Introduction (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
Seeking to extricate the power of African American music and dance from the stereotypes and trivializations of minstrelsy in its various forms, African American dramatists struggled during the twentieth century to locate or create an audience receptive to the full range of their thematic and theatrical concerns. The attempt to develop an autonomous style without sacrificing all access to production confronts African American playwrights, collectively and individually, with a paradoxical situation in which they must first demonstrate their mastery of traditionally European American themes and techniques to dispel stereotypes concerning African American ability and character.
Faced with tensions between their African and European American audiences, and with class tensions within the black audience, African American dramatists have followed three distinct paths. Some, concentrating on commercial success in the predominantly white mainstream American theater, have contributed to Broadway-style revues only tangentially concerned with challenging inherited conceptions of African American experience. More self-consciously literary playwrights, usually working on the margins of the commercial theater, have occasionally achieved some commercial success with plays designed to increase white awareness of the variety and complexities of the African American experience. Increasingly, however, serious African American dramatists have sought to address directly an...
(The entire section is 223 words.)
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