It is the story of the after effects of a lynching on the Loving family. The setting is the Loving family apartment, which is loving and happy, in spite of the shadow lynching casts over them. The primary action is Rachel's personal movement from wanting children to a decision to not marry and give birth to children because they will, she believes, suffer a similar fate of her father and half-brother. Mr. Loving and little George were lynched in the South; afterwards, Mrs. Loving took the remaining two children, Rachel and Tom, to the north.
Even though they are in the North, they still feel the effects of racial discrimination. Neither Tom nor Rachel can get jobs, and their friend, Mr. John Strong, who is college-educated, only finds work as a waiter. After she learns about her father and brother's murders, she talks with her mother about the futility of marriage for her. She says at the end of Act 1: “Then, everywhere, everywhere, throughout the South, there are hundreds of dark mothers who live in fear, terrible, suffocating fear, whose rest by night is broken, and whose joy by day in their babies on their hearts is three parts — pain. Oh, I know this is true — for this is the way I should feel, if I were little Jimmy's mother. How horrible ! Why — it would be more merciful — to strangle the little things at birth. And so this nation — this white Christian nation — has deliberately set its curse upon the most beautiful — the most holy thing in life — motherhood ! Why — it — makes — you doubt — God !” (p. 28).
Her brother Tom even feels this futility about parenthood when he tells Strong: “Does it ever strike you — how pathetic and tragic a thing — a little colored child is? […] Today, we colored men and women, everywhere — are up against it. Every year, we are having a harder time of it. In the South, they make it as impossible as they can for us to get an education. We're hemmed in on all sides. Our one safeguard — the ballot — in most states, is taken away already, or is being taken away. Economically, in a few lines, we have a slight show — but at what a cost ! In the North, they make a pretence of liberality : they give us the ballot and a good education, and then — snuff us out. Each year, the problem just to live, gets more difficult to solve. How about these children — if we're fools enough to have any?” (p. 49).
Other instances of racially-motivated violence and discrimination are shared by Jimmy, the neighbor boy, who has come to live with them, and Mrs. Lane and her daughter Ethel, who was tortured by children at the white school she attended. Mr. Strong wants Rachel to marry him, but after hearing these experiences -- and reflecting on her own -- she decides to reject him and never have children. She kills the roses he sends her and then tells him afterward: “We are all blighted; we are all accursed — all of us — , everywhere, we whose skins are dark — our lives blasted by the white man's prejudice. […] If it nearly kills me to hear my Jimmy's crying, do you think I could stand it, when my own child, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood — learned the same reason for weeping? Do you?” (p. 93-94). She tells him she would have “have damned — my soul to all eternity — if I do [become a mother]” (p. 94). This play then shows how not only are the living suffering from the murder of loved ones, but the unborn are suffering, too. The most sacred calling, motherhood, is destroyed by white prejudice. The play ends with the sound of wailing that haunts even a reader.
Angelina Weld Grimké (February 27, 1880 – June 10, 1958) was an American journalist, teacher, playwright, and poet who came to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance. "Race" was a major issue in her life; although she was 75% white — a white mother and a half-white father — she was still a "woman of color". She was one of the first American women of color to have a play publicly performed. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1880 to a biracial family. Her father, Archibald Grimké, was a lawyer and of mixed race, son of a white slave owner and a mixed-race enslaved woman of color his father owned; he was of the "negro race" according to the society he grew up in. He was the second African American to graduate from Harvard Law School. Her mother, Sarah Stanley, was European American, from a Midwestern middle-class family. Information about her is scarce.
Grimké's parents met in Boston, where her father had established a law practice. Angelina was named for her father's paternal white aunt Angelina Grimké Weld, who with her sister Sarah Grimké had brought him and his brothers into her family after learning about them after his father's death. (They were the sons of her late slaveowning brother Henry, also one of the wealthy white Grimké planter family.) When Grimké and Sarah Stanley married, they faced strong opposition from her family, due to concerns over "race". The marriage did not last very long. Soon after their daughter Angelina's birth, Sarah left Archibald and returned with the infant to the Midwest. After Sarah began a career of her own, she sent Angelina, then seven, back to Massachusetts to live with her father. Angelina Grimké would have little to no contact with her mother after that. Sarah Stanley committed suicide several years later.
Angelina's paternal grandfather was Henry Grimké, of a large and wealthy slaveholding family based in Charleston, South Carolina. Her paternal grandmother was Nancy Weston, an enslaved woman whom Henry owned; she was also of mixed race. Henry became involved with her as a widower. They lived together and had three sons: Archibald, Francis, and John (born after his father's death in 1852). Henry taught Nancy and the boys to read and write.
Among Henry's family were two sisters who had opposed slavery and left the South before he began his relationship with Weston; Sarah and Angelina Grimké became notable abolitionists in the North. The Grimkés were also related to John Grimké Drayton of Magnolia Plantation near Charleston, South Carolina. South Carolina had laws making it difficult for an individual to manumit slaves, even his own slave children. (See Children of the plantation.) Instead of trying to gain the necessary legislative approval required for each manumission, wealthy fathers often sent their children north for schooling to give them opportunities, and in hopes they would stay to live in a free state.
Angelina's uncle, Francis J. Grimké, graduated from Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) and Princeton Theological Seminary. He became a Presbyterian minister in Washington, D.C. He married Charlotte Forten, from a prominent and abolitionist family of color in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She became known as an abolitionist and diarist. From the ages of 14 to 18, Angelina lived with her aunt and uncle, Charlotte and Francis, in Washington, D.C., and attended school there. During this period, her father was serving as U.S. consul (1894 and[further explanation needed] 1898) to the Dominican Republic. Indicating the significance of her father's consulship in her life, Angelina later recalled, "it was thought best not to take me down to [Santo Domingo] but so often and so vivid have I had the scene and life described that I seem to have been there too."
Angelina Grimké attended the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics, which later became the Department of Hygiene of Wellesley College. After graduating, she and her father moved to Washington, D.C., to be with his brother Francis and family. In 1902, Grimké began teaching English at the Armstrong Manual Training School, a black school in the segregated system of the capital. In 1916 she moved to a teaching position at the Dunbar High School for black students, renowned for its academic excellence. One of her pupils was the future poet and playwright May Miller. During the summers, Grimké frequently took classes at Harvard University, where her father had attended law school.
On July 11, 1911, Grimké was a passenger in a train wreck at Bridgeport CT, which she survived with a back injury that never fully healed. After her father took ill in 1928, she tended to him until his death in 1930. Afterward, she left Washington, D.C., for New York City. She lived a quiet retirement as a semi-recluse in an apartment on the Upper West Side. She died in 1958.
Grimké wrote essays, short stories and poems which were published in The Crisis, the newspaper of the NAACP, edited by W. E. B. Du Bois, and Opportunity. They were also collected in anthologies of the Harlem Renaissance: The New Negro, Caroling Dusk, and Negro Poets and Their Poems. Her more well-known poems include "The Eyes of My Regret", "At April", "Trees", and "The Closing Door". While living in Washington, DC, she was included among the figures of the Harlem Renaissance, as her work was published in its journals and she became connected to figures in its circle. Some critics place her in the period before the Renaissance. During that time, she counted the poet Georgia Douglas Johnson as one of her friends.
Grimké wrote Rachel – originally titled Blessed Are the Barren, one of the first plays to protest lynching and racial violence. The three-act drama was written for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which called for new works to rally public opinion against D. W. Griffith's recently released film, The Birth of a Nation (1915), which glorified the Ku Klux Klan and portrayed a racist view of blacks and of their role in the American Civil War and Reconstruction era in the South. Produced in 1916 in Washington, D.C., and subsequently in New York City, Rachel was performed by an all-black cast. Reaction to the play was good. The NAACP said of the play: "This is the first attempt to use the stage for race propaganda in order to enlighten the American people relating to the lamentable condition of ten millions of Colored citizens in this free republic."
Rachel portrays the life of an African-American family in the North in the early 20th century, where hundreds of thousands of blacks had migrated from the rural South in the Great Migration. Centered on the family of the title character, each role expresses different responses to the racial discrimination against blacks at the time. Grimké also explores themes of motherhood and the innocence of children. Rachel develops as she changes her perceptions of what the role of a mother might be, based on her sense of the importance of a naivete towards the terrible truths of the world around her. A lynching is the fulcrum of the play.
