Monday, July 2, 2007

THE MOST BRILLIANT OBSERVATION ON TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY BLACK THEATER

Man, I'm glad I have a place to go for my ranting and raving. And I'm glad that I'm not the only one out there ranting and raving too. Whether you believe in our message of doom for black theater or not, you have to admit that there is certainly some conviction in the words of two angry black men. And if you don't like pungent language then stop reading. :)

I was fortunate enough to be on the same website group that Owa is when I viewed the following message this Saturday. I blew my critical over reactive mind.


Owa.

Okay, here's my two cents in this soon to be fulminating controversy I am a black playwright. My work is the reverse of some the writers who have contributed to this discussion. I write about white characters in many of my plays--why? First, American theater is an offshoot of western theater. Both are racially myopic and culturally imperialistic. Black theater and all that it stands for is a cultural conceit. It is bereft of popular support by the very people whom black playwright aim their work--black audiences. In most cases black playwright of this ilk are preaching to their own choir... In rare instances, this unfortunate trend is broken. A case in point would be the works of Tyler Perry whose works were widely regarded as under professional and not really theater.

Mr. Perry had to carve out his own niche in the face of scathing criticism by black theater professionals. He found his audience in the black working middle class who didn't ask for much- stories that they could relate to and like every other theater going American, something that didn't tax the brain too much--as life was doing a pretty good job of that already. Actors resented him, directors loathed him and most complained of his "colored peoples" way of doing things. This was of course until the whole lot of them realized he was the only black theater actually making and paying real money in an industry that hardly knows the term--"real money"--s in paycheck. Then he had a new respect--because he made money! He made so much money--- the white entertainment industry took immediate notice of his heretofore questionable qualities and began to extol his virtues with financial vehemence, namely wider media exposure. Also, I might add, he had the temerity to do his own performances thing in drag... Creating a lovable character (Medea) that his audiences embraced with the warmth and love of a trusted family member. This character tapped into their need to have an Avuncular like panacea for their aches and pains which they saw in the various stagings of his plays throughout America. is audiences loved him while we sat on our black asses and criticized him--hating that he was too black--not sophisticated in the white way we had all come to love.
I think one of the problems with black theater is its lack of vision, humility and energy. Not that these qualities don't abound, its just that they're dissipated in anger, personal egoisms and not being able to pay attention to the details of running an effective business. Most of the black theater is hamstrung by notions of what is black theater and who is black theater.
Much of the last centuries black playwrights were writers of protest.

The odd thing about these protest writers were the underlying facts that white people were expected to finance their protest. A case in point. Black producers, those in the New York theater scene in particular, did little to develop a sustainable black audience (outside of the aforementioned Tyler Perry). A case in point is the Audelco (Audience Development) organization in motion for over a quarter of a century. They have so little clout in the real world of theater, there exist no major media attention for their self-serving efforts. People with star quality names like George C. Wolf give them a name and credibility when they flash their Audelco awards on their own press and resumes. In one instance, it is reported their award ceremony was almost canceled because of lack of participation. Their tickets sales are waning and their usefulness to the playwright is negligible because of a systemic culture of patrimony and nepotism. They have not in their over two decades of existence developed an audience In the black community that would nurture and support the black theater and its cohorts by a strategy that would enhance ticket sales to black theaters.


In white communities there is a strong bonding relationship between the church and the theater community. In such communities, churches are turned into theaters. On the contrary, in black communities, theaters are turned into churches. A bad omen if there ever were any.
Black theater is dysfunctional and a fiscal dependent on the largess of white funding sources. Black theater must also compete with the larger white entertainment media whose resources are astronomical. Secondly, lets face it, white audiences are not really interested in black characters outside of a theatrical curiosity. Though black theater is inherently American, the values of black people somehow do not seem present in an American sensibility with its hardcore bourgeois affectations.

