African American Theatre History
This course surveys key moments and movements in the history of African American performance. The course begins with the founding of the African Theatre in 1821, the first professional African American company on record, and its acclaimed performance of Shakespeare's Richard III. The course then analyzes African Americans' involvement in the controversial genre of American minstrelsy. Next we move onto the pageants and drama of the Harlem Renaissance, the drama and performance art of the Black Arts Movement, and the feminist and queer black theatre of the 1980s and 1990s. From its inception, African American performance has always, necessarily, a political tool as well as an art practice. But its politics changed in response to specific historical challenges. This political history is integral to the course.