The Black Expe­ri­ence in the Art of Dra­ma: Revis­it­ing August Wil­son, Lor­raine Hans­ber­ry, and more

2 minute read
The August Wilson mural in West Philadelphia. (Photo by Patrice K. Armstead.)
The August Wilson mural in West Philadelphia. (Photo by Patrice K. Armstead.)

In his landmark 1926 essay “Criteria of Negro Art,” pioneering African American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois lays out for black art in America. He suggests that black art's priorities must stretch beyond mere aesthetics or art for art’s sake and calls for a vision for Black art that is fundamentally political and informed by the African American artist’s unique capacity to critique the whole of American society.

“What do we want? What is the thing we are after?" Du Bois asks. "As it was phrased last night it had a certain truth: We want to be Americans, full-fledged Americans, with all the rights of other American citizens. But is that all? Do we want simply to be Americans? Once in a while through all of us there flashes some clairvoyance, some clear idea, of what America really is. We who are dark can see America in a way that white Americans cannot. And seeing our country thus, are we satisfied with its present goals and ideals?"

On Saturday, February 16, in collaboration with Philly Theatre Week, the August Wilson Consortium, a local collective of writers, activists, and organizers, will revisit Du Bois’s essay while exploring the canon of black theater as part of The Black Experience of Art and Drama. Taking place at the Philadelphia Student Union (501 South 52nd Street) from 12pm to 3:30pm, the event will feature a roundtable discussion analyzing the great theatrical works of four giants of black theater: Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, James Baldwin, and, of course, August Wilson.

Aura Townsend, Cathy Simpson, Christopher Rodgers, Dr. Anyabwile Love, and Dr. Rhone Fraser will explore the works of four playwrights through a revolutionary lens and the significance of and struggle for revolutionary theater in our time. The event will close out with Dr. Anthony Monteiro, professor of African American studies at Temple University, reading excerpts from "Criteria of Negro Art" and discussing Du Bois's major intellectual contribution to theater.

The event is free and all are welcome. Find out more via Facebook.

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