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BWW Blog: Celebrating Black Playwrights

Black History Month is a great time to revisit some classic theatre featuring Black artists.

Black History Month is here again - which means that it's time to rediscover some of our favorite works written by Black artists. If you're looking for something new to consume, consider this list of some of my personal favorites.

PLAYS

A Raisin in the Sun - by Lorainne Hansberry
❖ Debuted at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in 1959
❖ Hansberry became the first Black female writer to have a play produced on Broadway ❖ At the Tony Awards following the show's premiere, Hansberry's work garnered four awards

The Piano Lesson - by August Wilson
❖ Written in 1987 and received the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
❖ Adapted for film in 1995 by Lloyd Richards

Fences - by August Wilson
❖ Written in 1985 and part of Wilson's ten-part "Pittsburgh Cycle"
❖ Adapted for film 2016; starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis (both reprising their roles from the 2010 Broadway revival
❖ Won the 1987 Tony Award for Best Play, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in the same year

Ruined - by Lynn Nottage
❖ Premiered in 2008 at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago
❖ Won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
❖ Praised for its shocking story of sexual violence in the Congo

An Octoroon - by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
❖ An adaptation of and commentary on Dion Boucicault's "The Octoroon"
❖ Premiered at the Solo Rep in April of 2014
❖ Lauded for its melodramatic themes
❖ Winner of the Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Playwright (2017)

MUSICALS

Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations

❖ 2018 Jukebox Musical based on the music of Motown group "The Temptations"
❖ Despite losing in the "Best Musical" category at the 2019 Tony Awards, it took the prize for "Best Choreography"

The Color Purple
❖ Based on the 1982 novel by Alice Walker and the 1985 film starring Oprah Winfrey
❖ Has garnered multiple awards, including Best Revival of a Musical (TONY), Best Actress in a Musical x2 (TONY), as well as the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album

The Wiz
❖ Based on the classic novel "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum
❖ Adapted to film in starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson & Richard Pryor
❖ Received seven Tony Awards in 1975, including "Best Musical"

HONORABLE MENTION

Now, this one's just for me. No, it isn't theatre; but Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God" (Fiction Novel) is brilliant. When someone asks what my favorite book is (first, an impossible question), I always mention this one. The story centers on Janie, a young woman living in Central Florida, and her quest to find true happiness and love. This classic piece of modern literature has been labeled by TIME Magazine's top 100 English language novels written since 1923.

There it is. Obviously, this list could go on forever - and I will continue to add as I discover them. Hopefully this list gave you some new reads, and if not, reminded you of some old favorites.


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