The play was published in 1920, but received little attention after its initial productions. In the years since, however, it has been recognized as a precursor to the Harlem Renaissance. It is one of the first examples of this political and cultural movement to explore the historical roots of African Americans.
Grimké wrote a second anti-lynching play, Mara, parts of which have never been published. Much of her fiction and non-fiction focused on the theme of lynching, including the short story "Goldie." It was based on the 1918 lynching in Georgia of Mary Turner, a married black woman who was the mother of two children and pregnant with a third when she was attacked after protesting the lynching death of her husband.
At the age of 16, Grimké wrote to a friend, Mary P. Burrill:
Two years earlier, in 1903, Grimké and her father had a falling out when she told him that she was in love. Archibald Grimké responded with an ultimatum demanding that she choose between her lover and himself. Grimké family biographer Mark Perry speculates that the person involved may have been female, and that Archibald may already have been aware of Angelina's sexual leaning.
Analysis of her work by modern literary critics has provided strong evidence that Grimke was a lesbian or bisexual. Some critics believe this is expressed in her published poetry in a subtle way. Scholars found more evidence after her death when studying her diaries and more explicit unpublished works. The Dictionary of Literary Biography: African-American Writers Before the Harlem Renaissance states: "In several poems and in her diaries Grimké expressed the frustration that her lesbianism created; thwarted longing is a theme in several poems." Some of her unpublished poems are more explicitly lesbian, implying that she lived a life of suppression, "both personal and creative."
The play takes place in modern-day Manhattan at a magazine company, not exactly The New York Times, but most definitely inspired by it, where the playwright had worked in the past. It starts on a normal work day for a group of aspiring writers who are growing tired of the monotony of their desk jobs. Dean stumbles in hungover from a party at the home of the 'office freak', Gloria, the night prior. As the day goes on, everyone goes about their business, though tensions are high with a dispute over who should be allowed to write a story on a deceased singer, and Gloria begins to act stranger than usual.
In a sudden shift in tone, gun shots are heard in another area of the office space and Gloria emerges, shooting and killing many workers, including Miles and Ani, leaving Dean and the boss, Nan, alive. Kendra had left the building for coffee and Lorin escapes from another area of the building unseen. Gloria approaches Dean and assures him that she doesn't want to kill him because he was nice to her after her party. She thanks him for being nice and then shoots herself, ending act 1.
The story then follows the fallout of each character's life as they try to cope with the stress of witnessing the events and feud over who deserves a book deal based on the events of the shooting. Act II follows their various attempts at monetizing and creating success off of their traumas. Nan is the only one who is able to put her experience into something worth reading and it gets picked up by a film production company in LA. Questions on the reasoning behind going postal and workplace toxicity are posed during the play, as well as who profits off of mass shootings, what will people do in order to achieve their own ambitions, and who gets remembered after such tragic events.
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins was born in Washington, D.C. on December 29, 1984. He was raised by his mother, Patricia Jacobs, who was a Harvard graduate and lawyer. He graduated high school as Valedictorian and went on to study Anthropology at Princeton University from which he graduated in 2006. In 2007, he earned a Masters in Performance Studies from NYU. That same year he started work in the New Yorker's fiction department as an editorial assistant. It was during this time he wrote his first play Neighbors. In 2010 he quit his job and moved to Berlin through the Fulbright Fellowship Program. While in Germany, he wrote his next plays An Octoroon and Appropriate along with the start of Gloria. Jacobs-Jenkins returned to the U.S. in 2012 to study at Juilliard's Lilia Acheson Wallace Playwrights program. During this time, he also worked at: NYU as an adjunct professor, Baryshnikov Arts Center where he had a residency, Signature Theatre’s Residency program where he also had a playwright residency, as well as various teaching positions at Princeton. Most recently in 2016 he was named a MacArthur Fellow.
Jacobs-Jenkins was born in Washington, DC. His father, Benjamin Jenkins, is a retired dentist and his mother, Patricia Jacobs, is a business consultant. He graduated from Princeton University in 2006, with a major in anthropology, and earned a master's degree in performance studies from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 2007. He has taught playwriting at the Tisch School and also at Princeton. He graduated from the Lila Acheson Wallace Playwrights Program at The Juilliard School.
He worked at the New Yorker where he edited and wrote reviews. He became a member of the Signature Theatre Residency Five program in 2013. The program "guarantees three full productions of new work."
Neighbors premiered Off-Broadway at the Public Theater/Public LAB in February - March 2010, and was then presented at the Matrix Theatre Company, Los Angeles in August 2010, directed by Nataki Garrett. The play was produced by the Mixed Blood Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota in September to October 2011, also directed by Nataki Garrett. It premiered in Boston in 2011 with Company One.
He received the 2014 Obie Award for Best New American Play for his plays Appropriate and An Octoroon.
An Octoroon is an adaptation of The Octoroon by Dion Boucicault. It first ran at Performance Space New York from June 24 to July 3 2010. It then ran Off-Off-Broadway at the Soho Rep in April 2014 to June 2014 and then at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, Brooklyn, New York, from February 2015 to March 29, 2015.Artists Repertory Theatre, Portland, Oregon, staged An Octoroon from September 3 to October 1, 2017.
Appropriate was produced Off-Broadway by the Signature Theatre, at the Pershing Square Signature Center, from March 16, 2014 to April 13, 2014. The play was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play, and also won 2014 Obie Awards for Direction (Liesl Tommy) and Performance (Johanna Day). Michael Billington in his review of the 2019 production at the Donmar Warehouse (London), wrote: "...he appropriates the classic American family drama with results that are both gravely serious and mordantly funny...What is exhilarating about the play is that Jacobs-Jenkins pushes everything to the limits."
War premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven, in December 2014, as a commission from the Yale Rep. Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, the cast featured Tonya Pinkins, Philippe Bowgen, Rachael Holmes, Greg Keller and Trezana Beverley. War opened at the Lincoln Center LCT3 series Off-Broadway on May 21, 2016 in previews, officially on June 6, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, and ran through July 3.He wrote War while on a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany.
His play Everybody was produced Off-Broadway by the Signature Theatre, and opened on January 31, 2017 in previews, officially on February 21. The play is "a modern riff on one of the oldest plays in the English language." Everybody is suggested by the 15th-century morality play Everyman. Directed by Lila Neugebauer, the cast includes Jocelyn Bioh, Brooke Bloom, Michael Braun, Marylouise Burke, Louis Cancelmi, Lilyana Tiare Cornell, David Patrick Kelly, Lakisha Michelle May and Chris Perfetti. The role of Everybody is chosen by lottery.Jacobs-Jenkins explained the play: "The concept...is that every night there’ll be a different Everyman, chosen by lottery, so the cast will shift a lot. This may be an insane idea. We’re assuming all these lovely actors are going to memorize the entire script.” Everybody is a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
His new play, titled Girls, will premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre from October 4, 2019 to October 26. The play will be directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz and choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly. The play is a contemporary version of Euripides’ Greek tragedy The Bacchae, and contains dance music and live-streaming video. His work has been seen at The Public Theater, Signature Theater, PS122, Soho Rep, Yale Repertory Theatre, Actors Theater of Louisville, The Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles, Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, the Wilma Theater (Philadelphia), CompanyOne and SpeakEasy Stage in Boston, Theater Bielefeld in Bielefeld, Germany, the National Theatre in London, and the HighTide Festival in the UK.
Jacobs-Jenkins currently serves on the board of Soho Rep in New York City. He will join the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin MFA playwriting program, in the 2019 semester. He is joined by Annie Baker, with whom he served as co-artistic directors for the MFA playwriting program at Hunter College of the City University of New York.
The action in the play closely follows that of Shakespeare's play, though Césaire emphasizes the importance of the people who inhabited the island before the arrival of Prospero and his daughter Miranda: Caliban and Ariel. Both have been enslaved by Prospero, though Caliban was the ruler of the island before Prospero's arrival.