Its an issue of language, psychological coding, and social interest. Not many folk are going to trek from Montana to see a show about black people and call it entertaining over dinner. Walt Disney has more exciting fare for the theatrical taste of ticket buying Americans audiences.with families taking a jaunt in the Big Apple.

Black producers (for the most part) are stuck on stupid and fail to nurture the black playwright as the living source of American dramatic literature. There are scores,nay even hundreds of black playwrights male and female alike who languish in the neither world of obscurity because they are in fact "invisible" to black producers. Their scrips sit in dusty piles in dusty corners of America's black and community theaters. Like Waiting for Godot--nothing happens --twice!
Black writers for the most part have to wait in line for White theaters to be presented like giddy d├ębutantes at the Cotillion of the American Theater at large. This is a sad state of affairs and I lay much of the responsibility at the feet of the black producers who do little to promote a living and healthy theater for its practitioners black or white.

As Tyler Perry has amply demonstrated white industry media professionals pay attention to bottom line success. Black theater has little success, in most cases,it can't even keep its doors opens. And when it does do so, it has difficulty filling its seats. There is no black theater that exist to my knowledge, that can sell a hundred dollar ticket, if its not a pop music venue.
There are many types of black playwrights, some good and some not so good--but playwrights all. However, there doesn't exist a real proving ground for playwrights--good, bad or indifferent to experiment and fail--grow their plays and hone their craft in a working environment of respect and appreciation. Instead those who are not flinging themselves off of cliffs of despair are forced to prostitute themselves in the name of popular taste and cultural mores.
The rest of the motley crews are forced like aimless wandering souls in Hades, to play the endless circus of reading workshop where scripts are work shopped to death on the reading circuit; basically these scripts of writers die a silent death never having experiencing the costuming, frenetic, exhilaratingly hysteria of bonified rehearsals and the lights of a living stage.
If black theater doesn't take care of its own, why should we expect white theater to take care of us--but we do and they likable foster parents do the best they can. But don't ask too much
Now the hunt is on for a New August Wilson---not a new theater, but a new icon that can be laid on the altar of American Theater, sedated with the opiate of fame, their heart ripped out and offered to the Muses as the end all and be all of what's happening now...

Finally, I write white characters because white people are interested in their people, their experiences and heir struggles to live in an unlivable world. Black people for the most part have no place in that world except as extras or accommodating someones idea of non- traditional casting. So I write characters about people who the audience cares about in a universal sense--black people as characters are not cared about except from a position of neediness.
Most of the black characters that do make it to the mainstream stages are either victims of white people, or dismayed fools who fail to understand the social forces rallied against them or otherwise self-inflated peacocks strutting across the footlights, oblivious to the reality of the bloodsucking nature of the beast that feeds on them.

Yes, I have black characters in black plays--but black people have difficulties, seeing the reality of themselves, as mirrored in their daily struggle to stay asleep In the raging inferno, and nightmarish turmoil of life, in the step-mother whore of western democracies--- American theater.

Let's hope I started a real dialog here on the subject at hand
owa

THAT WAS SOME GOOD STUFF!!!

Here's my response to him:

Hey Owa I had created this brilliant response to your
note to aapex. But of course my fucking phone locked
up and I lost the message I created. but to make it
now short and sweet...that was fucking brilliant!!! When
I grow up as a writer I want to be as clear and fearless
as your ass.

Fucking brilliant!! That shit need to be in all theatrical
publications. You put all my thoughts in that message.
Man, the real negroes and apologist will come out from
under cover to respond to that! You're my fucking-fearless
hero. And like the tragic heroes of past classics, as you
stand on the gallows (public opinion), a hangman's noose
(productions) tied tightly to your balls and they lean you
forward to rest your head below the blade (black producers)
of the guillotine, the crowd (writers) below will bow their
heads in reverence for their great hero,there will be smirks
on their faces.

Id like to put your email in my ranting and raving blog. Good
fucking shit! They want us black artist to keep our family
dirty laundry secret, but Im tired of wearing shit-stained
draws.

Good fucking shit!


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