-- AND THEIR AFRO-AMERICANIZATION
ALTHOUGH THE NEW vision and techniques of the European stage were digested en masse, and disseminated to nationwide audiences by the Federal Theatre's Living Newspaper, there had been prior attempts by a few of America's white playwrights to break the strangle hold of realism on the American stage. In Processional, which is considered to be a landmark in American drama,1 John Howard Lawson sought to translate European dramatic techniques into an exclusively American idiom and he used them to express the mood of an American era. It is interesting to note that Lawson's chosen medium for the indigenization of the new techniques was the jazz idiom, which was the flower of black American culture. Apparently he, like Max Reinhardt, found the fruit of black culture most "typically American."
The indigenization of Euro-American techniques into black drama was accomplished by black Federal Theatre playwright Theodore Browne, although he was by no means the only black playwright to work successfully with the new modes. Browne, who was attached to the Seattle unit of the Federal Theatre, adapted classical drama for performance by its black units; he also wrote original plays, two of which, Natural Man and Go Down Moses, have already been discussed in connection with the black playwrights' transformation of the derogatory black stereotypes of the white stage. But Browne's hero, John Henry, was also an excellent candidate for technical transformation: he was no product of the euphemistic American dream; he was disillusioned and browbeaten by the racial inequities of the American system, and he virtually demanded new forms in which to express his reality. With the experience he gained on the federal project, Browne rewrote his folk opera, discarding the structure of the well-made play in favor of the episodes of Brechtian expressionism, and setting them to the tempo of Afro-American work songs and the blues, since the story dramatized life-as-it-was for black Americans. With these elements, he achieved a synthesis of form and content that perfectly expresses the mood, vision, and reality of the black experience.
Each of the episodes in Natural Man is an individual experience in