New Federal Theatre's 44th Season to Feature Ed Bullin's IN THE WINE TIME & THE FABULOUS MISS MARIE
Woodie King Jr's New Federal Theatre kicks off its 44th season with "The Ed Bullins Project" - two revivals from his "Twentieth Century Cycle of Plays" - In The Wine Time and The Fabulous Miss Marie. Bullins, winner of the prestigious NY Drama Critics' Circle Award and OBIE Award for The Taking of Miss Janie, has greatly influenced American theatre, especially Black theatre. His work, characterized by disdain for ineffective political rhetoric as a substitute for action, most often examines the lives of Black people in the inner city. In 1968, Clive Barnes, writing in the New York Times callEd Bullins "a welcome addition to the ranks of New York playwrights." Four years later, Barnes added "Bullins writes the way Charlie Parker played: It is all so easy and effortless. It sounds improvised, and yet it doesn't sound improvised, simply because it is the improvisation of formality." Today, Bullins is regarded as a seminal force in the American theater.
Woodie King Jr. explains the impact of Ed Bullins: "Ed Bullins is a pioneer in the Black Theatre. The Fabulous Miss Marie and In The Wine Time are among the finest plays written for the Black theatre. No other black playwright before had exerted a greater influence on contemporary Black theatre. His writings cover almost every form, i.e., naturalism, realism, theatre of the absurd, avant garde, etc. The characters in his plays cross the lines of race and class. His voice as a playwright is loud and very clear. Bullins arrived on the New York scene in 1965, during the height of the Black Power Movement. The following year, he co-founded New Lafayette Theatre in Harlem, where his work appealed specifically to ethnic-specific communities like Harlem. New Lafayette Theatre produced the landmark production of Bullins' In the Wine Time. That production with Sonny Jim Gaines, Gary Bolling, Bette Howard, George Miles, Kris Keiser, Bill Lathan, and the other New Lafayette Players was the most brilliantly produced and directed work in the Bullins' canon. The language and the concise Blackness of Bullins' In The Wine Time combined take black theatre to a level of beauty not found in the American theatre. It combines the violence, the language, and the characterizations of Black life. New Federal Theatre was founded to serve playwrights like Ed Bullins. The first play by Ed Bullins I produced was The Gentleman Caller, as part of an evening called "A Black Quartet." The quartet consisted of four one-act plays by Amiri Baraka, Ron Milner, Ben Caldwell; and Bullins. The plays opened in New York during the 1968-'69 season - first at Chelsea Theatre Center, then moving Off-Broadway to the Gate Theatre. I introduced his work to Wynn Handman at the American Place Theatre that same week. American Place Theatre presentEd Bullins' one-acts Electronic Nigger and Others, including A Son Comes Home, Clara's Ole Man, and Electronic Nigger. Subsequently, they presented his full length plays (The Pig Pen and House Party) and did a staged reading of Goin' a Buffalo."
Ed Bullins is considered one of the most prolific and influential playwrights of the Black Arts Movement. He is the author of more than 100 plays that have been produced throughout the United States and Europe. His acclaimed canon of plays include Clara's Ole Man, Dialect Determinism (or The Rally), How Do You Do (1965), A Minor Scene, It Has No Choice, The Theme Is Blackness (1966); In New England Winter, Black Commercial #2 (1967); Goin' a Buffalo, A Son Come Home, The Electronic Nigger, The Corner, In The Wine Time, The Gentleman Caller (1968); The Box Office, One-Minute Commercial, State Office Bldg. Cruse, The American Flag Ritual, We Righteous Bombers (1969); The Helper, Death List, A Short Play for A Small Theater, Street Sounds, The Man Who Dug Fish, The Duplex, It Bess Dat Way, A Street Play, A Black Time for Black Folk (1970); The Fabulous Miss Marie, Night of the Beast (1971); The Play of the Play (1973); Malcolm: 71 or Publishing Blackness (1975); The Taking of Miss Janie, The Mystery of Phyllis Wheatley: An Historical Play for Young Americans, I Am Lucy Terry: An Historical Fantasy for Young Americans (1976); City Preacher (1984); High John Da Conqueror: the Musical (1985); and Salaam, Huey Newton, Salaam (1990), among othersHe received the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Vernon Rice Award, the Drama Prize at the Venice Biennale Arts Festival, an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Columbia College, three OBIE Awards, two Guggenheim fellowships, three Rockefeller Foundation Playwriting grants and three NEA playwriting grants. A Professor of Theatre at Northeastern University, Mr. Bullins has also won AUDELCO Awards and The Black Theatre Festival Living Legend Award. Bullins has published four collections of plays: Five Plays by Ed Bullins (1968), The Fabulous Miss Marie (1970), The Duplex: A Black Love Fable in Four Movements (1971), Four Dynamite Plays (1972) and The Theme is Blackness (1972), as well as short prose The Hungered One: Early Writings (1971) and a novel The Reluctant Rapist (1973). Bullins is currently represented Off-Broadway by the York Theater's revival of Storyville.