The Routledge Companion to African American Theatre and Performance: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Routledge Companion to African American Theatre and Performance

1st Edition

Edited by Kathy A. Perkins, Sandra L. Richards, Renée Alexander Craft, Thomas F. DeFrantz


426 pages

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The Routledge Companion to African American Theatre and Performance is an outstanding collection of specially written essays that charts the emergence, development, and diversity of African American Theatre and Performance—from the nineteenth-century African Grove Theatre to Afrofuturism. Alongside chapters from scholars are contributions from theatre makers, including producers, theatre managers, choreographers, directors, designers, and critics. This ambitious Companion includes:

  • A "Timeline of African American theatre and performance."

  • Part I "Seeing ourselves onstage" explores the important experience of Black theatrical self-representation. Analyses of diverse topics including historical dramas, Broadway musicals, and experimental theatre allow readers to discover expansive articulations of Blackness.

  • Part II "Institution building" highlights institutions that have nurtured Black people both on stage and behind the scenes. Topics include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), festivals, and black actor training.

  • Part III "Theatre and social change" surveys key moments when Black people harnessed the power of theatre to affirm community realities and posit new representations for themselves and the nation as a whole. Topics include Du Bois and African Muslims, women of the Black Arts Movement, Afro-Latinx theatre, youth theatre, and operatic sustenance for an Afro future.

  • Part IV "Expanding the traditional stage" examines Black performance traditions that privilege Black worldviews, sense-making, rituals, and innovation in everyday life. This section explores performances that prefer the space of the kitchen, classroom, club, or field.

This book engages a wide audience of scholars, students, and theatre practitioners with its unprecedented breadth. More than anything, these invaluable insights not only offer a window onto the processes of producing work, but also the labour and economic issues that have shaped and enabled African American theatre.

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Editor/Contributor Biographies

Black Art Now by Nambi E. Kelley

Introduction: Renee Alexander Craft, Thomas F. DeFrantz. Kathy A. Perkins, and Sandra L. Richards.


Part I: Highlights of African American Theatre and Performance


Part II: Seeing Ourselves Onstage

Edited and Introduced by Thomas F. DeFrantz


Chapter 1

Dudley, The Smart Set, and the Beginning of the Black Entertainment Industry

Nadine George-Graves

Chapter 2

Black Theatre History Plays: Remembering, Recovering, Re-envisioning

Sandra Mayo

Chapter 3

"Hung Be the Heavens with Black" Bodies: An Analysis of the August 1822 Riot at William Brown's Greenwich Village Theater

Marvin McAllister

Chapter 4

Mulattoes, Mistresses, and Mammies: The Phantom Family in Langston Hughes's Mulatto

Alison Walls

Chapter 5

Interview with Woodie King, Jr. - Producer and Director

JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell

Chapter 6

Freedom Forward: Alice Childress and Lorraine Hansberry Circling Broadway in the 1950s

Barbara Lewis

Chapter 7

Navigating Respectability in Turn of the Century New York City: Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage

Marta Effinger-Crichlow

Chapter 8

Earle Hyman: Scandinavian Successes

Baron Kelly

Chapter 9

Pittsburgh Piety: A Century of Symbolism

Pedro E. Alvarado

Chapter 10

Interview with Ron Simons - Broadway Producer

Lisa B. Thompson

Chapter 11

Interview with Paul Tazewell - Costume Designer

Niiamar Felder

Chapter 12

Race on the Opera Stage

Twila L. Perry 

Chapter 13

The Wiz and the African Diaspora Musical: Rethinking the Research Questions in Black Musical Historiography

Sam O’Connell


Chapter 14

Bob Cole's "Colored Man's Declaration of Independence": The Case of Shoo Fly Regiment and George C. Wolfe's Shuffle Along  

Paula Marie Seniors

Chapter 15

Shuffle Along and Ethnic Humor: A Family Story

Sandra Seaton

Chapter 16

Interview with Eva Yaa Asantewaa - Dance Critic

Thomas F. DeFrantz

Chapter 17

Black Female Sexuality in the Drama of Pearl Cleage

Beth Turner

Chapter 18

Coming-of-Age and Rituals of Gender Nonconformity in Leslie Lee's The First Breeze of Summer

Rhone Fraser

Chapter 19

Pomo Afro Homos: A Revolutionary Act

Tabitha Jamie Mary Chester



PART III: Institution Building: Making a Space of OUR Own

Edited and Introduced by Kathy A. Perkins

Chapter 20

Being Black on Stage and Screen: Black Actor Training Before Black Power and the Rise of Stanislavski’s System

Monica White Ndounou

Chapter 21

Three Visionary African American Women Theatre Artists: Anita Bush, Barbara Ann Teer and Ellen Stewart

Sandra Adell

Chapter 22

The Birth of Queen Anne: Re-Discovering Anne Cooke at Spelman College

Leslye Joy Allen

Chapter 23

The Howard University Players: From Respectability Politics to Black Representation

Denise J. Hart and Kathy A. Perkins

Chapter 24

An African American Theatre Program for the 21st Century

Nefertiti Burton

Chapter 25

Interview with Karen Allen Baxter – Managing Director of Rites and Reason Theatre

Jasmine Johnson

Chapter 26

The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc.: One Moment in Time?

