Their Place on the Stage: Black Women Playwrights in America

By Elizabeth Brown-Guillory | Go to book overview

three women dramatists are important because they supply America with plausible, and in some cases unique, images of black men and women. Some dare to ask, "Do black women playwrights really depict black life?" Unequivocally, they do, but these images must be viewed in conjunction with the images portrayed by black males in order to piece together an accurate picture of black life. Others may ask, "Do black women playwrights represent the majority of blacks?" These selected playwrights do not depict images that represent the majority of blacks. No two or three writers can, nor should have to try. These three dramatists do, however, present a vital slice of life, and it is up to many more black writers to capture the multitude of images of blacks.

Perhaps the most important question to be asked is "Will society be different after meeting the characters in the plays of these black women?" The answer is yes, significantly so. When blacks turn to the theater for better ways to live, Childress, Hansberry, and Shange offer them a multiplicity of options via black characters who come from the heart of the black community. Contemporary black women playwrights give to the American stage a view from the other half: the black and feminine perspective.


NOTES
1.
Alvin Goldfarb and Edwin Wilson, Living Theater: An Introduction to Theater History ( New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1983), p. 427.
2.
Jean Fagan Yellin, The Intricate Knot: Black Figures in American Literature, 1776- 1863 ( New York: New York University Press, 1972), pp. 3-8.
3.
Goldfarb and Wilson, p. 415.
4.
Ibid., p. 420.
5.
Jeanne-Marie A. Miller, "Black Women Playwrights from Grimke to Shange: Selected Synopses of their Works," in All the Women Are ; White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave (Old Westbury, N.Y.: The Feminist Press, 1982), eds. Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott, and Barbara Smith, p. 2 80).
6.
Sterling Brown, Negro Poetry and Drama and the Negro in American Fiction ( New York: Atheneum, 1972), p. 139.
7.
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, ( New York: The Viking Press, 1973).
8.
Ibid., p. 230.
9.
Michele Wallace, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman ( New York: The Dial Press, 1978), p. 22.
10.
Jeanne-Marie A. Miller, "Images of Black Women in Plays by Blacks," CLA Journal, vol. 20 ( June 1977), p. 494.
11.
Robert Staples, Black Masculinity: The Black Male's Role in American Society ( San Francisco, Cal.: The Black Scholar Press, 1982), p. 1.
12.
Maya Angelou's comments about the existing stereotypes of black women are cited by Trudier Harris in From Mammies to Militants in Black American Literature ( Philadelphia, Penn.: Temple University Press, 1982), p. 4.

-130-

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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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