Caliban and Ariel react differently to their situation. Caliban favors revolution over Ariel's non-violence, and rejects his name as the imposition of Prospero's colonizing language, desiring to be called X. He complains stridently about his enslavement and regrets not being powerful enough to challenge the reign of Prospero. Ariel, meanwhile, contents himself with asking Prospero to consider giving him independence.
At the end of the play, Prospero grants Ariel his freedom, but retains control of the island and of Caliban. This is a notable departure from Shakespeare's version, in which Prospero leaves the island with his daughter and the men who were shipwrecked there at the beginning of the play.
A Summary of Shakespeare's Tempest
Close to a Mediterranean island, a storm overcomes a ship that carries King Alonso of Naples, his son Ferdinand, and his brother Sebastian. They were on their way home home from Tunis to Italy when the storm hit and demolished their ship. Shipwrecked with them are the courtier, Gonzalo, and the Duke of Milan, Antonio.
From the island, Prospero, the former Duke of Milan, and his fifteen year-old daughter, Miranda, watch the storm and shipwreck. Miranda fears for the ship's crew, but Prospero assures her that everything is fine. He decides to open up about his past, telling her how twelve years previously, his brother Antonio had deposed him in a coup. With the aid of Gonzalo, Prospero had escaped in a boat with the infant Miranda and his books of magic. They travelled to the island, made it their home, and enslaved the only native islander, Caliban. The only other inhabitants of the island are the spirits including Ariel, whom Prospero had rescued from imprisonment in a tree. Since Antonio was on the boat that is now shipwrecked, Prospero hopes finally to rectify his past. As Miranda sleeps, Prospero discusses his role in the shipwreck with Ariel. They plot about what to do with the men now that they are on the shore.
The courtiers from the ship are cast ashore unharmed. But the King is near despair, believing that Ferdinand, his son, drowned. Ferdinand has actually arrived safely on a different part of the island where he meets Miranda and they instantly fall in love. Prospero, fearing for his daughter, captures Ferdinand and forces him to carry wood. In the meantime, Ariel seeks his freedom. Prospero promises that he will liberate Ariel from servitude following the completion of just a few more tasks (typical).
Ariel uses music to lead the courtiers astray, while Sebastian and Antonio plot to kill the King while he is asleep. Their attempt is foiled by Ariel. All the people from the ship become ever more confused as they wander around. In another part of the island, the timid court fool, Trinculo, has come ashore and discovered Caliban. Trinculo hides beside Caliban from an approaching storm, and the ship's butler, Stephano finds them.
Stephano, Caliban, and Trinculo, at Caliban's suggestion, intend to kill Prospero and make Stephano lord of the island. They get very drunk before setting off to the cell to kill Prospero. Ariel, who saw the whole thing in his invisible state, reports this wicked plot to his master. Meanwhile, Prospero has relented and gives his blessing for Ferdinand and Miranda's marriage. Then he entertains them with a masque of goddesses and dancing reapers before he remembers Caliban's plots.
Prospero and Ariel then set a trap for the three plotters. Stephano and Trinculo fall for the plot and become distracted by gaudy clothes hung out for them. After they touch the clothing, they are chased away by spirits disguised as dogs.
Ariel brings all the courtiers to the cell where Prospero, renouncing his magic, reveals himself. Instead of enacting his revenge, he forgives them and accepts the return of his dukedom. Ferdinand and Miranda are betrothed. Sailors come to announce that the ship is safe. Prospero fulfils his promise and frees Ariel while Caliban and the drunken servants are rebuked. The play ends as all go to celebrate their reunions, and Prospero asks the audience to release him from the play.
Source: Rich, Sara, "A Tempest by Aimé Césaire: Curriculum Guide for Postcolonial Educators" (2019). Course Materials. 7. https://digitalcommons.coastal.edu/oer-course/7
Aimé Césaire was a major modern poet from the French Antilles and Francophone background, who became known as the founding father of Negritude and a major critic of colonialism (Davies 1). Césaire was born in the Caribbean Island of Martinique, and although born into the lower class, he still pursued reading and writing at the Lycée Schoelcher. His parents were Fernand and Elénore, whom were very passionate about education (Davies 4). Martinique was a small island near the Caribbean that was deeply involved in the enslavement of Africans and the spread of imperialism in Europe. Later on, Césaire attend the prestigious Lycée Louis le Grand in Paris, specifically on a scholarship. At this school, Césaire found inspiration from the Harlem Renaissance's efforts to dive deeper into the richness of African cultural identity, which then encouraged him to resist French assimilationist policies. Césaire was one of six children and learned to read at the age of four by his grandmother. Not only was Césaire taught to read so early, but his father would wake up all his siblings at six am to teach them more French language and culture (Davies 5).
As mentioned before, his family remained in the lower class, so low that his mother was just a cut above being a field worker (Hale 135). In 1937, Césaire married another Martinican, Suzanne Roussy, who he worked with to create “Tropiques,” a piece of work that helped further the Negritude movement. Following his parents tradition, he had six children with Suzanne. Both Cèsaire and Suzanne became teachers at Lycée Louis le Grand. As he was returning home for this job, his first poem “Cahier d’un retour au pays natal” (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land or Journal of a Homecoming), was published in November 2017 by Georges Pelorson, but was ignored by most. Along with his strive to be a poet, he became drawn into politics. Césaire was elected numerous times as deputy in the French parliament and mayor of Fort-de-France. As Césaire started to work towards the Negritude movement, he had adapted into the communist party. Nonetheless, the communist party lost influence quickly, so Césaire lost his political point of view, but continued on with his Negritude beliefs.
The word “Negritude” is said to have first appeared in Césaire’s book-length poem, “Cahier d'un retou r au pays natal” in the 1930s (Edmonson 92). This led Césaire to obtain the title as the founding father of the movement. Later, Césaire would define this movement as “the simple recognition of the fact that one is black, the acceptance of this fact and of our destiny as blacks, of our history and culture” (Achebe 152). However, Césaire did not establish this movement alone, as Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas should be recognized for playing significant roles to restore Black cultural identity as well. Césaire exclaims, “I would like to say that everyone has his own Negritude” (Salaam 1). With that being said, Césaire is claiming that Negritude is that of what you make of it or see it as.
The whole concept of Negritude developed from the revolt against French colonialism and racism. Soon after World War I, the Africans who were in the French army stayed there, which brought out the ideas of colonialism and political assimilation. These French citizens met with blacks in the United States to discuss the troubles within African culture. Césaire and his partners, Senghor and Damas, all belonged to the group that was considered uncivilized and different. Therefore, as these men worked toward furthering the movement, it also had its detractors. Others accused the movement as another form of racism or the idea of black exoticism. Some felt that it was just setting up blacks for a hostile environment, but instead it was a cry for help against assimilation. Even though the goal was to work towards equality, it was still looked at as European culture over powering Africa. All in all, the Negritude movement gave a poetic voice to black identity and allowed black people to see their qualities with a better perspective (Sprauge 244).
Because of Césaire’s complex background in African culture, he went on to adapt The Tempest into a work that was intended to be more relevant for a black audience, titled A Tempest. In this theatrical production, the character Caliban replaced the Shakespearean, dominant, and controlling Prospero as the new protagonist. He emphasizes a new theme of a master/slave relationship as he took on a more critical perspective of western humanism. Césaire also differs from Shakespeare in the way he highlights the social roles of characters. In this version, Caliban can be perceived as a Malcom X figure, and Ariel is viewed as a parallel for Martin Luther King Jr. Caliban is characterized by his “affirmation of indigenous cultural values and most particularly by his insistence on the necessity of seizing his freedom” (Arnold 240).
This same description could be applied to Malcom X himself. Meanwhile, Ariel’s character “articulates coherently the position of moderation, conciliation, and nonviolence” (Arnold 240). This definition is much closer to Martin Luther King Jr., as he chose more peaceful ways of protest when compared to Malcolm X. Along with these two central figures, Césaire added the African God, Eshu, in his version of A Tempest. His role is to “counterbalance the divinities of classical antiquity in the masque of Shakespeare’s Act IV” (Arnold 239). The difference and depth of these characters create a new and refreshing take on Shakespeare’s original
In regards to Césaire’s stance on colonialism, his opinion is clearly stated in another one of his works. Entitled Discourse on Colonialism, this book was published in 1955 and has sold more than 75,000 copies to date. When published for the first time in English, this piece inspired a new generation that held Civil Rights, Black Power, and anti-war movements. Readers of this piece most likely assumed that colonialism offers mutual benefits for the European colonized and the colonizers, but Césaire states a different perspective. In this piece, he often mentions that it is a good idea for civilizations to join in order to “redistribute energy” and “blend different worlds.”
