksonville, FL and Cornellius Amey, Washington DC, niece-in-law, Bernadine Barlow, several cousins, other relatives and a host of devoted friends and colleagues.
Because of the current COVID-19 social distancing requirements and the uncertainty of the times, a legacy memorial to honor Greene will be planned for sometime in the future when it is clearly safe again for large gatherings. Meanwhile, members of the St. Louis theater community with whom he worked are planning to host an online Zoom Tribute in his honor; and the members of New Age Truth of Missouri are planning a Facebook Live Tribute.
A memorial fund will be established in his name to honor and continue his legacy with the mission to support developing young playwrights and performing artists.
Expressions of condolence can be sent to Unity Theatre Ensemble at P.O. Box 1035, Florissant, Missouri 63031 or to 1832 Partridge Berry Drive, Florissant, Missouri, 63031. Announcement of the online memorial events will be posted on Facebook and on the websites: http://www.utensemble.org and http://www.newagetruth.org.