There are many black men and women who have contributed to the advancement of theatre in the African American community through acting, directing, playwriting, choreography and much more. Trailblazers such as, August Wilson, Ntozake Shange, and Pearl Cleage have all used theatre to change the way African Americans in theatre are viewed. Regina Taylor is also a part of this group. Taylor has greatly influenced the African American theatre community through her acting, playwriting, and directing. However, before one can know how Taylor has influenced African American theatre, one must know how it began.
African American theatre began as a farcical portrayal of black life. Blackface and “cooning” were common practices. The first black actors were only allowed to perform as “jubilee singers” (Elam 19). Jubilee singers were a chorus who sang Negro spirituals and slave songs during specific times in the play. One of the earliest examples of this is Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Although Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, a white abolitionist, it was the first play where a black man was allowed to play the lead. Stowe’s play was then adapted into The Tom Show, a show that “schematized the stereotype of black character and repeated it for almost a century” (Elam 19). This did not give many black actors a chance to establish much respect as serious actors in the theatre world at this time. This play introduced the idea of the “mammy, tragic mulatto, and the Topsy” (Elam 20). Each of these characters were negative stereotypes of black women. In a world where the “mammy, tragic mulatto, and the Topsy figure” were once the only characters a black woman could play, Regina Taylor’s acting achievements stand out (Elam 2...
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...aylor is extremely involved in the plays she has written. She has directed many of the shows that she has created. Her most recent directorial endeavor is a play she wrote called stop.reset, a show about technology’s impact on today’s society. This play “originally premiered in 2013 at The Signature Company in New York City” (Taylor). The show reopened in May 2015 at the Goodman Theatre.
America was once a place where black people were not allowed to express themselves through theatre. This caused the development of African American theatre to take “a few centuries longer to find its place within American theatre and popular entertainment” (Hill). However, African Americans like Regina Taylor are now changing theatre. Taylor has contributed her own work and creativity to the cause of the development of African American theatre to this generation.
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