Drama of Epidemic
Ultimately, the satiric concept of Esu, within the framework of formal drama, emerges as an aesthetic concept of theatre. This I have called the "Drama of Epidemic," and, as has been suggested, it is a concept that should be useful in assessing plays that constitute black theatre. While this implies that every black drama has a potential for satire, since satire is an inevitable and essential factor of survival, the concept nevertheless seeks to establish its satiric process as a theatrical device that significantly identifies the black dramatic expression. Consequently, the plays discussed in this chapter as illustration are chosen at random, although the selection has been made with the "epidemic" content in mind. Before turning to the plays, however, it seems imperative to have a clear understanding of the epidemic factor and process. I shall start by relating the concept in broad terms to the African and the Afro-American worlds. This, in fact, is a continuation of what was begun in the last chapter, locating the satiric concept in African and Afro-American realities. Here the dramatic and theatrical evolution of the concept will first be sought in the Yoruba context and then suggested as an aesthetic concept which later identifies the New World expression.
Through Esu-Elegbara, the Drama of Epidemic primarily seeks to legitimate satire in the black tradition. Its salient dramatic force of expression is the ritual, and through this its theatrical features become evident. For ritual, whether in its traditional aspects or in its more aesthetic expression, localizes a crisis which, like an epidemic, becomes a cause for concern and must be brought under control. Like an epidemic, it can destroy. Yet, again like an epidemic, the necessary control is never attained until some kind of purgation by destruction has occurred, through which a cathartic therapy or cure is experienced. The destruction, symbolized by a sacrificial offering (human, animal or object),