Critical Context

Like all of Emily Mann’s plays, Execution of Justice has a strong message, one which is dramatized rather than specifically stated. Mann often tells other people’s stories, particularly those of the voiceless. Her plays tell these stories not as strict documentaries but as multimedia presentations that capture the essence of the events and what the events mean to others.

Mann has virtually redefined the art of writing historical drama, particularly because she chooses events that are still remembered by audience members who lived through those times. Her plays focus on the lives of actual persons in situations that provoke critical connections, and draw important links between the recent past and the present. Her first play, Annulla: An Autobiography (pr., pb. 1985), tells the story of Annulla Allen, a Holocaust survivor Mann knew and interviewed extensively. Still Life (pr. 1980, pb. 1979), based on three people Mann knew, portrays the Vietnam War from the viewpoint of a veteran soldier and connects the warfare in Southeast Asia with the simultaneous violence of the era in the United States. Greensboro—A Requiem (pr. 1996) serves as a memorial to five anti-Ku Klux Klan protesters who were murdered during a march in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1979.

Two other plays are Mann’s adaptations of books. Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First One Hundred Years (pr. 1995) dramatizes the...

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