Although Césaire admitted that is a good idea to connect civilizations together, he still contemplates the idea of if it actually helped to develop a relationship. Césaire claims there is still too much distance between the colonizer and the colonized, with not a single value in common. Colonization is a process of decivilizing the colonizer, basically stripping one of their instincts. Throughout Césaire’s argument, there is a continuous drive towards the idea that no one colonizes innocently or correctly. There is only forced labor, taxation, rape, pressure, selfishness, etc. This is a cause of an imbalance of power within civilizations that eventually also leads to violence (Césaire 173). The year before Césaire died, he stated “I remain faithful to my beliefs and remain inflexibly anticolonialist” (Edmondson 97).
The legacy that Césaire has created through his beliefs on colonialism and African American culture lives on today through the Black Lives Matter Movement. This is a contemporary movement, and shows how Césaire’s beliefs from the past are still alive in present day culture. This movement is a result of the Negritude movement that Césaire started, due to both movements encouraging the history, culture, and individual identity of Blacks. Afroamerican and African Studies professor at the University of Michigan, Frieda Ekotto, says that “to read Césaire's work in light of recent events is to bear witness to the ongoing struggles of Black people. His work is rooted in the history of Blackness” (Sprague 244). During the African Studies Center Speaker Series at the UCLA International Institute, Ekotto talks about the difficult matter of racial politics and the violent issues that were present in the past and still remain today.
However, Ekotto is a big supporter in the role social media can play in society and argues that “social media has allowed Black activists to rebel against dominant discourses, much like Césaire rejected white narratives in his poetry, which spurred the Negritude literary movement that embraced the writer's African identity” (Sprague 243). Racialized violence through Césaire’stime never had a true ending, therefore violence against the black population sometimes goes ignored due to the chaos that always remains. The Negritude movement and Black Lives Matter movement can both be seen as one long ongoing battle for equality. Rather than looking at this movement as a struggle in the past, it is embraced as the celebration of Black people and the values of African culture. Overall, this movement was the motivation to stand up to the inequality within the justice system and to reach out for public support. Not only does it apply to the people of Africa, but to all people who should embrace their culture with pride. As Césairesays, “Black I am and Black I will remain” (Sprague 245).
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Nya, a public school teacher at an overcrowded and underfunded city high school, writes the words of Gwendolyn Brooks’s 1959 poem “We Real Cool” on the board for her students. What was once her favorite lesson plan has become an anxiety trip as the poem now has a face: that of her seventeen-year-old son Omari. Nya believed that she had saved him from the school-to-prison pipeline when she and her ex-husband Xavier sent Omari to a majority white boarding school upstate. However, when she gets a call from the school informing her that Omari got into a fight with his English teacher during class, she worries that Brooks’ prophecy of doomed youth is about to come true.
Omari has tunnel vision and the only way he can see himself surviving this incident is by running away from a school that threatens to crush him under the weight of representation. He feels tokenized by his teachers and his peers as a Black student from the inner-city who “got out” when all Omari wants is to be a regular teenager. He is angry and lost and he thinks, maybe, he can be free from the suffocation of the prep school if he just runs. Of course, his girlfriend Jasmine would never tell Nya of her son’s plans, even when she comes knocking on her dorm room door, demanding answers.
Whether at Nya’s indigent public school or in the spotless hallways of Omari’s boarding school, the American education system is failing. However, as the school board debates pressing charges against Omari, they see the situation as quite black and white. Nya is trying to do her best to raise a young Black man in 2017, begging Omari, "tell me how to save you,” to the rhythmic underscoring of Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetry. “We Real Cool. We/Left school. We/Lurk late. We/Strike straight. We/Sing sin. We/Thin gin. We/Jazz June. We/Die soon.”
Source: https://d1fl2pbib0u1tq.cloudfront.net/pdf/Study%20Guides/2018- 2019/Pipeline%
Nya is a divorced mother and public high school teacher trying her best to raise her teenage son on her own. Her son, Omari, is a bright but very angry young man who struggles to fit in at his expensive private school, Fernbrook Academy. When an altercation with a teacher becomes physical, Omari faces expulsion or worse. He tells his girlfriend, Jasmine, about his plan to run away from school.
Meanwhile, Nya discusses the situation with her coworkers at the public high school, fellow teacher Laurie, who has just returned from a three-week leave for reconstructive surgery after being attacked by the family of a student, and security guard Dun, whose friendliness Nya is quick to rebuff. After a stressful day at school, Nya drives to Fernbrook to pick up Omari. She finds him gone and talks to Jasmine instead, urging her to reveal where Omari has gone. Jasmine initially refuses, but at last tells Nya truthfully that she knows Omari has run away, but not where he has gone. That night, however, Omari returns home of his own accord. Nya and Omari try to talk about what happened, but they are unable to find any resolution. Nya tells Omari she needs instructions for how to help him, but he has nothing to offer.
The next day, Omari’s father, Xavier, comes to talk with Nya about Omari’s future. They decide to pull Omari out of Fernbrook and send him to live with Xavier. After another stressful day at school that involves Laurie hitting a student with a broom and facing the loss of her job, Nya breaks down with a panic attack that sends her to the hospital. In the hospital waiting room, Omari and Xavier confront one another over their difficult relationship. Nothing improves, and Xavier walks away, leaving Omari with Nya. In the play’s final scene, Nya pleads with the school board not to press charges against Omari, while Omari presents his mother with a list of instructions to improve their relationship.
Dominique Morisseau is the author of The Detroit Project (A 3-Play Cycle) which includes the following plays: Skeleton Crew (Atlantic Theater Company), Paradise Blue (Signature Theatre), and Detroit ’67 (Public Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem and NBT). Additional plays include: Pipeline (Lincoln Center Theatre), Sunset Baby (LAByrinth Theatre); Blood at the Root (National Black Theatre) and Follow Me To Nellie’s (Premiere Stages). She is also the TONY nominated book writer on the new Broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations (Imperial Theatre). Dominique is alumna of The Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, Women’s Project Lab, and Lark Playwrights Workshop and has developed work at Sundance Lab, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Eugene O’Neil Playwrights Conference. She most recently served as Co-Producer on the Showtime series “Shameless” (3 seasons). Additional awards include: Spirit of Detroit Award, PoNY Fellowship, Sky-Cooper Prize, TEER Trailblazer Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, Audelco Awards, NBFT August Wilson Playwriting Award, Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama, OBIE Award (2), Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship, Variety’s Women of Impact for 2017-18, and a recent MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow.
Dominique Morisseau writes plays that carry “pieces and shreds and glimpses of people who have raised [her], who she loves and cares for fiercely,” her frequent collaborator, director Kamilah Forbes, explains. These pieces of real life, knit together with imagination and fierce love—as well as a desire to carve a space for their stories on the American stage—have defined Morisseau’s writing thus far.
Morisseau grew up in the College Park neighborhood of Detroit, which she calls “a pretty affluent working-class community” where now she sees “houses boarded up.” The people, speech, rhythms, and stories she encountered there—and the turns those lives have taken—form the bedrock of her work. As a child and teenager, she acted in plays and musicals and danced with the Detroit City Dance Company. She studied acting at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she was compelled to write her first play. She found that the theatre department “did not do a lot of nontraditional casting,” and as an African-American woman, she struggled to find roles. Inspired by poet/playwright Ntozake Shange, she wrote her own play: The Blackness Blues—Time to Change the Tune (A Sister's Story). She ultimately expanded the play from a cast of three to a cast of twenty to meet the interest from Black women who wanted to participate—even from outside of the theatre department.
After graduating from college, Morisseau moved to New York City to pursue dancing. She wrote poetry on the side, but found herself performing her poetry to win rent money instead of writing for the art itself. She switched her craft to playwriting and joined the Creative Arts Team at City College of New York and the Emerging Writers Group at the Public Theater. It was at the Public Theater where she had the idea for the Detroit Project. The Detroit Project is made up of three plays: Detroit ’67 (2013) (winner of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama), Paradise Blue (2015), and Skeleton Crew (2016).
