The New Black Theater

The New Black Theater

At a time when the American theater has been suffering from aesthetic sclerosis, the new black theater has shown considerable signs of vitality—so far, it is probably the most promising segment of the much-advertised black cultural renaissance. New playwrights, new productions, new companies have appeared in the black theater, all meriting respectful though not uncritical attention.

A white spectator at the black theater faces obvious pitfalls: he is apt to miss some of the finer points, to be turned off by insults, or to lean over backward in the wish to be fair toward a groping art. But does this justify the indifference one detects among white liberals and radicals? One reason for such “benign neglect” is, of course, the fact that the new black theater does not address itself primarily to whites. It is expressly written for a black audience, in a black idiom, and frequently has shocking things to say about whites—and Jews in particular. Even where it does not want to be a mere “political weapon,” it aims at “raising black consciousness.”

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