it isn’t black theater. it’s theater.

Joe+TurnerAugust Wilson was one of America’s most successful playwrights. His 10-play series, The Pittsburgh Cycle, chronicles the experience of black America through the 20th Century. Each play is set in a different decade. Some characters appear in more than one play. The children of characters in the early plays appear in the latter plays. It’s a bit Shakespearean in scope.

I saw the Broadway revival of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. It takes place in 1911 during the Great Migration. Recently freed slaves were migrating north to find a new life, causing tension between the white working class and blacks who had already settled in the area.

I saw the original Broadway production way back in 1988 when I first moved to New York. Fortunately, my brain is so porous that I didn’t remember a thing about it, so it was as if I was watching it anew.

I’m afraid that white tourists are going to say to themselves, “Oh, that’s a black play. It’s not for me.” I hope that’s not the case because there are themes of alienation and finding yourself that can reverberate with anyone who has a beating heart. The actors work their asses off to great effect so I hope it finds traction.

7 thoughts on “it isn’t black theater. it’s theater.

  1. Definitely check out Fences next time they revive it. Two Trains Running is also good. August Wilson was one of our great ones, had he stuck around a little longer he might have been awarded the Nobel for this cycle alone. It’s an impressive achievement, focusing on the long century when blacks began integrating in full. Seeing one makes you want to see more of them, but…you said as much already.Peace,sa

  2. Jimmy: If you ever come out to the Big Town, I’ll coordinate your theater evening. Stay away from Mary Poppins and shite like that.SA: Actually, he won two Pulitzer Prizes. Additionally, they renamed one of the major Broadway houses after him just before he passed away. Not bad, eh?

  3. i felt the same way about “The Great Debaters”, and wonder if the lower than deserved box office numbers reflected that “oh, that’s a black movie” sentiment…

  4. Ok, my question is: How do you get all these free tickets to the theater? BAM! That’s what you should do next….something to do with theater! Why does it take me only 3 glasses of wine to realize that. Is there NO money in that field?? Promote?!…something. Am I just crazy or buzzed??

  5. Daisy: Does race effect box office? I’m going to say yes.Greg: Without getting too specific, I belong to a service that provides free tickets to shows that are in previews. It’s to generate word-of-mouth and make the house look full to paying customers. Once a show opens, I usually can’t get a ticket for it–especially if it’s a hit.Sid: I’m am sorry to say that, even in our enlightened time, people still think like that. But we’re making progress. President Obama, anyone?

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