Joyce Wise

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




It has been conjectured that, if art follows life, the black theatre is a case in point. Critic-playwright Lindsay Patterson has stated that all of black literature is more or less consciously preoccupied with precisely pinpointing and defining the specific moment when a black man discovers he is a "nigger" and begins the "long, uphill climb to bring psychological order out of chaos."

"It is an elusive, complex moment, with complex reactions, and can occur at four or forty, and its pursuit, I believe, will continue to occupy serious black writers for decades to come."

Thus, dramatizing the black experience has not been, is not now, and is not soon to be an easy task for the black playwright. Charles Gordon, the black author and critic who wrote No Place to be Somebody, explained why conceptualizing credible images of the black man for the drama remains a formidable challenge. His assessment lacks finesse, but focuses on the seed of the black writer's ambivalence.

"Trouble with niggers is they're hung up on color. Some want to be all white and others want to be all black. But the black experience isn't all black and white world isn't all white."

There is no indication that black playwrights will not continue to be "hung up on color;" however, it is not the color of the drama, but the quality, the art of its substance, which ultimately sustains or confounds the theme of blackness.