The Blacks (play)
|Written by||Jean Genet|
|Date premiered||October 28, 1959|
|Place premiered||Théatre de Lutèce
The Blacks: A Clown Show (French: Les Nègres) is a play by the French dramatist Jean Genet. Published in 1958, it was first performed in a production directed by Roger Blin at the Théatre de Lutèce in Paris, which opened on 28 October 1959.
In a prefatory note, Genet specifies the conditions under which he anticipates the play would be performed, revealing his characteristic concern with the politics and ritual of theatricality:
|“||This play, written, I repeat, by a white man, is intended for a white audience, but if, which is unlikely, it is ever performed before a black audience, then a white person, male or female, should be invited every evening. The organizer of the show should welcome him formally, dress him in ceremonial costume and lead him to his seat, preferably in the first row of the orchestra. The actors will play for him. A spotlight should be focused upon this symbolic white throughout the performance.
But what if no white person accepted? Then let white masks be distributed to the black spectators as they enter the theater. And if the blacks refuse the masks, then let a dummy be used.
The Blacks was, after The Balcony, the second of Genet's plays to be staged in New York. The production was the longest-running Off-Broadway non-musical of the decade. This 1961 New York production opened on 4 May at the St Mark's Playhouse and ran for 1,408 performances. It was directed by Gene Frankel, with sets by Kim E. Swados, music by Charles Gross, and costumes and masks by Patricia Zipprodt. The original cast featured James Earl Jones as Deodatus, Roscoe Lee Browne as Archibald, Louis Gossett, Jr. as Edgar, Cicely Tyson as Stephanie, Godfrey Cambridge as Diouf, Maya Angelou as the Queen and Charles Gordone as the burglar.
Shi Mei Li directed the play in 1983.
- Genet (1958, 4).
- Bradby (1998, 417).
- Bradby, David. 1998. "Genet, Jean." In The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Ed. Martin Banham. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 417. ISBN 0-521-43437-8.
- Genet, Jean. 1960. The Blacks: A Clown Show. Trans. Bernard Frechtman. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-5028-4.