Critical Context (Masterplots II: African American Literature)

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

In the Wine Time was the first of a cycle of twenty plays, with characters linked by kinship or association, projected by Bullins about the black American experience in the twentieth century. It was also his first full-length play. Before it was first produced in 1968, critics had acknowledged the talent Bullins had displayed in his one-act plays, but In the Wine Time was not widely noted in its first production; it has, however, come to be considered to be one of his most important plays. Along with Amiri Baraka, whom Bullins has said “created me,” Bullins led the black theater movement of the 1960’s.

From the beginning, Bullins has been interested primarily in his plays’ reception not by critics but by black audiences. His purpose, he has suggested, is to provide black theatergoers with fresh insights as they consider the weight of their own lives. His passionate conviction is that black playwrights can and should contribute a vision for tomorrow, thereby building not only a new black theater but also a black nation and future. With this commitment and audience, Bullins has found it artistically possible to present anything he envisions for the judgment of that audience, free from the constraints of white publishers and critics. Furthermore, while the problem of racism is often present and meaningful in his plays, its presence need not be central or blatant, because he is not bringing it to the attention of white theatergoers...

(The entire section is 585 words.)