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Black Drama: Second Edition
WINNER! 2004 Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title
“Combines its exceptional content with a well-organized and easy-to-use interface that allows the user not only to read a rare or unpublished play, but also to review many extrinsic elements that accompanied the play and its product. . . All libraries will find this resource extremely valuable but academic libraries with strong theater departments will benefit most from this exclusive content.” ‒Charleston Advisor
Black Drama, now in its expanded second edition, contains the full text of more than 1,200 plays written from the mid-1800s to the present by more than 200 playwrights from North America, English-speaking Africa, the Caribbean, and other African diaspora countries. Many of the works are rare, hard to find, or out of print. James Vernon Hatch, the playwright, historian, and curator of the landmark Hatch-Billops Collection, is the project’s editorial advisor. More than 40 percent of the collection consists of previously unpublished plays by writers such as Langston Hughes, Ed Bullins, Willis Richardson, Amiri Baraka, Randolph Edmonds, Zora Neale Hurston, and many others.
Each play is extensively and deeply indexed, allowing both keyword and multi-fielded searching. The plays are accompanied by reference materials, significant ancillary information, a rich performance database, and images. The result is an exceptionally deep and unified collection that illustrates the many purposes that black theater has served: to give testimony to the ancient foundations of black culture; to protest injustices; to project emerging images of the New Black; and to give voice to the many and varied expressions of black creativity.
The works from early 20th-century America include key writings of the Harlem Renaissance, works performed for the Federal Theatre Project, and plays by critically acclaimed dramatists through the 1940s. Included are the plays of Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Zora Neale Hurston, Ira Aldridge, Shirley Graham, W.E.B. DuBois, William Wells Brown, Owen Dodson, Joseph Seamon Cotter, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Randolph Edmonds, Angelina Weld Grimke, Georgia Douglas Johnson, May Miller, Willis Richardson, Eulalie Spence, and others. The plays address a wide range of struggles and triumphs, including migration to Northern cities, mothers keeping families together, exploitation by white land owners, interracial unity, racial violence, civil rights activism, and the black war hero.
American works from the later twentieth century cover the Black Arts movement of the sixties and seventies, works performed by the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School (BARTS), The Negro Ensemble Company, and other companies. The collection includes plays by Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Ed Bullins, Phillip Hayes Dean, Aishah Rahman, James Baldwin, Kia Corthron, Ossie Davis, Rita Dove, Charles Fuller, Ron Milner, Dael Orlandersmith, Sonia Sanchez, Ntozake Shange, Melvin Van Peebles, Joseph Walker, Richard Wesley, August Wilson, and many others. The plays explore themes including civil rights, desegregation, and a wide range of ideologies—integrationist and separatist, revolutionary nationalist.
"The plays of a real Negro theatre must be: 1. About us. That is they must have plots which reveal real Negro life as it is. 2. By us. That is they must be written by Negro authors who understand from birth and continual association just what is means to be a Negro today. 3. For us. That is, the theatre must cater primarily to Negro audiences and be supported and sustained by their entertainment and approval. 4. Near us. The theatre must be in a Negro neighborhood near the mass of ordinary Negro people."
– W.E.B. Du Bois, “Krigwa Players Little Negro Theatre,” in The Crisis, v. 32, July 1926, pp. 134-136
THE AFRICAN DIASPORA
African and Caribbean drama is represented by a wide collection of plays from Ghana, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, the West Indies, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world. It includes works by writers such as David Edgecombe, Femi Osofisan, Zakes Mda, John Ruganda, Dennis Scott, ‘Zulu Sofola, Paul Boakye, H.I.E Dhlomo, Gus Edwards, Errol John, Fatima Dike, Francis D. Imbuga, Clifford Sealy, Edgar White, Joe Coleman de Graft, Richard Rive, Bole Butake, Matsemela Manaka, Earl Lovelace, Errol Hill, Derrick Walcott, and many others. The plays deal with the social and political ills stemming from colonialism, slavery, and apartheid; the struggle for independence; African history; and neo-colonialism. Of particular interest is material written as “Township Theatre” in South Africa under apartheid and during the development of black grassroots urban theatre.
ALEXANDER STREET’S SEMANTIC INDEXING™
Using nine tables of contents, users can browse by plays, authors, characters, theaters, productions, companies, media resources (posters, playbills, articles, etc.), subjects, and years. Full-text searching for keywords and phrases can be further limited using fields for the author’s gender, age when writing, race, ethnicity, and nationality; the play’s title, year published, year written, first year produced, original language, name of work adapted from, number of characters, number of scenes, number of acts; the performer’s name; the character’s name, occupation, gender, sexual orientation, race; and more.
Semantic Indexing lets users answer questions that are otherwise impossible to ask. Questions like these are easy to answer with just a click or two:
- Give me all scenes that discuss single parents in plays written by South Africans.
- List all plays with ten black characters and two white characters.
- What plays written in the '60s and '70s address the subject of desegregation and include a character who is a white politician?
- Show me the cast for the first production of James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner.
- Show me playbills from plays representing the Harlem Renaissance.
- Show me all plays produced in New York in which Ossie Davis starred.
- Show me all scenes set in wartime that contain soldiers and that mention the words friend* or lonely.
We consulted several important bibliographies in creating the database, and content selection is under the further guidance of our editors and advisors, including James Vernon Hatch. The collection’s unpublished portion has evolved mostly under the direction of the living playwrights themselves.
Black Drama is available on the Web either through one-time purchase of perpetual rights or through annual subscription. It contains the full text of more than 1,200 plays, along with associated visual resources.
"Black Drama is highly recommended for all libraries, from high school level through academic libraries with graduate programs. Upon its completion, the database and its search capabilities will be a treasure trove for novice and expert researchers alike, allowing a depth and scope of research nearly impossible to achieve in the print-only world."
‒ Library Journal
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