Ethnic Theatre in the United States

Ethnic Theatre in the United States

Ethnic Theatre in the United States

Ethnic Theatre in the United States


Maxine Schwartz Seller

Despite acculturation and assimilation, identifiable ethnic communities have been and continue to be important features of the American social landscape. This work documents the role of theatre in many of these communities--black, Native American, Hispanic, and European American.

Traditionally much of the scholarship about ethnic communities in the United States has focused on real or imagined social problems within the communities, on difficulties in adjusting to mainstream American life, on economic hardships, and on the impact of ethnic prejudice and racism. In the 1960s and 1970s, however, the scholarship of the "new ethnicity" began to highlight strengths as well as problems. The new scholarship called attention to the rich internal life of ethnic communities and to the institutions that expressed and sustained that life. Ethnic theatre was one of the most important of these institutions.

Although books have appeared on the dramatic traditions of Native Americans and of Jewish and Swedish immigrants, there is surprisingly little literature about most ethnic theatres, and the primary and secondary sources that do exist are often scattered and inaccessible to the nonspecialist. The purpose of this volume is to summarize the results of current research in a form that is useful to the scholar and the general reader. Twenty original chapters, each written by a specialist in his or her field, introduce the reader to the origins and history of representative ethnic theatres. The chapters stress the social, political, cultural, and educational importance of ethnic theatre as a community institution and direct the reader to sources for further research.


Ethnic theatres in the United States have sprung from a variety of historical and cultural traditions. Native American drama is rooted in centuries-old religious rituals and communal celebrations. Black theatre came to America on European slave ships, where Africans were forced to sing and dance for exercise . . .

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