Fourteen Plays About Blackness I

So you made it through the run down of all the Simon Stephens plays I’ve read: Bravo and thank you! We progress next to two more collections published by Methuen Drama, all organized around the themes of black playwrights and/or concepts of blackness.

Before getting to the plays themselves, I wanted to make some comments about these collections.

Methuen Drama – Methuen Drama is an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing. I got to know them on Twitter through fun play title word games before I realized that they publish both classic and contemporary plays, with the latter being their notable strength. They release contemporary plays now!, often with a copy for sale during the production run, and if not, available very soon. Their single author and thematic collections of plays are well curated and I have gained as much from the introductions as I did from the plays.

The cons are a website that is hard to search and not very useful for discovery. You’re unlikely to arrive looking for a specific author and stumble upon four others that you might like. And there are typos, no more than a glossy magazine these days, but they are there and sometimes they make you question the meaning of a line. Still I find their thematic collections a great resource.

These two collections —Post-Black Plays and Plays by Black British Writers– I chose for two reasons. 1) Guilt. I am a black woman, and I actually have thoughts like “Why are you spending so much time on another white man’s work [re: Simon Stephens]? Why don’t you read some voices more like your own?” 2) Comparison. I have written a (very) few plays. I wondered how my full-length play would be perceived and received compared to other black plays. Would anyone know it was written by a black author? Would they care? Would they accept the story I told knowing it came from a black voice? Does it still matter that I am black? Should it?

These collections did not answer any of those questions for me, but gave me plenty of food for thought, some of which will be covered in the next posts.

Finally, I am by necessity, going to be talking about race (and sexuality – there’s a lot of that in these plays too) for the next several posts. I am a black American, but I do not possess any particular skill in discussing these topics. So don’t mind my stumbling too much.

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