Dictionary of the Black Theatre: Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Selected Harlem Theatre

By Allen Woll | Go to book overview

PREFACE

Douglas Turner Ward, director of the Negro Ensemble Company, recently admitted the difficulty of defining the concept of "black theatre." He ultimately concluded that the black theatre is "by, about, with, for and related to blacks," but it need not include every one of these characteristics. 1

Although, at first glance, this may seem an extremely broad definition, it is certainly appropriate when considering the history of black participation in the American theatre in the twentieth century. Most of the plays performed by black actors between 1917 and 1940 were written by white authors. Conversely, black authors have written plays for white casts from Will Marion Cook The Southerners ( 1904) to Lorraine Hansberry The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window ( 1964). Similarly, many plays concerning problems of interest to blacks have been written by whites, and performed by predominantly white casts, such as Deep Are the Roots ( 1945).

Dictionary of the Black Theatre adopts Ward's wide-ranging definition of the phenomenon of black theatre. This work includes references to Broadway, Off-Broadway, and selected Harlem plays that are "by, about, with, for and related to blacks," from 1898 to 1981. To be sure, this does not encompass the entire range of black theatre in America. 2 Additional reference works are needed in the future to detail the lengthy and rich history of the Harlem theatre, as well as the important contributions of the regional theatre to the Black Theatre Movement.

Part I of this work documents more than three hundred shows from 1898, the date of the first black musical comedy ( A Trip to Coontown) to December 1981 ( Dreamgirls). Following the title of each show, its theatre, opening date, and number of performances are given (n.a.p. indicates that the number is not available). The creative personnel (producer, author, director, composer, and lyricist), the cast credits (with characters portrayed in parentheses), and finally the show's songs follow. 3 Presentations of a group of one-act plays are discussed under the collective title, with individual playlets following. Each entry concludes with a plot summary, a survey of critical comment, and an analysis of the historical context of important shows. Asterisks refer the reader to separate entries on other plays or to biographical entries in Part II.

-ix-

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Dictionary of the Black Theatre: Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Selected Harlem Theatre
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xi
  • INTRODUCTION: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BLACK THEATRE xiii
  • Part 1: THE SHOWS 1
  • A 3
  • B 11
  • B 49
  • E 57
  • F 72
  • G 90
  • H 94
  • H 96
  • H 122
  • H 142
  • H 163
  • H 173
  • H 179
  • H 181
  • Part II: PERSONALITIES AND ORGANIZATIONS 183
  • A 185
  • B 186
  • C 193
  • D 199
  • D 202
  • D 203
  • G 209
  • H 212
  • I 220
  • J 221
  • K 227
  • K 229
  • K 230
  • N 238
  • O 240
  • P 240
  • P 242
  • P 246
  • P 250
  • P 252
  • W 253
  • Appendix I: A CHRONOLOGY OF THE BLACK THEATRE 267
  • Appendix II: A DISCOGRAPHY OF THE BLACK THEATRE 279
  • SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 281
  • NAME INDEX 289
  • PLAY AND FILM INDEX 326
  • SONG INDEX 338
  • NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS 357
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