Although Alice Childress wrote Wedding Band (the full title of which is Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White) in the early 1960s, the play was not performed professionally until 1966. There was interest in producing the play on Broadway, but because of its controversial subject matter the play remained largely unknown to audiences. Finally in 1972 Wedding Band was produced in New York for the first time. Subsequently, a New York Shakespeare Festival production of the play, based on Childress's screenplay, was broadcast by ABC in 1973; however, several ABC affiliates refused to carry the television production. The play examines the enduring nature of love between a white man and a black woman in 1918 South Carolina. Wedding Band confronts racism, but Childress reveals that racism is not only directed at blacks, but is also displayed by blacks. In the play, whites, Asians, and Jews are also victims of racism. Childress's depiction of an interracial love affair broke long-standing taboos on stage and television. While white critics argued that Herman should have been stronger and more determined to break away from southern racism, black critics maintained that Childress should have focused her writing on a black couple. Childress's characters are not idealized human beings; they are the imperfect men and women of a real world. Rather than present audiences with a model for racial harmony, Childress exposes the reality of life for black and white Americans as she explores the frailty of a humanity so entrenched in maintaining rules and social lines that it forgets that there are lives at stake.
Wedding Band depicts a tragedy involving an interracial affair. The action takes place over a period of three days near the end of World War 1, The setting is 1918 South Carolina where state law prevents interracial marriage. Julia is a black woman in love with a white man, Herman. They would like to escape the south and move to the north where they would be free to marry, but Herman is not free to leave, since he must repay money borrowed from his mother when he purchased his bakery. As the play opens, Julia and Herman are celebrating ten years together. Faced with the disapproval of her neighbors, Julia has been forced to move several times; it is clear that she is lonely and discouraged. While the law poses the very real threat of arrest and criminal punishment for any interracial couple who marry or live together, the condemnation of Julia's black neighbors is just as damaging and helps to reveal that racism is not only directed toward blacks but also toward whites.
In Act I, the audience is introduced to Julia's neighbors. Her landlady, Fanny, is a pretentious black woman who is revealed to be superficial and hypocritical. The other women who rent from Fanny, Lula, and Mattie, have been victimized by brutal husbands and have experienced personal tragedy. And it is clear that all of the women in this play have struggled against economic oppression and social injustice. In this first act, Julia's new neighbors ply her with questions about her personal life. To satisfy their curiosity, Julia tells them that she has been in love with a man for ten years but that she cannot marry him because he is white. Her neighbors cannot understand why Julia would choose a white man with no money and their disapproval is...
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