Magazine article Black Masks

21st Century Black Theatre

Magazine article Black Masks

21st Century Black Theatre

Article excerpt

It's funny how some topics just swirl into focus on their own. This month the question of what is Black Theatre and will it continue to exist reared up on several planes. The main impetus came from a statement by Terrence Spivey, the artistic director of Karamu in an interview for this issue of Black Masks. While underlining the importance of Black theatre, he stated, "Black theatre as we knew it during the 1960s will never be seen again." An unrelated conversation with my dear friend and longtime advisor for Black Masks also led back to just what is Black theatre? Is it still what W.E.B. Du Bois described as "theatre about us, by us, for us, and near us?" How many Black theatres still support that vision? Or has the definition changed?

As the publisher of Black Masks for almost twenty-eight years, my continuing mission is to highlight Black creators of theatre who seldom receive the accolades they deserve from the mainstream press. I have celebrated their achievements in whatever venue they found for self-expression. Yet, I have tried not to delude myself into thinking that every vehicle for a Black artist automatically makes it Black theatre. For instance, there are an extraordinary number of Black artists working this season in Broadway productions - from James Earl Jones in The Best Man to the allBlack cast of Tennessee Williams' Streetcar Named Desire. I am overjoyed for the opportunity afforded these actors but I know that their appearance on Broadway in and of itself will do little to ensure the survival of iconic Black theatre institutions. …

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