Black Arts Movement THAR 281 Ahlgren

Black Arts Movement
1960’s-1970’s
– Influenced new generation of artists
– Not just reflect life, but urges social action
– Has been criticized for: misogyny, homophobia, anti-semitism, racial exclusivity

African Grove Theatre
New York City, 1820
– First known company of black actors
– William Henry Brown, King Shotaway established this theatre
– Ira Aldridge (1807-1867)
– No records after 1823

In Dahomey
(1903)
– First full length musical written & performed by black artists on Broadway
– Bert Williams & George Walker
-Vaudeville, Minstrel Stars

W.E.B. Du Bois
Precursor to Black Arts Movement
-Wrote about negro theatre in the 20’s
-Helped shape the black theatre movement

Alice Childress
(1912-1994) Playwright, novelist, actor.
Acted in American Negro Theatre, and wrote ” Trouble In Mind” (1955)

American Negro Theatre
– Founded 1940, New York
– Training opportunities for AA artists
– Entertainment for AA community
-Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee also actors in the theatre

“Trouble in Mind”
(1955)
-Childress’ first full-length play
– Success Off- Broadway
– Slated for B’Way, but never happened

Lorraine Hansberry
(1930-1965)
– wrote “A Raisin in the Sun” (1959)
First Broadway play by an African American woman

“A Raisin in the Sun”
(1959)
– First Broadway play by an African American woman
– About racial segregation
– Chicago family who moves into a white neighborhood
-Themes: integration vs. separation
– Written by Lorraine Hansberry

The Black Arts Movement
– Overly Political
– Social engagement as part of aesthetics
– Formation of black theatre companies
– Formation of black poetry groups and journals
– Manifestoes
– Declines in mid- 70’s along with Black Power movement, due to gov’t pressure.

Notable writers in Black Arts Movement
-Gwendolyn Brooks
-Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)
-Larry Neal
-Ed Bullins
-Sonia Sanches
-Adrian Kennedy

Adrienne Kennedy
(1931-?)
– Playwright
– Early Career
– playwriting at Ohio State University
-most recent play in 2008
Style:
-surrealism
-non-linear plots

“Funnyhouse of a Negro”
(1964)
– Written by Adrienne Kennedy
– First major success
– Obie Award

Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones
(1934-2013)
Poet, Playwright, Activist
Early Career
-Beat poets
-Black Arts Movement
-Black Nationalism

Theatre Companies
-Black Arts Repertory Theatre (Harlem)
-Spirit House Movers and Players (Newark)

“Dutchman”
(1964)
– Written by Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones
-Received Obie Award
-First major success

August Wilson
(1945-2005)
-Influenced by Black Power movement
-Opposed color blind casting
-Advocated for more black theaters
-The Pittsburgh Cycle
-10 plays
-1 for each decade of the 20th century

Suzan-Lori Parks
(1963-?)
Playwright
The America Play
Topdog/Underdog
Venus

Lloyd Richards
Director
-Developed emerging playwrights
-Long Standing collaboration w/August Wilson

George C. Wolfe
Director
-“Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk”
-“Angels in America”
-Head of NY Shakespeare Festival and the Public Theatre (1994-2004)

What “Negro” Theatre should be (W.E.B. Du Bois)
“By Us”: must be written by negro authors, who understand from birth and continual association just what it means to be a negro today
“About Us”: must have plots which reveal negro life as it is
“For Us”: the theatre must cater primarily to a negro audience and be supported and sustained by their entertainment and approval
“Near Us”: the theatre must be in a negro neighborhood near the mass of ordinary negro people

Ira Aldridge
(1807-1876) (African Grove Theatre)
Only black actor from English stage honored with plaques at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.

George Walker
Black composer who won first Pulitzer prize for music in Lilacs. (In Dahomey, 1903)

Bert Williams
First black to play a leading role on Broadway