Susan Watson Turner

Chapter 27

Interview with Shirley Prendergast - Lighting Designer

Kathy A. Perkins

Chapter 28

Interview with Femi Sarah Heggie – Stage Manager

Kathy A. Perkins

Chapter 29

Weathering the Winds of Change: The Sustainability of the St. Louis Black Repertory Company

Gregory S. Carr

Chapter 30

The National Black Theatre Festival and the "Marvtastic" Legacy of Larry Leon Hamlin

J. K. Curry

Chapter 31

The Black Feminist Theatre of Glenda Dickerson

Khalid Yaya Long

Chapter 32

Ernie McClintock’s Jazz Acting: A Theatre of Common Sense

Elizabeth M. Cizmar

Chapter 33

Black Acting Methods®: Mapping the Movement

Sharrell D. Luckett

Chapter 34

Financial Fitness of Black Theatres: Roundtable of Artistic Directors

K. Zaheerah Sultan

Chapter 35

A Reflection on The University of Arkansas Pine Bluff’s The Hip Hop Project: Insight into the Hip Hop Generation

Johnny Jones

Chapter 36

Interview with Ekundayo Bandele – Founder and CEO of Hattiloo Theatre

Shondrika Moss-Bouldin




Edited and Introduced by Sandra L. Richards

Chapter 37

W.E.B. DuBois, Dramatist


Chaper 38

The Third Gift of the Negro: Muslim Identity and DuBois’ Star of Ethiopia


Chapter 39

Oh, Ma Dear! What's Going On?: Staging Angelina W. Grimke's Rachel in the Wake of Black Lives Matter


Chapter 40

Leaning Left: Why Theater Artists in the 1930s Were Attracted to the Red Movement


Chapter 41

Fighting Fire with Fire: Violence and the Black Liberation Movement


Chapter 42

"When We Gonna Rise": Free Southern Theater Performances of Slave Ship and Black Power in Mississippi

Susan Stone-Lawrence

Chapter 43

From "Poemplays" to Ritualistic Revivals: The Experimental Works of Women Dramatists of the Black Arts Movement


Chapter 44

Interview with Micki Grant


Chapter 45

Keeping His Gloves Up: August Wilson and His Critics

Sandra G. Shannon

Chapter 46

Interview with Edward Everett Haynes, Jr.


Chapter 47

Afro-Latinx Themes in Theatre Today

Daphnie Sicre

Chapter 48

To be Young, Performing, and Black: Situating Youth in African American Theatre and Performance History

Asantewa Fulani Sunni-Ali

Chapter 49

Interview with Mama Kariamu Welsh

Amoaba Gooden

Chapter 50

Robert O'Hara's Defamiliarizing Dramaturgy

Isaiah MATTHEW Wooden

Chapter 51

Black Plight in Flight

Tezeru Teshome

Chapter 52

Creatively Censoring African American Drama While Teaching in the Arab Gulf Region

PhyLlisa smith Deroze

Chapter 53

Mike Wiley: A Multi-Faceted Artist on a Mission for Social Change

Sonny Kelly

Chapter 54

"Locked Away But Not Defeated": African American Women Performing Resilience

Lori D. Barcliff Baptista

Chapter 55

A Hundredfold: An Experiential Archive of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, the Opera.

Alexis Pauline Gumbs



PART V: Expanding the Traditional Stage

Edited and Introduced by Renée Alexander Craft

Chapter 56

Many Stories/One Body: Black Solo Performance from Vaudeville to Spoken Word

E. Patrick Johnson

Chapter 57

Standing Up: Black Feminist Comedy in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

Katelyn Hale Wood

Chapter 58

My Name Mudbone: What I learned about playwriting from Richard Pryor

Howard L. Craft

Chapter 59

Ntozake Shange and the Choreopoem

Nicole M. Morris Johnson

Chapter 60

Interview with Donna Walker-Kuhne – Audience Development

Kathy A. Perkins

Chapter 61

Performed Ethnography

D. Soyini Madison

Chapter 62

The United States of Lucia: Three Generations of Haitian-Americans Reconfigure Ancestry, Home and Host Lands through Storytelling

Mario LaMothe

Chapter 63

We Were What No One Else Had

Rikki Byrd

Chapter 64

Interview with Pam Green – Artist Management and Consulting

Melanie Greene

Chapter 65

Sidelong Glances: Black Divas in Transit, 1945-1955

Katherine Zien

Chapter 66

Black Indians of New Orleans: Performing Resistance and Remembrance

Sascha Just

Chapter 67

Interview with Darryl Montana- Black Indian Chief and Master Artisan

Loyce L. Arthur

Chapter 68

African Performance in the Feast of St. Francis Xavier in 17th century Luanda, Angola

Margit Edwards

Chapter 69

Afro-Futurism and the 2018 Wakanda Diaspora Carnival  

Renée Alexander Craft

Chapter 70

A Beginner’s Guide to Implementing Hip Hop Theatre in the Classroom

Kashi Johnson

Chapter 71

Interview with Shirley Basfield Dunlap – Educator and Director

Eric Ruffin


About the Editors

Kathy A. Perkins is Professor Emerita of the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a professional lighting designer who has designed throughout the U.S. and internationally, and as an author has edited six anthologies focusing on African/African Diaspora women.

Sandra L. Richards is Professor Emerita in African American Studies and Theatre at Northwestern University. Specializing in African American, African, and African Diaspora drama, she has published articles on a range of playwrights and on tourism to slave sites in the Black Atlantic.

Renée Alexander Craft is an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a joint appointment in the Department of Communication and Curriculum in Global Studies. She is a performance studies trained Black feminist writer, scholar, and educator.

Thomas F. DeFrantz is Professor of African and African American Studies and Theater Studies at Duke University. He directs SLIPPAGE:Performance | Culture | Technology, a research group that explores live processing in theatrical contexts.

About the Series

Routledge Companions

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / American / African American
DRAMA / American / African American
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / General
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / History & Criticism