How were racial issues and relationships portrayed, surmounted, influenced, and understood in the 19th and early 20th century theater?
The essays in this collection were selected from among papers delivered at the April 2002 Southeastern Theatre Conference’s annual symposium held at Elon University in North Carolina. They address issues of race and ethnicity on the southern stage, in plays about the South, and in public performances, including minstrel shows, vaudeville, melodrama, puppetry, folk dramas, musical, social realism, and the public theaters of criminal justice and political propaganda. The period from the late 18th century to the 1930s forms the historical framework in which the impact of race and its intersections with gender, class, and political ideology are examined.
The essays fall into three different sections: "Playing with Stereotypes," "Politics and Public Spectacle," and "Artists and Audiences." From Jessica Hester’s "What’s a Poor Girl to Do: Poverty, Whiteness, and Femininity on the Carolina Playmakers’ Stage" to John Poole's "Rufflin' and Rumblin' in the Dark: Audience Dynamics in the 'Buzzard Roost' of the Segregated South," we get a broad sampling of the issues of race that influenced, and were influenced by, southern theater.
One essay contributed by Eddie Bradley of Spelman College excerpts his play An Evening with Ira Aldridge, which was read and discussed at the symposium. The closing remarks made by Marvin Sims, president of the Black Theatre Network, who served as respondent to the symposium proceedings, are also included. Collectively, the essays of this volume serve as catalyst for further investigation, discussion, and discovery of a crucial aspect of American theater.
About the Author
Noreen Barnes-McLain is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies of Theatre at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.