Spring 2023

Pioneers: Reclaiming the History of Black Presence in the American Theater

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-231  |  Theater and Dance, as THDA-231


Raffeal A. Sears (Section 01)


The African American Theater spans over 200 years, from the earliest performances of the African Grove Theater to the Classical Theater of Harlem’s Afro-futuristic Twelfth Night in Marcus Garvey Park. This course will investigate and interrogate the history of American theater by examining Black creatives and their works as not merely contributors but pioneers of American theater. These studies will be addressed in tandem with the dominant culture's historical narrative of Black theater arts and the Black experience by posing these questions: Why isn't Black American theater history considered American theater history? How is Shakespeare relevant to the Black experience? How was theater used to counter and protest the Black stereotypes and the many injustices that plagued the Black body? How receptive is white American theater to the accountability of the #WeSeeYouWAT movement? Why is there an absence of a Black audience in the theater today? Key moments will include the revolutionary founding of the African Grove Theater in 1821, the act of resistance of The Black Patti Troubadours in the face of minstrelsy, and the first all-Black Broadway cast of Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake’s hit, Shuffle Along. The course will also explore significant plays, reviews, books, articles, genres, theater companies, productions, and artists, including William Wells Brown, August Wilson, James Baldwin, Charles Fuller, Nathan Jackson, Douglass Turner Ward, Dominique Morrisseau, Keith Josef Adkins, Pearl Cleage, Carlyle Brown, Tarell Alvin McCraney, George C. Wolfe, Anna Deavere Smith, Chadwick Boseman, Nathan Alan Davis, William Shakespeare, Errol Hill, and Marvin McAllister.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Sears.

How to handle overenrollment: Roster managed for balance of class years and interests; preference to majors, first-years and sophomores

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: reading assignments, video viewing assignments, class discussion, academic writing.

BLST 231 - LEC

Section 01
M 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM WEBS 220
W 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM WEBS 220


Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2019, Spring 2023