Playwright Garland Thompson, Sr., a legendary fixture of Harlem‘s theater scene, died Nov. 18 after battling a long illness. Mr. Thompson was also an actor, director and community leader who worked to pass on his gifts to other budding playwrights.
Thompson founded the Frank Silvera Writer’s Workshop with actor Morgan Freeman, actress Billie Allen and journalist Clayton Riley. The workshop was created in 1973, three years after the death of its namesake who was one of most influential acting figures of his time.
Thompson acted himself, landing small roles on the famed Star Trek series as Ensign Wilson. While he didn’t land many large roles, Wilson’s largest impact would be behind the scenes. With the workshop, Wilson passed on decades of wisdom to rising and established artists of all walks of life. Members of the workshop include the late Ruby Dee, poet Mari Evans, scholar Larry Neal, and playwright Ntozake Shange.
Thompson’s heath had been a concern for some time, with his son, Garland Jr., erecting a GoFundMe page to help with his father’s rising health costs. The son left a somber message on the page, saying that his father passed quietly at Bellevue Hospital in the afternoon.
According to the IMDB, Garland was born on February 14, 1938. He was 76.
Photo: GoFundMe/Garland Thompson Jr.