“Will Blackness Please Step Out and Take a Curtain Call?”: Ed Bullins’s Conceptual Theatre

Title: “Will Blackness Please Step Out and Take a Curtain Call?”: Ed Bullins’s Conceptual Theatre
Format: Journal Article
Publication Date: 2019
Published In: Modern Drama 62.3 (Fall 2019)
Description:

Emphasis on the political activism of the Black Theatre Movement has obfuscated its investment in contemplation and interiority. Ed Bullins’s avant-garde dramatic texts – particularly The Theme Is Blackness (1966) and A Short Play for a Small Theater (1970) – are key to the genre I call the conceptual play and an archive I call conceptual theatre. In dialogue with Amiri Baraka and Jean Genet, Bullins built on experiments with closet drama by Marita Bonner and Jean Toomer, resisting the physical stage and the public sphere in order to reimagine blackness. My reading of Bullins’s work shifts our understanding of the Black Theatre Movement from a theatre of reality to a conceptual theatre that catalyses a politics of the imagination.

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