Broadway is Black! Black Playwrights Make History

Trinity Goppy | Staff Writer

Seven plays are debuting on Broadway this fall, and for the first time, all seven are written by Black playwrights. 

The fall lineup, according to NPR, includes Pass Over, Chicken & Biscuits, Lackawanna Blues, Thoughts of A Colored Man, Trouble In Mind, Clyde’s and Skeleton Crew

Pre-pandemic, there were very few plays that showcased Black artists.

“To say Broadway is a white space is kind of like saying there are clouds in the sky,” actor Tristan Wilds, who stars in Thoughts of A Colored Man, told the New York Times.

Broadway is changing, and for many, it is a long-awaited change. 

“The future of Broadway will hopefully be more inclusive and diverse,” Hampton University first-year theatre arts major Faith Gibbs said. “This is one step forward for Black artists, and I am excited to see what happens next.”

A more diverse Broadway is necessary for Black artists. Not only is Broadway a theatrical platform that boosts the careers of those who work there, but it also increases the longevity and reach of their work.

“I think people are going to be refreshed to be back in the theater, but also refreshed with the stories they’re getting in the theater,” playwright Douglas Lyons told NPR. “There’s a whole generation of artists that have not been seen, and I feel like this COVID thing stopped the world and gave Broadway no excuse to not see us.”

This season is a monumental chapter for the future of Broadway. As a result of the pandemic, Broadway will look a lot different. Many issues will arise, such as ticket sales, limited capacity and social distancing. These pressures can be surreal for any Broadway show but even more so for new, Black-written plays. 

“We have these seven plays coming when we don’t even have audiences yet, so this can’t be a measuring stick for how to move forward — this has to be the first step on a journey,” Dominique Morrisseau, the writer for Skeleton Crew, said to the New York Times.

Regardless of the issues, many of the new plays have risen to great expectations with their debuts. Black-written plays such as Pass Over and Chicken & Biscuits have so far received excellent reviews and recognition.  

“We know that we — the Black playwrights this season — are literally pushing the boulder uphill,” Lynn Nottage, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, said to Variety. “Broadway is not up and running to its full potential, and that’s a reality we’re facing. Thank God we’re a resilient people. We’re used to hard work, to obstacles, and we’re used to beating the odds.”

These accomplishments are an inspiration to aspiring young people who want to follow their dreams. 

“This is something that I feel empowered by—to see people that look like me accomplish their dreams is amazing,” Gibbs said. “For some time now, there are not many Black writers that have been given their flowers in the theater industry, and it is empowering to see.”

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