Before the Detroit Project came to fruition, her 2011 play Follow Me to Nellie’s premiered at Premiere Stages in Union, NJ. It explores African-American women’s experiences with segregation in a 1955 Mississippi brothel. Like much of her other work, Morisseau was inspired by her family to write—in this case, by an aunt who ran a brothel for sixty years. This early play establishes what Morisseau does so well throughout her career: she writes with an awareness of the people at the center of the social and political issues of her plays. The characters—their dreams, desires, and convictions—are the stories’ driving forces.
While she was working on the Detroit Project, Sunset Baby premiered at the Labyrinth Theatre Company in 2013. It is a three-character show set in the present day about a father and daughter reentering each other’s lives: Nina, a tough and unforgiving drug dealer; her boyfriend Damon; and her father Kenyatta, the former leader of a black power movement. The play solidified Morisseau’s firecracker language and ability to weave the past and present into a vibrant whole. The New York Times praised the piece for “talk that’s not only dynamic; it’s also dynamite, and it explodes when you least expect it.
Morisseau’s produced one-acts include Third Grade, Black at Michigan, and love.lies.liberation. She has received the Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwriting Award, the Weissberg Award for Playwriting, and the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama. Morisseau’s dialogue is rich with explosive yet poetic dialects. TheatreMania describes the rhythmical voice of her characters in Skeleton Crew: “they sing with the vernacular of their community.” She has said that “Everyone needs to see themselves. We have to make space.” But for Morisseau, diverse representation extends beyond the number of people of color on stage to the way audience members of color are received at the theatre.
Morisseau describes herself as “an artist whose work…welcome[s] call and response from the audience,” and seeks out a theatre culture with space for recognition and exchange. In her theatre “you are welcome to come as you are…hoot and holler or sit quietly in reverence. Worship and engage however you do.” Morisseau’s theatre experience is a deeply personal one—one that she believes everyone should have, be it in how they respond to the performance or how the stories and people are represented on stage.
Pipeline premiered at the Lincoln Center Theater in June 2017. As a former educator with personal ties to public and private schools, Morisseau is acutely connected to the problems of the American educational system. Pipeline examines cultural bias in private schools as well as lack of individualization in teaching or awareness of the students’ emotional well-being. In 2018, Morisseau received the Obie Award in Playwriting for Pipeline. In another recent project, Morisseau wrote the book for the musical Ain’t Too Proud, which opened at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in August 2017 and premiered on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre in March 2019. Going back to Morisseau's Detroit roots, Ain’t Too Proud explores The Temptations’ rise to international fame and Motown icon status. The musical was praised by critics for its sensational storytelling of the personal and the political and received 12 nominations for the 2019 Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical.
Morisseau’s career took another leap when she was named a MacArthur Fellow. This group of 20–30 individuals across industries—ranging from mathematicians to investigative journalists—is honored for “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits,” according to the MacArthur Foundation. Along with the inherent prestige of this honor, the MacArthur Genius Grant includes a monetary award to invest in each individual’s pursuits and potential. Morisseau’s next play, Confederates, will premiere in the spring of 2020 at Signature Theatre, where she is a Playwright-in-Residence. Confederates follows the striking parallel stories of two Black women across centuries: one a slave-turned-Union spy, and the other a modern-day university professor. As her career ascends new heights, Morisseau’s mastery of personal stories that highlight current political and social issues continues to thrive.
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Suzan-Lori Parks’s challenging, experimental two-act work The America Play takes place in “an exact replica of the Great Hole of History,” a setting meant metaphorically as well as literally: Act One of the play, “Lincoln Act,” opens in this hole in the ground, which has been dug by its protagonist: an African American gravedigger-turned-Abraham Lincoln imitator known only as the Foundling Father. The Foundling Father’s lengthy monologue, broken up by stage directions to “(Rest),” comprises this entire act; like virtually all the dialogue in Parks’s plays, this monologue is punctuated and spelled unconventionally in order to evoke vernacular African American speech. In addition, many parts of the play’s dialogue are enclosed in square brackets, which indicates that they are optional.
Dressed as Lincoln, the Foundling Father opens by repeating a number of cryptic, self-referential phrases, like “I cannot dig, to beg I am ashamed,” most of which are quoted from other sources. He talks about his past in the third person: everyone always told him he looked like “the Great Man” (Lincoln), so even though he (“the Lesser Known”) started out digging graves like the other men in his family, he eventually convinced his barber to make him some beards, put them in a box, and came out here to dig the replica of the Great Hole of History and impersonate Lincoln in it. He is fascinated by Lincoln’s assassination, which happened in a Washington theater while the audience was laughing at a bad joke in the second-rate play My American Cousin. He fantasizes about Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd, yelling out, “Emergency, please put the Great Man in the ground,” and he speculates about what it would have been like to dig Lincoln’s grave. At seemingly random intervals throughout his monologue, he nods at a bust of Abraham Lincoln and winks at a pasteboard cutout of him.
The Foundling Father shows the audience his different Lincoln beards and recalls the original “Great Hole of History”—a theme park he visited on his honeymoon with his wife, Lucy—that inspired him to give up the gravedigging-and-mourning business he started with her, move “out West,” and dig “his own Big Hole” to start impersonating Lincoln. Eventually, someone told him that “he played Lincoln so well that he ought to be shot,” and this inspired his current business, which he demonstrates to the audience: suddenly, the Foundling Father starts laughing as a man dressed as Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, walks onstage and shoots him in the head with a toy gun. The Foundling Father plays dead, and the other man declares, “thus to the tyrants!” The reenactment repeats once again, but this time the shooter yells, “the South is avenged!” The Foundling Father thanks the man, who is one of his regular customers.
The Foundling Father continues explaining his business and fascination with Lincoln’s life and death, but is interrupted at regular intervals by men, women, and even a couple, all dressed as Booth, who make him play out the assassination scene over and over again. Luckily, the Foundling Father notes, the only “side effect” from his work is the “slight deafness,” and it is worth the opportunity to follow in “the Great Mans footsteps.” He repeats these comments between other reenactments of the assassination and wonders if he will ever catch up with Lincoln’s greatness—or perhaps vice versa—before the echo of a gunshot marks the end of Act One.
Act Two, “The Hall of Wonders,” opens its first scene, “Big Bang,” with the same echoing gunshot that ends Act One, but different characters: Lucy and Brazil, who are the Foundling Father’s wife and son, respectively. While they debate if this echo is “him,” Lucy circles with an ear trumpet to try and tell “thuh difference” between the original gunshot and its echo, and Brazil digs holes around the stage, like his “Daddy.” Like the Foundling Father’s monologue, Lucy and Brazil’s dialogue is punctuated with the direction, “(Rest),” indicating a pause. In addition, they also frequently trade empty lines: the script simply reads “LUCY” and “BRAZIL,”
Lucy reveals that the Foundling Father has died but never got the “proper burial” he deserves, and she and Brazil reminisce about the death of a family friend, Bram Price. Price revealed a secret to Lucy on his deathbed, and she kept this secret for so long that she became known as a trustworthy confidant (or “Confidence”) for the dying. (Now that it’s been more than 12 years, “nobody cares,” so she call tell Brazil about Bram Price’s secret—which is that “he wore lifts in his shoes” to “seem taller than he was.”) While Lucy was the “Confidence,” Brazil was in charge of the “weepin sobbin [and] moanin,” and at times he even “gnashed.”
Now that the Foundling Father has died, Brazil is digging for “his bones” and “thuh Wonders” that filled his Hall of Wonders, and they’re both listening for “his Whispers.” They don’t hear these “Whispers,” but they don’t understand why—maybe they “travel different out West.” The Foundling Father came out here when Brazil “was only 5,” because even though he was a good digger, “fakin was his callin.” Lucy recalls watching historical figures parade around at the Great Hole of History during her honeymoon and admires the “lookuhlike” that the Foundling Father has built. As the gunshot echo keeps sounding, Lucy keeps searching for the “whispers” and Brazil keeps digging and reminiscing about his Pa. Finally, Brazil pulls one of the “Wonders” out of the dirt: the Abraham Lincoln bust.
