African American Performance and Theater History: A Critical Reader / Edition 1

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African American Performance and Theater History is an anthology of critical writings that explores the intersections of race, theater, and performance in America. Assembled by two esteemed scholars in black theater, Harry J. Elam, Jr. and David Krasner, and composed of essays from acknowledged authorities in the field, this anthology is organized into four sections representative of the ways black theater, drama, and performance interact and enact continual social, cultural, and political dialogues.

Ranging from a discussion of dramatic performances of Uncle Tom's Cabin to the Black Art Movement of the 1960s and early 1970s, articles gathered in the first section, "Social Protest and the Politics of Representation," discuss the ways in which African American theater and performance have operated as social weapons and tools of protest. The second section of the volume, "Cultural Traditions, Cultural Memory and Performance," features, among other essays, Joseph Roach's chronicle of the slave performances at Congo Square in New Orleans and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s critique of August Wilson's cultural polemics. "Intersections of Race and Gender," the third section, includes analyses of the intersections of race and gender on the minstrel stage, the plight of black female choreographers at the inception of Modern Dance, and contemporary representations of black homosexuality by PomoAfro Homo. Using theories of performance and performativity, articles in the fourth section, "African American Performativity and the Performance of Race," probe into the ways blackness and racial identity have been constructed in and through performance. The final section is a round-table assessment of the past and present state of African American Theater and Performance Studies by some of the leading senior scholars in the field—James V. Hatch, Sandra L. Richards, and Margaret B. Wilkerson.

Revealing the dynamic relationship between race and theater, this volume illustrates how the social and historical contexts of production critically affect theatrical performances of blackness and their meanings and, at the same time, how African American cultural, social, and political struggles have been profoundly affected by theatrical representations and performances. This one-volume collection is sure to become an important reference for those studying black theater and an engrossing survey for all readers of African American literature.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An excellent collection of critical writings on issues of race, theater, and performance.... This volume offers compelling insights into producing and performing blackness on the American stage.... A vital reference work for anyone interested in cultural studies, American theater, and literature."—Choice
Library Journal
In this chronicle of New York nonmusical theater, every play produced in the years 1969 to 2000, from Broadway to Off Off Broadway, is discussed in four chapters, with seasons grouped by topical issues. Hischak (theater, SUNY at Cortland), who won ALA's Outstanding Academic Book award in 1995 for The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia, examines over 2000 plays though the issues addressed are hardly common to all and reflect only a few memorable productions. Each year gets an overview comment, while each play gets a summary, an actor comment, and a statement about its critical reception. Since there are no pictures, this is not a coffee-table book but a well-written diary of theater events whose double-column, small-print format belies the energy and readability of the text. While the result is a valuable reference, especially for those plays we have all forgotten, the title is misleading. The period covered encompasses a rise in regional American theaters, and though New York remained the hub, new plays were often generated in the healthy theater world beyond Manhattan. This oversight calls for another chronicle. Recommended for academic and large public libraries. Thomas E. Luddy, Salem State Coll., MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195127256
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Harry J. Elam, Jr. is Christensen Professor for the Humanities, Director of the Introduction to the Humanities, Director of Graduate Studies for Drama, and Director of the Committee on Black Performing Arts at Stanford University. David Krasner is Director of Undergraduate Theater Studies at Yale University, where he teaches theater history, acting, and directing. His book,Resistance, Parody, and Double Consciousness in African-American Theatre 1895-1910, won the Errol Hill award from ASTR.

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Table of Contents

The Device of Race: An Introduction, Harry J. Elam, Jr.
1. Uncle Tom's Women, Judith Williams
2. Political Radicalism and Artistic Innovation in the Works of Lorraine Hansberry, Margaret B. Wilkerson
3. The Black Arts Movement: Performance, Neo-Orality, and the Destruction of the "White Thing", Mike Sell
4. Beyond a Liberal Audience, William Sonnega
5. Deep Skin: Reconstructing Congo Square, Joseph R. Roach
6. "Calling on the Spirit": The Performativity of Black Women's Faith in the Baptist Church Spritual Traditions and Its Radical Possibilities for Resistance, Telia U. Anderson
7. The Chitlin Circuit, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
8. Audience and Africanisms in August Wilson's Dramaturgy: A Case of Study, Sandra G. Shannon
9. Black Minstrelsy and Double Inversion, Circa 1890, Annemarie Bean
10. Black Salome: Exoticism, Dance, and Racial Myths, David Krasner
11. Uh Tiny Land Mass Just Outside of My Vocabulary: Expression of Creative Nomadism and Contemporary African American Playwrights, Kimberly D. Dixon
12. Attending Walt Whitman High: The Lessons of Pomo Afro Homos' Dark Fruit, Jay Plum
13. Acting Out Miscegenation, Diana R. Paulin
14. Birmingham's Federal Theater Project Negro Unit: The Administration of Race, Tina Redd
15. The Black Performer and the Performance of Blackness: The Escape, or, A Leap to Freedom by William Wells Brown and No Place To Be Somebody by Charles Gordone, Harry J. Elam, Jr.
16 The Costs of Re-Membering: What's at Stake in Gayl Jones's Corregidora. Christina E. Sharpe
17. African American Theater: The State of the Profession, Past, Present, and Future, Round-table discussion edited by Harry J. Elam, Jr. and David Krasner
Afterword: Change Is Coming, David Krasner
Selected Bibliography

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