Black drama of the Federal theatre era: beyond the formal by E. Quita Craig

By E. Quita Craig

ARCHIVAL fabric FROM THE FEDERAL undertaking, came upon IN 1974 IN A BALTIMORE plane HANGAR. this can be the first research OF BLACK PARTICIPATION during this undertaking,

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As she read the plays which she and so many others had only heard about, as she discovered scripts that no one had written about, Ms. Craig perceived that the black writers of FTP were not the isolated, culturally crippled amateurs she had been led to believe they were. Instead these playwrights stood out as shrewd, talented artists who had negotiated impossible dreams into possible productions. They had worked in a difficult time and place: faced with a segregated theater, and the racism of its audiences, they had cunningly worked into their dramas "dual messages"-one to be perceived by whites, the other by blacks.

Locke's vision, therefore, went beyond self-awareness to complete self-assurance. The spiritual awakening heralded by Locke was a significant step in that direction, but his ultimate goal for black drama still stretches into the future. This is another reason why the recovery of the Federal Theatre's black treasure is so important, for these plays represent a vital link in the chain of dramatic development, between theory and potential, that has too long been unrecognized. In the late sixties and early seventies, zealous spokesmen for the Black Revolutionary Theater pronounced pre-revolutionary black plays too white-oriented and white dominated to meet their criteria for "valid" black drama.

The failure of critics to recognize black experimental drama as such stemmed from the same source. The myths fostered the conviction that blacks were incapable of such creativity or such sophistication. They also fostered the belief that the black American's African heritage had been completely obliterated during slavery and replaced by Western cultural standards. 24 But the twentieth century, which has gradually increased educational opportunities for black Americans-particularly in the years since the Supreme Court's historic decision on desegregation-has witnessed such a mushrooming of black intellectual achievements that it is totally irrational for white America to cling to such myths.

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