After a brief scene labeled “Echo,” in which the Foundling Father returns to the stage and cheers as he watches actors play out a short scene from Our American Cousin, the play returns to Lucy and Brazil in the third scene, “Archaeology.” Lucy tells Brazil about all the different kinds of echoes and whispers, and Brazil muses about what his ancestors—his “foe-father” or “faux-father” (forefather) and the others “who comed before us”—have done for him, like leaving him “this Hole” as “inheritance.”
Brazil welcomes the audience to the “hall. of. wonnndersss” and begins describing the things he has collected there, including a jewel box engraved “A.L.” and George Washington’s “nibblers” (wooden teeth), documents like “peace pacts” and “declarations like war,” and medals for a variety of feats, from “bravery and honesty” to “knowledge of sewin” and, of course, “fakin.” Remembering his Pa, he breaks down in tears, but Lucy comforts him before starting to reminisce about how she “couldnt never deny [the Foundling Father] nothin.” Grimly, she notes that there were “stories too horrible tuh mention,” and then the scene with Lucy and Brazil gives way to another “Echo,” in which actors play out the scene from Our American Cousin that immediately preceded Lincoln’s shooting. After this, the Foundling Father thanks the audience for coming to see him and begins reciting Lincoln quotes and state capitals. He then narrates—but does not act out—every stage in Lincoln’s shooting, and he declares that the bullet made a “great black hole” that killed Lincoln later that day.
In the next scene, “Spadework,” Lucy and Brazil start by quizzing each other on state capitals. After they get to Lincoln, Nebraska, Lucy starts talking about the Foundling Father’s fixation on Lincoln and resemblance to Brazil, who alternatingly weeps and celebrates having “so much tuh live for!” Lucy imagines what Pa might have told Brazil, if he were still alive—she quotes Lincoln and praises her son, then leans in to tell him something that “ssfor our ears and our ears uhlone,” which the audience never hears. Brazil returns to digging (and finds a trumpet and “uh bag of pennies”), and Lucy again starts lamenting how she “gived intuh him [the Foundling Father] on everything.” She hears something and screams, but won’t tell Brazil what it is, and then starts listing all the things the Foundling Father took from her.
Suddenly, Brazil digs up “uh Tee-Vee,” and it turns on just before it is interrupted by another short section labeled “Echo,” which consists only of the familiar stage direction: “A gunshot echoes. Loudly. And echoes.” In the final section, “The Great Beyond,” the television starts playing a scene from the play’s first act, before the Foundling Father appears onstage, along with his coffin, and starts talking. Lucy and Brazil debate whether he is alive or dead and then discuss funeral arrangements. Next, the Foundling Father asks for a hug, but his family refuses. Lucy talks about “thuh Original Great Hole” of History and asks the Foundling Father to get in his coffin. He tries it out, but then he gives his own eulogy, telling the audience how he “quit the [Lincoln impersonation] business. And buried all [his] things.” He quotes Lincoln and then abruptly starts reenacting the assassination: the gunshot sounds, and he appears to die (although Lucy and Brazil are still not sure). Lucy and Brazil debate what they should do, and decide to prepare and wait for their guests.
Brazil announces, “Welcome Welcome Welcome to thuh hall. Of. Wonders.” He describes these wonders as he had before, from the jewel box to the Lincoln bust and medals. And finally, Brazil shows the audience “our newest Wonder: One of the greats Hisself!” Like Lincoln, the Foundling Father has a “great black hole in [his] great head,” and Brazil asks the audience to “Note: thuh last words.—And thuh last breaths.—And how thuh nation mourns—” before he walks offstage and the curtain falls, ending the play.
Suzan-Lori Parks, originally spelled Susan-Lori Parks, (born May 10, 1963, Fort Knox, Kentucky, U.S.), American playwright who was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama (for Topdog/Underdog).
Parks, who was writing stories at age five, had a peripatetic childhood as the daughter of a military officer. She attended Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts (B.A. [cum laude], 1985), where James Baldwin, who taught a writing class there, encouraged her to try playwriting. She wrote her first play, The Sinner’s Place (produced 1984), while still in school. She won Obie Awards for her third play, Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (produced 1989), and for her eighth, Venus (produced 1996), about a South African Khoisan woman taken to England as a sideshow attraction. With Topdog/Underdog (produced 2001), Parks evoked the complexities of the African American experience through the fraught relationship between two brothers. In 2002 the play became her first to be staged on Broadway, and it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Parks’s other plays included The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World (produced 1990); The America Play (produced 1994), about a man obsessed with Abraham Lincoln; In the Blood (produced 1999), which updates Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter; and The Book of Grace (produced 2010), a biblically inflected examination of the familial relations of a racist patriarch. In 2006–07 Parks oversaw a project that coordinated performances across the United States of the plays she had written one per day over the course of a year, in 2002–03 (collected as 365 Days/365 Plays ).
Parks later adapted the book of George and Ira Gershwin’s folk opera Porgy and Bess for a musical theatre production that premiered on Broadway in 2012. Another critically acclaimed play, Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) (produced 2014), was based on Homer’s Odyssey and set during the American Civil War. It contained the first three segments of a projected nine-part epic drama. Race and friendship are explored in White Noise (produced 2019), in which a struggling African American artist and victim of police brutality asks his white friend to buy him as his personal slave, for 40 days.
Parks wrote radio plays (Pickling ), screenplays (Girl 6  and Native Son , based on Richard Wright’s novel), and teleplays (Their Eyes Were Watching God , an adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel). Parks’s first novel, Getting Mother’s Body, was published in 2003.
Her writing has been praised for its wild poetry, its irreverence, its humour, and its concurrent profundity. She received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 2001 and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in 2015. Three years later she won the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award.
Named among Time magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next Wave,” Suzan-Lori Parks is one of the most acclaimed playwrights in American drama today. She is the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, is a MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient, and in 2015 was awarded the prestigious Gish Prize for Excellence in the Arts. Other grants and awards include those from the National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts and New York Foundation for the Arts. She is also a recipient of a Lila-Wallace Reader’s Digest Award, a CalArts/Alpert Award in the Arts, and a Guggenheim Foundation Grant. She is an alum of New Dramatists and of Mount Holyoke College.
Parks’ project 365 Days/365 Plays (where she wrote a play a day for an entire year) was produced in over 700 theaters worldwide, creating one of the largest grassroots collaborations in theater history.
Her other plays include: Topdog/Underdog (2002 Pulitzer Prize winner); The Book of Grace; Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Musical; In the Blood (2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist); Venus (1996 OBIE Award); The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World; Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (1990 OBIE Award, Best New American Play) ; The America Play and Fucking A. Her adaptation of The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Her newest plays, Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)—set during the Civil War—was awarded the Horton Foote Prize, the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama as well as being a 2015 Pulitzer Prize Finalist.
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After this reading/discussion group ends, I want to have goals for continuing to read, absorb, and dive into plays by black playwrights. I know there are many more than 12 black playwrights out there, that this group is just getting more educated, and that after this, I need to set goals to continue the work.
So, I researched a total of 45 playwrights, recorded one play title by each (including the first 12 from this reading group), and made a reading grid. A friend of mine requested the list in a written format because I had originally made the post on Instagram.
Here is the Grid. Please please PLEASE download it and share it with EVERYONE YOU KNOW.
Special thanks to Dr. Femi Euba and Dr. John Fletcher, instructors at Louisiana State University who showed me a good deal of these plays in my first year as a Graduate Acting MFA at LSU. And to Alan White, my colleague and friend who helped me edit this and encouraged me to share it with everyone.
In September 2008, Jason, a man with white supremacist facial tattoos, meets with Evan, his African American parole officer. Jason is uncooperative when Evan asks him simple questions about his living situation and employment, and their tense interactions culminate in an argument wherein Jason yells racial slurs at Evan. Finally, Jason breaks and admits that he recently ran into Chris, whom Jason tried to forget while he was in prison. The scene switches to Evan’s parole meeting with Chris, a black man who’s struggling to integrate back into society since his release because he’s ashamed of being a felon and consumed with remorse over what he did. He tells Evan about how he recently saw Jason: the two men had hugged on the street despite their heightened emotions and Jason’s offensive tattoos.
