The Routledge Companion to African American Theatre and Performance is an outstanding collection of specially written essays that charts the emergence, development, and diversity of African American Theatre and Performance—from the nineteenth-century African Grove Theatre to Afrofuturism. Alongside chapters from scholars are contributions from theatre makers, including producers, theatre managers, choreographers, directors, designers, and critics. This ambitious Companion includes:

  • A "Timeline of African American theatre and performance."

  • Part I "Seeing ourselves onstage" explores the important experience of Black theatrical self-representation. Analyses of diverse topics including historical dramas, Broadway musicals, and experimental theatre allow readers to discover expansive articulations of Blackness.

  • Part II "Institution building" highlights institutions that have nurtured Black people both on stage and behind the scenes. Topics include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), festivals, and black actor training.

  • Part III "Theatre and social change" surveys key moments when Black people harnessed the power of theatre to affirm community realities and posit new representations for themselves and the nation as a whole. Topics include Du Bois and African Muslims, women of the Black Arts Movement, Afro-Latinx theatre, youth theatre, and operatic sustenance for an Afro future.

  • Part IV "Expanding the traditional stage" examines Black performance traditions that privilege Black worldviews, sense-making, rituals, and innovation in everyday life. This section explores performances that prefer the space of the kitchen, classroom, club, or field.

This book engages a wide audience of scholars, students, and theatre practitioners with its unprecedented breadth. More than anything, these invaluable insights not only offer a window onto the processes of producing work, but also the labour and economic issues that have shaped and enabled African American theatre.

part 1|4 pages

Seeing Ourselves Onstage

chapter 2|5 pages

Black Theatre History Plays

Remembering, recovering, re-envisioning

chapter 3|5 pages

“Hung Be the Heavens with Black” Bodies

An analysis of the August 1822 riot at William Brown’s Greenwich Village Theatre

chapter 4|5 pages

Mulattoes, Mistresses, and Mammies

The phantom family in Langston Hughes’ Mulatto

chapter 5|6 pages

Interview with Woodie King, JR.

Producer and director

chapter 6|5 pages

Freedom Forward

Alice Childress and Lorraine Hansberry circling Broadway in the 1950s

chapter 7|5 pages

Navigating Respectability in Turn-of-the-Century New York City

Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage

chapter 8|5 pages

Earle Hyman

Scandinavian successes

chapter 9|4 pages

Pittsburgh Piety

A century of symbolism

chapter 10|4 pages

Interview with Ron Simons

Broadway producer

chapter 11|4 pages

Interview with Paul Tazewell

Costume designer

chapter 12|6 pages

Race on the Opera Stage

chapter 13|5 pages

The Wiz And The African Diaspora Musical

Rethinking the research questions in Black musical historiography

chapter 14|7 pages

Bob Cole’s “Colored Actor’s Declaration of Independence”

The case of The Shoo-Fly Regiment and George C. Wolfe’s Shuffle Along

chapter 15|7 pages

Shuffle Along and Ethnic Humor

A family story

chapter 16|4 pages

Interview with Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Dance writer

chapter 19|4 pages

Pomo Afro Homos

A revolutionary act

part II|5 pages

Institution building

chapter 20|5 pages

Being Black on Stage and Screen

Black actor training before Black Power and the rise of Stanislavski’s system

chapter 21|5 pages

Three Visionary African American Women Theatre Artists

Anita Bush, Barbara Ann Teer, and Ellen Stewart

chapter 22|6 pages

The Birth of Queen Anne

Re-discovering Anne M. Cooke at Spelman College

chapter 23|6 pages

The Howard University Players

From respectability politics to Black representation

chapter 25|4 pages

Interview with Karen Allen Baxter

Senior managing director of Rites and Reason Theatre

chapter 26|6 pages

The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc.

One moment in time?

chapter 27|4 pages

Interview with Shirley Prendergast

Lighting designer

chapter 28|4 pages

Interview with Femi Sarah Heggie

Stage manager

chapter 29|5 pages

Weathering the Winds Of Change

The sustainability of the St. Louis Black Repertory Company

chapter 32|5 pages

Ernie McClintock’s Jazz Acting

A theatre of common sense

chapter 33|6 pages

Black Acting Methods®

Mapping the movement

chapter 34|5 pages

Financial Fitness of Black Theatres

Roundtable of artistic directors

chapter 35|5 pages

A Reflection on the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff’s The Hip Hop Project

Insight Into the Hip Hop Generation

chapter 36|4 pages

Interview with Ekundayo Bandele

Founder and CEO of Hattiloo Theatre

part III|5 pages

Theatre and social change

chapter 37|6 pages

W.E.B. Du Bois, Dramatist

chapter 38|6 pages

The Third Gift of the Negro

Muslim identity and Du Bois’ Star of Ethiopia

chapter 39|6 pages

Oh, Ma Dear! What’s Going on?

Staging Angelina W. Grimke’s Rachel in the wake of Black Lives Matter

chapter 40|7 pages

Leaning Left

Why theatre artists in the 1930s were attracted to the Red movement

chapter 41|5 pages

Fighting Fire with Fire

Violence and the Black Liberation movement

chapter 42|3 pages

“When We Gonna Rise”

Free Southern Theater performances of Slave Ship and Black Power in Mississippi

chapter 43|7 pages

From “Poemplays” to Ritualistic Revivals

The experimental works of women dramatists of the Black Arts Movement

chapter 44|5 pages

Interview with Micki Grant

Actor, singer, composer, lyricist

chapter 45|7 pages

Keeping His Gloves Up

August Wilson and his critics

chapter 46|3 pages

Interview with Edward Everett Haynes, Jr.


chapter 48|5 pages

To Be Young, Performing, and Black

Situating youth in African American theatre and performance history

chapter 49|4 pages

Interview with Dr. Kariamu Welsh

Professor and choreographer

chapter 51|4 pages

Black Plight in Flight

chapter 53|4 pages

Mike Wiley

A multi-faceted artist on a mission for social change

chapter 54|4 pages

“Locked Away But Not Defeated”

African American women performing resilience

chapter 55|4 pages

A Hundredfold

An experiential archive of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower: The Opera

part IV|6 pages

Expanding the traditional stage

chapter 56|6 pages

Many Stories/One Body

Black solo performance from vaudeville to spoken word

chapter 57|7 pages

Standing Up

Black feminist comedy in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries

chapter 58|3 pages

My Name Mudbone

What I learned about playwriting from Richard Pryor

chapter 60|4 pages

Interview with Donna Walker-Kuhne

Audience development

chapter 61|7 pages

Performed Ethnography 1

chapter 62|7 pages

The United States of Lucia

Three generations of Haitian-Americans reconfigure ancestry, home, and host lands through storytelling

chapter 63|5 pages

“We Were What No One Else Had”

How Black fashion models constructed a new wave of performance and visibility

chapter 64|4 pages

Interview with Pam Green

Artist management and consulting

chapter 65|7 pages

Sidelong Glances

Black divas in transit, 1945–1955

chapter 66|5 pages

Black Indians of New Orleans

Performing resistance and remembrance

chapter 67|4 pages

Interview with Darryl Montana

Black Indian chief and master artisan

chapter 71|4 pages

Interview with Shirley Basfield Dunlap

Educator and director