In the past five decades, UMASS Theater has produced nearly forty plays by Black Playwrights, and the first one was directed by Paul Carter Harrison, distinguished playwright, director, and scholar of Black Theater, in 1977.

Excerpts from 16 of those works will be performed Oct. 27 & 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Curtain Theater as part of our Black Playwrights: 50th Anniversary Special Event, which will also include a conversation about the past, present, and future of of Black theater in the US.

In selecting which works would be part of the event, Dr. Priscilla Maria Page, who is curating the event, found herself drawn to “themes of liberation and uplift.” As she looked over the list of plays, she wanted to sample works that spanned decades and genres. The evening will include moments from plays such as the contemporary classic Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson to the more experimental play Unfinished Women Cry In No Man’s Land While A Bird Dies In A Gilded Cage by Aishah Rahman. The poetry of Langston Hughes and Laurie Carlos is woven throughout the piece, which will also include song and movement.  

We’re thrilled to be joined by special guests including playwrights Ifa Bayeza and Terry Jenoure, as well as performers John Bracey, Celia Hilson, Sabine Jacques, and Nicole Young. Further, UMass faculty directors Awotunde Judyie Al-Bilali and Gilbert McCauley, who teamed up with Dr. Page to direct the event, are also stepping onstage as performers, and Dean Barbara Krauthamer will introduce the event both evenings as part of the larger UMass Homecoming festivities.

When she first started to do the research for this event, Dr. Page admitted,  “I had some assumptions about what I was going to find,” because UMass is a PWI (Predominantly White Institution). What she found instead was a body of work that is “wonderfully rich” and consistent from the department’s earliest days onward, with leading artists and scholars of Black Theater writing and directing their work on campus. Of note, we hosted a Black Theater conference that featured Margaret Wilkerson, Alice Childress, and James Baldwin in 1987. Dr. Page’s mission in curating the event is to uncover this “rich history and presence” of Black creative excellence for the benefit of all of us, most importantly our students.

Join us for an evening sure to uplift and educate!
Tickets are available throughthe Fine Arts Center box office:

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