The play flashes back to January 2000. Tracey (Jason’s mother), Cynthia (Chris’s mother), and their friend Jessie are celebrating Tracey’s birthday at a local bar in Reading, Pennsylvania. A drunken Jessie is passed out at a table while Tracey and Cynthia dance; they’re clearly close with each other and with Stan, the bartender with whom they engage in flirtatious banter. Cynthia tells Tracey and Stan about how she recently kicked out her estranged husband, Brucie, again—he’s been abusing drugs ever since he was locked out of his job at a local textile mill. They also discuss Freddy Brunner, an acquaintance who recently burned his own house down. He apparently did so due to the stress of his failed marriage, debt, and rumors of cutbacks at Olstead’s Steel Tubing (the mill where Tracey, Cynthia, and Jessie also work). Though Cynthia and Tracey make light of such rumors, Stan is adamant that because of NAFTA, steel workers’ jobs could easily be outsourced to Mexico.
During this conversation, Jessie wakes up and become belligerent when Stan won’t serve her another drink. Oscar, the often-ignored Colombian American busboy, escorts her to the bathroom. Cynthia and Tracey worry that Jessie’s problem with alcohol could get her fired. The two women begin talking about recent changes at Olstead’s: there’s an open position for Warehouse Supervisor, and to Tracey’s surprise, Cynthia is thinking of going for the job. Stan is cynical about the disrespectful management at the plant, where generations of his family and he himself worked before he lost part of his leg in a work accident. Still, Cynthia and Tracey, who both have over 20 years of experience on the warehouse floor, are both set on applying.
In February, at the same bar, Jason, Chris, and Stan have a playful conversation about the motorcycle Jason wants to buy and about Chris’s new girlfriend while Oscar listens in. Then, Chris reveals that he’s been accepted to Albright College’s teaching program, which shocks Jason—they both work on the floor at Olstead’s, and Jason always assumed they would retire and open a business together. Jason is hurt that Chris didn’t tell him until now, and he’s adamant that Chris can’t leave Olstead’s because they’re supposed to be a team. But Chris has his heart set on following his own path—it’s just something he has to do.
The following month, Brucie sits at the bar and confides in Stan about the lockout at his textile mill, which has been going on for nearly two years. Brucie and the other employees refuse to give into concessions on their retirement benefits. Now, the plant is bringing in Mexican immigrants as temporary laborers. Stan commiserates with Brucie—he spent 28 years at Olstead’s and is glad that his injury got him out of there. Brucie admits that he feels lost, and he recounts an incident of racism he recently experienced at the labor union. Then, Cynthia, Tracey, and Jessie enter, and Brucie harasses Cynthia until she agrees to talk to him. He tells her that he’s in a rehab program, which doesn’t impress Cynthia. Cynthia shares Chris’s news about Albright, and Brucie disapproves of the tuition cost and of Chris leaving Olstead’s. Brucie ends up begging Cynthia for another chance, but she stays strong with Tracey and Jessie’s support.
In April, Cynthia has gotten the promotion to Warehouse Supervisor, and she and her friends celebrate at the bar. Tracey goes outside to smoke a cigarette, and Oscar comes out to ask her about working at Olstead’s—he recently saw a job posting at the local Latino Community Center. This confuses Tracey, as she’s adamant that they’re not hiring. Besides, Oscar would need to be in the union and to know someone at the plant to get a job there. Changing the subject, Tracey tells Oscar that Cynthia only got the promotion because she’s black and then makes an offhand comment about Latinx people like Oscar coming to Reading to get jobs—but Oscar says that he was born in Berks County just like Tracey was. However, Tracey is adamant that German immigrants like her own grandparents built the town. She tells Oscar that “Olstead’s isn’t for you.”
A couple of weeks later, Jessie waits alone at the bar—Tracey, Cynthia, Jason, and Chris are all late to her birthday celebration. Eventually, everyone but Tracey shows up, and Cynthia and Jessie reminisce about their early days at the factory. Just as Jessie is vulnerably sharing her unrealized dreams of seeing the world as a young woman, Tracey bursts in. The mood becomes tense, and Tracey and Cynthia get into a spat: Tracey clearly resents Cynthia for getting the promotion over her. She’s is upset that Cynthia seems to be ignoring her and sucking up to management. Cynthia understands, but she asks Tracey not to make things about race, and she promises to let everyone know if she hears anything about the rumored layoffs.
On July 4, Chris and Jason run into Brucie at the bar, and they tell him that Olstead’s moved three mills out of the factory over the holiday weekend. Now, the company has posted a list of names on the front door, and Chris and Jason are in a hurry to go see it for themselves. Brucie warns them that no machines means no jobs—he thinks they’re about to be in the same situation he’s in. He advises them to take any concessions that are offered to prevent a lockout from happening. Chris and Jason rush off to Olstead’s.
The play flashes forward to October 2008, a couple of weeks after Jason and Chris’s parole meetings. Jason has come to beg Tracey for money, but she’s hostile and unwelcoming. Jason is horrified to realize that Tracey is high—it seems she developed an addiction to pain medication while Jason was in prison. At the same time, Chris goes to Cynthia’s apartment, where he’ll be staying. Cynthia, who lost her house and now works irregular hours at maintenance jobs, is warm and tearfully apologetic to Chris—though Chris doesn’t think she has anything to be sorry for. She tells him that she and Tracey no longer speak after everything that happened. Chris shares that Jason is out too, and Cynthia angrily reflects that Jason is the one who got Chris into trouble. She asks Chris to tell her what happened back then, because she still doesn’t understand.
The play flashes back to July 2000. In the bar, Stan and Oscar stand by as Tracey, Chris, Jason, and Jessie angrily demand Cynthia to tell them what’s going on. Cynthia begs everyone to stop yelling, but she eventually reveals that Olstead’s is going to renegotiate the floor workers’ contracts: in order to save jobs, there will be a 60-percent pay cut and concessions on benefits. She says that the U.S. plant has gotten too expensive to operate, and because of NAFTA, Olstead’s can easily outsource labor to Mexico. Tracey and the others are outraged. A month after this, Olstead’s workers have rejected the deal they were offered, and the lockout goes forward. Cynthia spends her birthday alone in the bar, where she confides in Stan how stressed and guilty she feels about locking her friends (and her own son) out of the plant. Tracey and Jessie show up and get into an argument with Cynthia, calling her a traitor. However, Cynthia is adamant that she can’t give up the opportunity she’s been given; Tracey and Jessie don’t understand what it’s like to walk in her shoes.
In September, Jason and Chris run into Brucie (who’s clearly high) at the bar, and Chris shares how his childhood memories of Brucie leading other men in a walkout at the mill inspire him to stay strong and keep protesting. However, Brucie tells him it’s pointless—Chris should follow his dreams and get an education instead. The following month, Oscar tells Stan that he’s taken on some temporary hours at Olstead’s because it pays so well, but Stan warns him that doing so will anger the floor workers who’ve been locked out. Oscar doesn’t care, though—everyone in Reading others him, so he feels no loyalty to them. Tracey comes into the bar while Oscar is in the back, and she tells Stan about how lost and humiliated she feels without a job. When Oscar returns, she hurls racial slurs and goes to lunge at him, but Stan holds her back. Oscar tells Tracey that him working at Olstead’s isn’t personal, but Tracey counters that to her, it is personal.
A week later, Chris, Jason, and other union members protesting on the line get into a physical fight with the Latinx temp workers at Olstead’s. Afterward, they go to the bar—where Jessie is once again passed out at a table—and excitedly tell Stan about it, but Stan isn’t impressed. He thinks Jason and Chris should move on and get out of Reading. Chris agrees—he doesn’t want to end up like Brucie. While they talk, Oscar comes into the bar to get his things from the back and say goodbye to Stan just as Tracey comes out of the bathroom. Tracey, Jessie, and Jason make racist slurs and comments at Oscar, and Jason stands up threateningly. Stan slams a baseball bat down on the bar and orders Jason to sit, but Jason blocks Oscar from leaving and begins to beat him. Stan and Chris try to intervene, but Tracey and Jessie egg the fight on. Chris eventually becomes angry as well, and he joins Jason in beating Oscar. Jason grabs the baseball bat and hits Oscar in the stomach, and as he swings back to hit him again, he accidentally strikes Stan in the head. Stan falls, hits his head on the bar, and lies bleeding on the ground.
