Contemporary Black American Playwrights and Their Plays: A Biographical Directory and Dramatic Index

By Bernard L. Peterson Jr. | Go to book overview
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FOREWORD

James V. Hatch

Most play scripts are never published; even the majority of produced plays never see print. The reason is not entirely a publisher's prejudice that only Broadway and Off-Broadway scripts have merit; rather, the hundreds of community and university theatres that purchase the acting editions and pay the author royalties too often acquiesce to their audiences' wishes to see a "known" play.

This is not a happy situation for the "unknown" playwright, for then he or she, unaided, must make the plays "known" to directors across the continent, a formidable task. If one is a black playwright, such efforts must generate despair.

Each year, the Hatch-Billops Collection, an archives of black cultural history, receives a number of letters and phone calls requesting copies of plays and addresses of black playwrights; the collection can satisfy only a few of the requests, for playwrights are an itinerant group, and the library does not hold production rights to the plays. Hence the need for this Directory. At last, producing groups, teachers of drama, and theatre historians have a comprehensive list of contemporary black playwrights.

The past three decades, certainly the most prolific period in black theatre, have enabled a few playwrights to achieve international acclaim: Baraka, Bullins, Fuller, Childress, Shange. Their plays are listed here along with the hundreds of other scripts written by authors who depend upon word of mouth in order to find productions. For these, the majority of playwrights, this Directory will serve as a liaison between them and the producers.

The amassing of the names and the plays of black playwrights in a discrete volume reflects, on the one hand, that these men and women have not been fully welcomed into the mainstream theatre; their names and plays have been routinely neglected. On the other hand, this Directory encourages young talents by its recognition of them. In addition, it serves as a document to preserve the names of playwrights and productions that otherwise might disappear from theatre history.

In the early 1960s, American playwriting still suffered from the neglect en

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