Using Baldwin’s years in the theater as a timeline, we read black and queer playwrights who came out of the postwar naturalistic tradition that the author upheld in his scripts, while moving on to various traditions—the Black Arts Movement, Queer Theater, Black Surrealism, and so on—that Baldwin did not embrace but that served to enrich the scene. In addition to reading Baldwin’s essays and published thoughts about the theater and film, we analyze his plays, including his unpublished stage adaptation of his 1955 novel Giovanni’s Room. Also subject to discussion are his brilliant contemporaries, whom we read for context, including Langston Hughes, Tennessee Williams, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Childress, Ed Bullins, Adrienne Kennedy, Derek Walcott, Wole Soyinka, Charles Gordone, Hanif Kureishi, Caryl Phillips, Ntozake Shange. The class concludes with plays written by Baldwin’s former student Suzan-Lori Parks.
Also AFAM 612, DRAM 646