Langston Hughes

Overview

Though known primarily as a poet, Langston Hughes crafted well over 40 theatrical works. This book examines Hughes's stage pieces from his first published play, The Gold Piece (1921), through his post-radical wartime effort, For This We Fight (1943). Hughes's stage writing of this period includes such forms as the folk comedy, the protest drama, the historical play and the blues opera. McLaren concludes that the democratic argument is ultimately employed by Hughes to challenge segregation in the military and that...

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Overview

Though known primarily as a poet, Langston Hughes crafted well over 40 theatrical works. This book examines Hughes's stage pieces from his first published play, The Gold Piece (1921), through his post-radical wartime effort, For This We Fight (1943). Hughes's stage writing of this period includes such forms as the folk comedy, the protest drama, the historical play and the blues opera. McLaren concludes that the democratic argument is ultimately employed by Hughes to challenge segregation in the military and that Hughes's iconography prefigures the black aesthetic of the 1960s. Photographs complement the text.

McLaren demonstrates that Hughes's folk comedies, such as Mule Bone (1930) and Little Ham (1936), valorize folk humor and black vernacular. Written in collaboration with Zora Neale Hurston, Mule Bone resulted in a literary controversy. The study also analyzes Hughes's radical plays, including Scottsboro Limited (1931) and Don't You Want to Be Free? (1938), which blend poetry and drama. Also addressed is Hughes's association with community drama groups, especially Karamu Theatre in Cleveland and the Harlem Suitcase Theatre, which premiered Don't You Want to Be Free? and a number of Hughes's satires. In the early 1940s, Hughes entered his post-radical period but continued to protest fascism and celebrate black heroes and heroines. This transition is reflected in his critique of Richard Wright's Native Son. McLaren concludes that the democratic argument is used to challenge segregation in the military and that Hughes's iconography prefigures the black aesthetic of the 1960s. This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of radical theatre and African American drama. Photographs complement the text.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

JOSEPH McLAREN is an Associate Professor of English at Hofstra University.

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction
Ch. 1 Folk Comedy in Collaboration: The Mule Bone Affair 17
Ch. 2 Radical Drama and the Blak Community 33
Ch. 3 The Tragic Mode: Mulatto 59
Ch. 4 The Gilpin Players and the Karamu Comedies 79
Ch. 5 The Karamu Tragedies 101
Ch. 6 The Harlem Suitcase Theatre 117
Ch. 7 Community Theatre, Black Iconography, and World War II 141
Conclusion 165
Afterword 173
Bibliography 175
Index 181
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