Mary–Etta Sayles Clinton

Pen Name: Henrifayelou

Playwright, Founder, Executive and Artistic Director of: Las Vegas Black Gospel Theatre

Photo of Mary-Etta Salyes ClintonMary–Etta Sayles Clinton became interested in writing “tall tales” in English classes at the encouragement of her teacher while in the 6th grade at Madison School, Las Vegas, Nevada. Her desire for storytelling comes from her grandmother who could not read or write, but could, nonetheless, fire up Mary-Etta’s imagination and spearhead her down the road of wonder and excitement with “ghostly” tales and other bedtime stories.

The themes of Ms. Clinton’s plays come from current events and are embellished with a Biblical slant. A great source of her inspiration for “telling it God’s way” came from listening to Charleston Heston read from the Bible during Christmas and Easter seasons on the Sunday evening Ed Sullivan Show during the late 50’s. She still believes that the Bible is to be read with deep feeling, emotion, and power. That power is what she projects on stage, as stories unfold about the lives of everyday people. Her goal for the Las Vegas Black Gospel Theatre has been to inspire and encourage the audience to stop, take a deep personal look at themselves, and consider the possible “end-of-the-road” on which they are traveling, then determine if a change is needed. Ms. Clinton states it like this, “We offer entertainment with a message!”

Mary–Etta is often asked how and why the Las Vegas Black Gospel Theatre got started. Her first writing began while she was presenting a church play during Black History Week in the 1970’s. She wanted to give God credit for bringing the blacks out of slavery, but simply couldn’t find a play anywhere that gave God the proper glory. So, she combined some stories, skits and songs for her play, “Lest We Forget, Look How Far He’s Brought Us From”.

The result: The Las Vegas Black Gospel Theatre was born! She has proudly penned twelve (12) outstanding plays:

  1. “Hope and Promises”
  2. “Hallelujah Anyhow”
  3. “Born Again”
  4. “Look How Far He’s Brought Us From”
  5. “Secrets ‘N Lies”
  6. “A Man Called Davion”
  7. “Poetry ‘N Motion”
  8. “Unequally Yoked”
  9. “Poetry ‘N Motion II”
  10. “Blood Sisters”
  11. “This Ain’t No Entertainment”
  12. “Midnight Darkness”
  13. “Lord Of The Ungodly”

Ms. Clinton once read a poster while she was in Bible class that said, “Just Write!” Along came another poster that caught her attention stating, “Just Do It!” So, Mary–Etta did! She is always thinking about exciting future possibilities for the Theatre such as “Dinner Theatre” and a “Gospel Coffee Shop!” She often can be found saying, “Who knows what God has in store for us in the Las Vegas Valley?” It is a miracle that the theatre has been so successful over the last 17 years, since funding has primarily been accomplished by donations from our Board members, our audiences, and sponsorships.

Mary–Etta currently teaches at Canyon Springs High School. She is a “near native” of Las Vegas, Nevada; born in Phoenix, Arizona, her family moved to Las Vegas in the early 40’s. She attended the old Westside School. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School, Clark County Community College, and the Special Education Program of UNLV.