Read a Play for Black History Month
To celebrate Black History Month, the Bleviss Family Library shares reading suggestions of plays written by women of African descent. These scripts can all by perused and borrowed from the library.
A Raisin in the Sun / by Lorraine Hansberry.
"Never before, in the entire history of the American theater, has so much of the truth of black people's lives been seen on the stage", observed James Baldwin shortly before A Raisin in the Sun opened on Broadway in 1959. Indeed Lorraine Hansberry's award-winning drama connected profoundly with the psyche of Black America--and changed American theater forever. The play's title comes from a line in Langston Hughes's poem "Harlem", which warns that a dream deferred might "dry up/like a raisin in the sun." Set on Chicago’s South Side, the plot revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, his sister Beneatha, his son Travis, and matriarch Lena. When her deceased husband’s insurance money comes through, Mama Lena dreams of moving to a new home and a better neighborhood in Chicago. Walter Lee, a chauffeur, has other plans: buying a liquor store and being his own man. Beneatha dreams of medical school. The tensions and prejudice they face form this seminal American drama. The Younger family’s heroic struggle to retain dignity in a harsh and changing world is a searing and timeless document of hope and inspiration.
Harlem Duet / Djanet Sears.
A rhapsodic blues tragedy, Harlem Duet could be the prelude to Shakespeare’s Othello and recounts the tale of Othello and his first wife Billie (yes, before Desdemona). Set in contemporary Harlem at the corner of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X boulevards, the play explores the space where race and sex intersect. Harlem Duet is Billie’s story.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, When the Rainbow Is Enuf: a Choreopoem / Ntozake Shange.
From its inception in California in 1974 to its Broadway revival in 2022, the Obie Award–winning For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf has excited, inspired, and transformed audiences all over the country for nearly fifty years. Passionate and fearless, Shange’s words reveal what it meant to be a woman of color in the 20th century. First published in 1975, when it was praised by The New Yorker for “encompassing…every feeling and experience a woman has ever had”, here is the complete text of a ground-breaking dramatic prose poem that resonates with unusual beauty in its fierce message to the world.
Serving Elizabeth / Marcia Johnson.
"Serving Elizabeth begins in Kenya in 1952, during the fateful royal visit of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. Mercy, a restaurant owner, is approached to cook for the Royal couple. Though she could use the money, she is a staunch anti-monarchist. She vows to stick to her principles, but her daughter Faith keeps trying to convince her to take the job. In London in 2015, in the production offices of a series about Queen Elizabeth, a Kenyan-Canadian film student, Tia, serves as an intern on the project. It’s a perfect fit for her as she has been a fan of princesses her whole life. But when she reads the Kenya episode, she starts to understand that fairy tales and real life are very different things. Serving Elizabeth is a funny, fresh, and topical play about colonialism, monarchy, and who is serving whom — or what."
Controlled Damage / Andrea Scott.
Controlled Damage explores the life of Canadian civil rights icon Viola Desmond and how her act of bravery in a Nova Scotia movie theatre in 1946 started a ripple effect that is still felt today. An ordinary woman forced to be extraordinary by an unyielding and racist world, Desmond never gave up — despite the personal cost to her and those who loved her. Andrea Scott’s highly theatrical examination of Desmond and her legacy traces the impact that she had on our culture, but also casts light on the slow progress of the fight for social justice and civil rights in Canada.