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I teach theatre and in my mind, one of the best ways to instantly create an audience connection to your topic is via the medium of the stage. Black playwrights and performers since the dawn of time have been creating awareness. Even as far back as the Romantic era writers like Alexander Pushkin and, later, Alexandre Dumas, père, quietly challenged the belief that blacks were not as “civilized” as whites.

Pushkin did for Russian literature what Molière did for French parlor talk.

 When it comes to developing an awareness of the images of black people, the media and film are the most far-reaching; however the development of those images is often stagnant, leaving little room for challenge. Before the President of the United States was a man who checks the racial box “Black or African-American” on his census form, that possibility was still a foreign concept for many people, black and other, to grasp. [Although, to be fair, Chris Rock figured it out in 2003.] Even in the modern age of theatre, black artists are still creating work that redefines their differences from and also their similarities to the mainstream.

In this interview I discuss theatre as ritual, the legacy of minstrelsy, A Raisin in the Sun…but mostly, the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s-70s. It was the sister movement to the Black Power Movement and probably the biggest challenge to the status quo of mainstream theatrical technique. Outside of the Harlem Renaissance, it is probably my favorite artistic movement, not necessarily for its accomplishments, but also for its lofty goals. The aesthetic of the Black Arts Movement returned theatre to the realm of ritual and community participation in order to encourage blacks to acknowledge our African origins. It also challenged us to move beyond the stultified stereotypes which had been used to maintain social oppression.

Listen to me share just the tip of the iceberg on the topic of Black Theatre. I didn’t even get to cover Africanisms in August Wilson, or Paul Carter Harrison’s The Drama of Nommo, or The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World by Suzan Lori Parks. Not enough time and so much great work to cover…that’s why it’s my passion.

Collective Conscious

Creating Daily

April 2020
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Subjective Realities