Their Place on the Stage: Black Women Playwrights in America

By Elizabeth Brown-Guillory | Go to book overview

4
Structural Form: African American Initiation and Survival Rituals

Structural form has evolved considerably since "the period of dramatic experimentation," an era that includes such playwrights as Aeschylus ( 525- 456 B.C.), Sophocles ( 4 95)- 406 B.C.), Euripides ( 4 80)- 406 B.C.) and Aristophanes ( 4 48)- 380 B.C.). 1 During this early period, it was not uncommon for stage plays to run an entire day. 2 Between 975 A.D. and the seventeenth century, structural form underwent a series of revolutions to accommodate the moves from the miracle or mystery play, to the morality play, to the interlude or nonreligious-based plays. 3

Dramatic structure varied during these centuries to please the tastes of the crowds at given periods. Shakespeare, however, popularized the five- act structure that was believed by Gustav Freytag to correspond to the five- part dramatic structure: an act of exposition, an act of rising action, an act of climax, an act of falling action, and an act of catastrophe. 4 Commenting on changes that have taken place in mechanical divisions of dramatic structure, Longman asserts, "For several centuries, the five-act structure was regarded as essential. For much of the present century, the three-act play has been the norm, recently replaced by the two-act structure. 5

More important than the mechanical divisions is the logical progression of thoughts and action in plays. Frederick J. Hunter, in The Power of Dramatic Form, emphasizes that the aim of structural form is to advance meaning or thoughts in a play. He claims that structural form allows playwrights to express the truth about justice, freedom, love, beauty, peace, fame, fortune, generosity, selfishness, economy, waste, marriage, sex, larceny, and big business. 6

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Their Place on the Stage: Black Women Playwrights in America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Foreword xiii
  • 1 - Black Theater Tradition and Women Playwrights of the Harlem Renaissance 1
  • 2 - Alice Childress, Lorraine Hansberry, Ntozake Shange: Carving a Place for Themselves on the American Stage 25
  • Notes 46
  • 3 - Tonal Form: Symbols as Shapers of Theater of Struggle"" 51
  • Notes 74
  • 4 - Structural Form: African American Initiation and Survival Rituals 79
  • Notes 100
  • 5 - Mirroring the Dark and Beautiful Warriors: Images of Blacks 105
  • Notes 130
  • 6 - The African Continuum: The Progeny in the New World 135
  • Notes 149
  • Afterword 151
  • Note 152
  • Selected Bibliography 153
  • Index 159
  • About the Author 165
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