In his ‘‘Notes’’ for the first publication of The Amen Corner in 1968, Baldwin recalls that writing the play was ‘‘a desperate and even rather irresponsible act.’’ With one published novel to his name (Go Tell It on the Mountain), Baldwin was not in a strong position to succeed with his first play. As his agent at the time informed him, ‘‘the American theatre was not exactly clamoring for plays on obscure aspects of Negro life, especially one written by a virtually unknown author whose principal effort until that time had been one novel.’’ Nevertheless, Baldwin forged ahead, and The Amen Corner, written in the 1950s, was first produced on the campus of Howard University, then in Los Angeles, before opening on Broadway in 1965. While it won the 1964 Foreign Drama Critics Circle Award, the play was not published in book form until 1968.
Critics have commented on the artistic success of Baldwin’s play as a dramatic stage production. Carlton W. Molette, writing in 1977, stated that The Amen Corner ‘‘is one of the most successful Afro-American plays that I have seen.’’ Molette asserts that ‘‘The first professional production was moving as theater ought to be but seldom is.’’ Carolyn Wedin Sylvander, asserting that ‘‘The Amen Corner is a better play than its production history or critical attention would seem to indicate,’’ especially praises the play for its qualities as a stage production, particularly...
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