African American Playwrights
Marita Bonner, Exit: An Illusion
Marita Bonner is from Massachusetts. She was an English teacher at Cambridge High School and Bluefield Colored High School. Bonner is most known for writing about the intersectionality of race and gender in plays, essays, and short stories.
Exit: An Illusion focuses on Dot and Buddy, two people with very distinct skin tones and contrasting views on the notion of passing. This tragic tale tells the story of the consequences that can come from jealousy and racial tensions. (one female, one male role)
Alice Childress, Trouble in Mind
Alice Childress is from South Carolina and New York City. She is most known for her plays Trouble in Mind and A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich. Childress was also a well-known actress.
Trouble in Mind is a play about positive and negative racial relations in the theater during a time when interracial interactions failed to exist nationally. This is a play that is most certainly relevant to our time and the dynamics of many theatres today. The most challenging part of this play is casting. (six male roles, three female roles)
Zora Neale Hurston, The First One
Zora Neale Hurston is from Florida and Alabama. She writes with accuracy of culture and intense attention to visual details. Hurston is most known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, which was turned into a film.
The First One is Hurston's creative renovation of the traditional biblical story of Ham. Through religious references, poetic dialogue, and vivid imagery, Hurston achieves a different ending than the one that religious followers have known. Casting will be extremely problematic. (four female, four male roles)
Adrienne Kennedy, She Talks to Beethoven
Adrienne Kennedy is from Pennsylvania and Ohio. She has received a Guggenheim Award. Kennedy is most known for her plays Funnyhouse of a Negro and She Talks to Beethoven.
She Talks to Beethoven is a play that blends fantasy and reality as Suzanne, the sick wife of a potentially kidnapped doctor named David, interacts with infamous composer Beethoven. The biggest obstacle in this production is casting. (one female, one male role)
Lynn Nottage, Ruined
Lynn Nottage is from New York. She attended Brown University and Yale School of Drama. Nottage is most known for her plays Intimate Apparel and Ruined.
Heavily influenced by Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, Ruined is a depiction of survival through extreme circumstances. The play is situated in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The main challenge of producing this play will be casting because the actors will perform multiple roles. (four female roles, seven male roles)
Suzan-Lori Parks, The America Play, Topdog/Underdog, In the Blood, and Venus
Suzan-Lori Parks is originally from Kentucky but due to her father's career, she was constantly moving. Her plays challenge stereotypes about poverty, race, and sexuality. Parks is most recognized for receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2002 for her play Topdog/Underdog.
The America Play is a morbid and political play that sheds light on the importance of knowing our history. The main character is an Abraham Lincoln impersonator, and the plot focuses on his wife and son trying to find him after he has left them to dig the metaphorical hole of history. The most difficult aspect of this production will be casting, as well as the language and context of the play, which might be too difficult for a typical Bucknell audience to grasp. (two female, three male roles)
Topdog/Underdog is a play about family, truth, history, greed, and race. Booth and Lincoln are two brothers who are complete opposites. This is a play that reflects the importance of familial support and the consequences of a lack thereof, such as never ending sibling rivalry. Casting these two African American men will be the most challenging part of this production. (two male roles)
Parks eloquently creates a diverse and powerful rendition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's A Scarlet Letter in In the Blood, a tragic tale of a mother of five living in abject poverty and eventually being driven to extreme circumstances. The director's biggest obstacle will be casting a strong female lead to play Hester, La Negrita. (three female, three male roles)
Venus is a play that explores racial tensions in the early 19th century. The main character is based off Sarah Baartman, an African woman who was sold throughout Europe to be displayed and mocked at freak shows. The play focuses on Venus' attempts to escape this "career" and dive into the entertainment business while simultaneously, falling for a white doctor who ultimately becomes her downfall. (two female, eight male roles)
Ntozake Shange, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, When the Rainbow Is Enuf: A Choreopoem
Ntozake Shange is from New Jersey and Missouri. Her writing combines her vast knowledge in poetry, directing, and dance. She is most known for her choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.
Shange's choreopoem has twenty scenes that are about African American women in the 1970s finding their voice and expressing their emotional, physical and mental struggles in order to gain strength. This play has no specific indication of a set, and it requires seven female performers. The purpose of directing this play at Bucknell University is to reflect on economic, racial, gender and sexuality issues that we are still struggling with to this day. The most challenging aspect of directing this play is creating a connection between some dated references to the common Bucknell audience member.
Anna Deavere Smith, Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and Other Identities
Anna Deavere Smith is from Maryland. She is a talented playwright, and actress. Smith is most known for her controversial one woman shows Fires in the Mirror and Twilight: Los Angeles.
Fires in the Mirror is a social justice oriented play that embraces the inconsistencies and racial tensions of the incidents following the death of Gavin Cato. Cato was a seven year old Caribbean boy who was accidentally killed in a tragic car accident. The driver was Jewish, and this car accident contributed to the Crown Heights riots, violent acts between African Americans and Jews. The characters in this play are witnesses to the actual crime, scholars, representatives of either community, or family members of those involved. Casting will be extremely demanding. (one woman show, multiple roles)
Shay Youngblood, Shakin' the Mess Outta Misery
Shay Youngblood is from Georgia. She attended Brown University for her Master's Degree. Youngblood has received the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award.
Shakin' the Mess Outta Misery is a beautiful play about female empowerment. The main character, Daughter, learns about the importance of the intersectionality of gender and race, as well as having non-biological family members. The director's obstacle will be casting. (multiple female roles)