Lonne Elder III Analysis

Other Literary Forms

Lonne Elder III also wrote screenplays and television scripts. His screenplays include Melinda (1972), Sounder, Part Two (1976), and Bustin’ Loose (1981), with Roger L. Simon and Richard Pryor. Among his teleplays are Ceremonies in Dark Old Men (1975), based on his play of the same title, and A Woman Called Moses (1978), based on a book by Marcy Heidish.

Achievements

Lonne Elder III’s playwriting reputation rests solidly on the drama Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, not because his formidable theatrical talents faltered after he created this early work but because he turned from the stage to write for film and television. Ceremonies in Dark Old Men interweaves psychological and social themes in describing an African American family. Elder presents a careful dissection of the love and power relations within that family, while also, looked at more broadly, showing the adverse situation of African Americans living in a racially torn nation. Though his themes are somber, Elder injects his work with humor and affection, carefully balancing his audience’s sympathy for the disparate characters. Although the play ends tragically, presenting the family’s partial dissolution, it carries a positive undercurrent insofar as it charts the family’s heroic resistance against difficult circumstances and portrays how a number of characters mature during the struggle.

Elder has received numerous awards, including the American National Theatre Academy Award (1967), the Outer Circle Award (1970), the Vernon Rice Award (1970), and the Stella Holt Memorial Playwrights Award (1970).

Bibliography

Arkatov, Janice. “‘Ceremonies’ Marks Tribute to Black History Month: Judyann Elder Directs Husband’s Classic Play that Offers Sad but Hopeful Statement.” Los Angeles Times, February 5, 1988, p. 12. An interview with Elder’s wife, Judyann Elder, on her directing of a revival of Ceremonies in Dark Old Men for Black History Month. She discusses the African American experience, contrasting the conditions in 1969 with those in 1988.

Eckstein, George. “Softened Voices in the Black Theater.” Dissent 23 (Summer, 1976): 306-308. Eckstein analyzes the changes through which black drama has gone and chooses the works of Elder to signal these changes.

Elder, Judyann. “Ceremonies Marks Tribute to Black History Month: Judyann Elder Directs Husband’s Classic Play That Offers Sad but Hopeful Statement.” Interview by Janice Arkatov. Los Angeles Times, February 5, 1988, p. 12. An interview with Elder’s wife, Judyann Elder, on her directing of a revival of Ceremonies in Dark Old Men for Black History Month. She discusses the African American experience, contrasting the conditions in 1969 with those in 1988.

Harrison, Paul Carter. The Drama of Nommo. New York: Grove Press, 1972. Harrison discusses Ceremonies in Dark Old Men. Finds the play weak because it does not sufficiently show the characters’ own recognition of the moral implications of their actions.

Jeffers, Lance. “Bullins, Baraka, and Elder: The Dawn of Grandeur in Black Drama.” CLA Journal 16 (September, 1972): 32-48. Looking at Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, Jeffers points to the resilience of the characters as they face oppressive circumstances.

Oliver, Myrna. “Lonne Elder III: Award-Winning Writer.” Los Angeles Times, June 14, 1996, p. 28. This obituary sums up Elder’s life and touches on his works for the theater, television, and screen.