Black Research Essay

1739 words - 7 pages

Acting and performing arts can be found in every culture around the world. Compared to the cultures that have participated in theater for centuries now, American Theater is one of the newer traditions agmonst us. Theaders have evolved from countries all over the world. “From the African roots of Greek tragedy to contemporary Shakespearean plays, the diverse enviorment is what created the power behind stage production. During the start up of American Theater, it reflected the lives of namely white, property-owning, Christian men”(Kertin p5). As time pasted, the popular dramas came from Europe. In the 1820's Black artists were creating, staging and performing for both black and white ...view middle of the document...

Brown and Hewlett purchased a home on Thomas Street in lower Manhattan, New York, in the year of 1816. It was here that these boys had several different talented musicians play and vocalist sing to entertain a crowd every Sunday afternoon in the tea garden. This crowd soon grew rapidly. Before they knew it, they had an audience there from five different boroughs in New York City. Realizing that their space was maxed out, with no room to expand, Brown and Hewlett decided it was time to move. “In 1821, Brown moved to Mercer and Bleeker Street into a two story home with a decent size tea garden. He converted the entire second floor of this house into a theatre that could an audience of three hundred and decided to renamed the theader to: The African Grove Theatre”(Serpio p8).
Plays by Shakespeare, followed by Tom and Jerry, were commonly presented to the public here. In 1823, Brown wrote and presented the first African American play. This play was called, “The Drama of King Shotaway, it was a historical drama based on the real story of the Black Carib war in St. Vincent in 1796 against both English and French settlers”(Abel p4). The African Grove Theatre's two main actors were James Hewlett, who was noted to be the first African American Shakespearean actor and a young teenager named, Ira Aldridge. Hewlett and Aldridge gained their skills while observing the acting technique of the Europeans while their performed Shakespearian plays. The two of them would sit on the balcony of Stephen Price Theadre for hours and just soak up the talent.
“For early black actors, performing Shakespeare was a way of tapping into a proven popular market with recognizable characters and stories; it was a way, too, of gaining cultural power—of being taken seriously”(Serpio p2). The African Grove Theatre lasted for three years before it was burned down in 1823. The cause of the fire is unknown. It is said that this theadre 'distrubed the peace' within the community. In result, “Ira Aldridge went to London where he could freely practice acting and perform all across the area and Hewlett continued his acting career as well, until his death in the 1840s. James Hewlett is recognized as the first black actor to perform professionally on a U.S. Stage”(Welsher p2). He was the African Grove Theater's first celebrity, and he starred in many plays, gaining the apulause from both black and white people.
Black people saw the reward behind owning and performaing in a theater so many blacks began to get together and start their own theaters. They went to churches or community halls and asked for space, they all pooled in their money, and sometimes they had to do a little bit of everything. Actors might have to help with sets and lights, they were a team. Some people got grants of money to help build the space and pay the bill. While others just sat back and watched their theaters perosper.
When the African American Theater production began to sore out of control, racism...

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