The play returns to Jason and Chris’s separate parole meetings with Evan in October 2008. He encourages both men to let go of their shame and self-blame and to meet up with each other to talk. A few days later, Chris goes to the bar, where Oscar is now the manager. Jason shows up too, which initially alarms Oscar. Jason panics and goes to leave, but he stops when Stan enters to wipe down tables. Stan is now severely disabled with a traumatic brain injury; he struggles to hear or speak. Jason comments that Oscar is kind to take care of him, and Oscar replies that this is how things should be. Chris and Jason are clearly apologetic but can’t yet bring themselves to verbalize what they’re thinking. The four men uneasily wait for the next moment, together yet divided.
Playwright Lynn Nottage was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1964. At age eight, she had already written her first play. Her inspiration came from the women in her family. Her grandmother, mother, and other women were the nurses, teachers, activists and artists in the Brooklyn neighborhood where she grew up. Nottage is a graduate of New York’s High School of Music and Art in Harlem where she earned her high school diploma in 1982. That same year, she enrolled at Brown University where she received her B.A. degree in 1986. She continued her studies and received her M.F.A. degree in playwriting at Yale School of Drama in 1989.
Nottage became a full-time playwright in the 1990s after spending four years at Amnesty International as national press officer. Her first break came as a commissioned monologue for a musical entitled, A...My Name is Still Alice. In 1993, her short play, Poof!, about a woman whose husband spontaneously combusts premiered at the Actors Theater in Louisville, Kentucky, where it won the Heideman Award. In 1996, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, Illinois, produced one of her most known plays, Crumbs from the Table of Joy, in its family outreach series.
Nottage took a break from writing for nearly seven years, but in 2003, her drama Intimate Apparel, a play about an African American seamstress in turn of the century New York, won major awards including the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Francesca Primus Prize and the Steinberg Award. In 2004, actress Viola Davis won a Drama Desk Award for her outstanding performance in Intimate Apparel at the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City.
Nottage’s plays are being produced the world wide. She continues to write in her Brooklyn home where she resides with her husband and daughter.
Lynn Nottage is the first woman in history to win two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world. Sweat (Pulitzer Prize, Obie Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk Award nomination) moved to Broadway after a sold-out run at The Public Theater. It premiered and was commissioned by Oregon Shakespeare Festival American Revolutions History Cycle/Arena Stage. Her other plays include By The Way, Meet Vera Stark (Lilly Award, Drama Desk Nomination), Ruined (Pulitzer Prize, OBIE, Lucille Lortel, New York Drama Critics’ Circle, Audelco, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards), Intimate Apparel (American Theatre Critics and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Play), Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine (OBIE Award), Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Las Meninas, Mud, River, Stone, Por’knockers and POOF! In addition, she is working with composer Ricky Ian Gordon on adapting her play Intimate Apparel into an opera (commissioned by The Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theater).
She is also developing This is Reading, a performance installation based on two years of interviews, which opened at the Franklin Street, Reading Railroad Station in Reading, PA in July 2017. She is currently an artist-in-residence at the Park Avenue Armory. She is the co-founder of the production company Market Road Films, whose most recent projects include The Notorious Mr. Bout directed by Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkin (premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2014), First to Fall directed by Rachel Beth Anderson (premiere at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, 2013) and Remote Control (premiere at Busan International Film Festival 2013, New Currents Award). She has also developed original projects for HBO, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Showtime, This is That and Harpo.
She is writer/producer on the Netflix series She's Gotta Have It directed by Spike Lee. Nottage is the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellowship, Steinberg "Mimi" Distinguished Playwright Award, PEN/Laura Pels Master Playwright Award, Merit and Literature Award from The Academy of Arts and Letters, Columbia University Provost Grant, Doris Duke Artist Award, The Joyce Foundation Commission Project & Grant, Madge Evans-Sidney Kingsley Award, Nelson A. Rockefeller Award for Creativity, The Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award, the inaugural Horton Foote Prize, Helen Hayes Award, the Lee Reynolds Award, and the Jewish World Watch iWitness Award. Her other honors include the National Black Theatre Fest's August Wilson Playwriting Award, a Guggenheim Grant, Lucille Lortel Fellowship and Visiting Research Fellowship at Princeton University. She is a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama. She is also an associate professor in the theater Department at Columbia School of the Arts. Nottage is a board member for BRIC Arts Media Bklyn, Donor Direct Action, Dramatist Play Service, Second Stage and the Dramatists Guild.
She recently completed a three-year term as an Artist Trustee on the Board of the Sundance Institute. She is member of the The Dramatists Guild and WGAE.
Lynn Nottage is a playwright and a screenwriter. She is the first, and remains the only, woman to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world.
Nottage recently premiered Floyd's at the Guthrie theater. She wrote the book for the world premiere musical adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's novel The Secret Life of Bees, with music by Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead. It premiered at the Atlantic Theatre Company in May 2019, directed by Sam Gold. Upcoming work includes an opera adaptation of her play Intimate Apparel composed by Ricky Ian Gordon, commissioned by The Met/Lincoln Center Theater. It will premiere at Lincoln Center in spring 2020. She is also currently writing the book to the upcoming musical MJ, featuring the music of Michael Jackson, premiering on Broadway in summer 2020.
Other plays include Mlima’s Tale (Public Theater), By The Way, Meet Vera Stark (Lilly Award, Drama Desk Nomination), Ruined (Pulitzer Prize, OBIE, Lucille Lortel, New York Drama Critics’ Circle, Audelco, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award); Intimate Apparel (American Theatre Critics and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Play); Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine (OBIE Award); Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Las Meninas; Mud, River, Stone; Por’knockers; and POOF!
Her play Sweat (Pulitzer Prize, Evening Standard Award, Obie Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Tony Nomination, Drama Desk Nomination) moved to Broadway after a sold-out run at The Public Theater. It premiered and was commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival American Revolutions History Cycle/Arena Stage. Inspired by her research on Sweat, Nottage developed This is Reading, a performance installation based on two years of interviews, at the Franklin Street, Reading Railroad Station in Reading, PA in July 2017.
She is the co-founder of the production company, Market Road Films, whose most recent projects include The Notorious Mr. Bout directed by Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkin (Premiere/Sundance 2014), First to Fall directed by Rachel Beth Anderson (Premiere/ IDFA, 2013) and Remote Control (Premiere/Busan 2013- New Currents Award). Over the years, she has developed original projects for HBO, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Showtime, This is That and Harpo. She was a writer and producer on the Netflix series She's Gotta Have It, directed by Spike Lee.
Nottage is the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellowship, Steinberg "Mimi" Distinguished Playwright Award, PEN/Laura Pels Master Playwright Award, Merit and Literature Award from The Academy of Arts and Letters, Columbia University Provost Grant, Doris Duke Artist Award, The Joyce Foundation Commission Project & Grant, Madge Evans-Sidney Kingsley Award, Nelson A. Rockefeller Award for Creativity, The Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award, the inaugural Horton Foote Prize, Helen Hayes Award, the Lee Reynolds Award, and the Jewish World Watch iWitness Award. Her other honors include the National Black Theatre Fest's August Wilson Playwriting Award, a Guggenheim Grant, Lucille Lortel Fellowship and Visiting Research Fellowship at Princeton University. She is a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama. She is also an Associate Professor in the Theatre Department at Columbia School of the Arts.
Nottage is a board member for BRIC Arts Media Bklyn, Donor Direct Action, Dramatist Play Service, Second Stage and the Dramatists Guild. She recently completed a three-year term as an Artist Trustee on the Board of the Sundance Institute. She is member of the The Dramatists Guild, WGAE, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is currently an artist-in-residence at the Park Avenue Armory.
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Tiffany Gilly (she/her) is doing what she can to be an advocate and ally to Black People and People of Color through her art. She is an actor who seeks to support theatre and stories by Black Playwrights and Playwrights of Color, so she started this play-reading group to increase the knowledge of plays by non-White Playwrights as a starting point or a stepping stone for further exploration as artists.