James Spruill, 73, actor, teacher, “Say Brother” host

A few months after launching the New African Company, a groundbreaking black theater troupe in Boston, James Spruill sat in the living room of Globe theater critic Kevin Kelly nursing a gin and tonic, amber-tinted glasses on his face, a cigarette in his hand.

“There must be a black theater for the black community, our own voices in our own playwrights, and the more black rage the better,’’ Mr. Spruill told Kelly in October 1968, speaking in a resonant, stage-trained voice which was as restrained as the words were fierce.

“Black people,’’ he added quietly, “refuse to go around not being recognized any more.’’

With New African Company, which performed everywhere from resplendent venues to abandoned buildings, he brought plays highlighting the black experience to white audiences and professional acting to black audiences who might never venture into Boston’s Theater District….

Mr. Spruill, an influential theater teacher at Boston University for 30 years and an actor who shared the stage with the likes of Morgan Freeman and Al Pacino, died Dec. 31 in his son’s Roxbury home of pancreatic cancer. He was 73 and in retirement resided in Winchester, N.H., fulfilling a longtime wish to live in a log cabin on 40 acres….

In 1968, the year he founded the New African Company, he began serving as a host of WGBH radio’s “Say Brother,’’ which became “Basic Black.’’

Leave a Reply