American Political Plays after 9/11 is a diverse collection of bold, urgent, and provocative plays that respond to the highly charged, post 9/11 political landscape. Sparked by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and subsequently fueled by a series of controversial events—the Iraq war, the passing and enforcement of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, and the revelation of torture and other scandals at the Abu Ghraib prison—American political theater is currently experiencing a surge in activity. The plays in this collection include The Guys by Anne Nelson, At the Vanishing Point by Naomi Iizuka, The Venus de MiloIs Armed by Kia Corthron, Back of the Throat by Yusseff El Guindi, Three Nights in Prague by Allan Havis, and Question 27, Question 28 by Chay Yew.
The characters range from a New York City fire captain trying to respectfully memorialize eight of his lost comrades, to the citizens of a hog-killing Louisville neighborhood who poignantly exemplify the underside of the economic crisis, to an Arab American citizen being harshly (and possibly unfairly) interrogated by two officers as a “person of interest.” Though not all of the plays deal explicitly with the Al Qaeda attacks, they collectively reveal themes of sorrow and anxiety, moral indignation, alarmist self-preservation, and economic and social insecurity stemming from the United States’ fairly sudden shift from cold war superpower to vulnerable target.
The lively introduction by Allan Havis includes a brief history of political theater in the United States, an extensive discussion about how theater communities responded to 9/11, and an informative analysis of the six plays in the book. A collection of dramatic material framed by this significant historical event, AmericanPolitical Plays after 9/11 will be indispensable for theater and cultural studies scholars and students.
Richly deserving of wider exposure in the theater and the classroom, these sly, remarkable scripts touch on the forceful and salient issues of the 1990s, including the Gulf War, racial and sexual relations, crises unique to big cities, immigration and multiculturalism, art and censorship, revisionist history, academic freedom, and the transformation of the American presidency.
The American Play by Suzan-Lori Parks features an Abraham Lincoln impersonator trapped in an outrageous, Beckett-like world, while Naomi Wallace's In the Heart of America centers on a Palestinian American from Atlanta who is caught up in the Persian Gulf conflict. Kokoro by Velina Hasu Houston chillingly depicts the stark predicament of a Japanese mother caught between two impossible worlds; Marisol by José Rivera reveals the dark fairytale life of a young Latin woman in a wartorn, apocalyptic New York. The Gift by Allan Havis confronts overwhelming moral ambiguity in the farcical realm of university politics, while Nixon's Nixon by Russell Lees offers an adroit treatment of the fascinating, tortured Nixon/Kissinger relationship. The collection closes with Mac Wellman's 7 Blowjobs, a wicked send-up of the compromise politics that determined the fate of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Taken together, these seven plays present an eclectic web of social thought and imagination that are uniquely American, offering the reader a splendid, honest study of a rich society in search of itself.
Author Barry B. Witham reclaims the work of Manny Fried, an essential American playwright so thoroughly blacklisted after he defied the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1954, and again in 1964, that his work all but completely disappeared from the canon. Witham details Manny Fried’s work inside and outside the theatre and examines his three major labor plays and the political climate that both nurtured and disparaged their productions. Drawing on never-before-published interview materials, Witham reveals the details of how the United States government worked to ruin Fried’s career.
From Red-Baiting to Blacklisting includes the complete text of Fried’s major labor plays, all long out of print. In Elegy for Stanley Gorski, Fried depicts one of the many red-baiting campaigns that threatened countless unions in the wake of the Taft-Hartley Act and the collusion of the Catholic Church with these activities. In Drop Hammer, Fried tackles the issues of union dues, misappropriation, and potential criminal activities. In the third play, The Dodo Bird, perhaps his most popular, Fried achieves a remarkable character study of a man outsourced from his job by technology and plant closures.
Manny Fried’s plays portray the hard edges of capitalism and government power and illuminate present-day struggles with hostility to labor unions and the passage in several states of right-to-work laws. Fried had no illusions about the government’s determination to destroy communism and unionism—causes to which he was deeply committed.
"Carter's thoughtful and lucid examination makes us recognize the importance not only of 'A
Raisin in the Sun,' but also of Lorraine Hansberry as a playwright with a significant body of
work, a seemingly limitless vision and the artistry to match." -- New York Times Book Review
Winner of the thirteenth annual American Book Awards 1992 from the Before Columbus Foundation
Among the most influential poets of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes is perhaps best remembered for the innovative use of jazz rhythms in his writing. While his poetry and essays received much public acclaim and scholarly attention, Hughes’ dramas are relatively unknown. Only five of the sixty-three plays Hughes scripted alone or collaboratively have been published (in 1963).
Published here, for the first time, are four of Hughes’ most poignant, poetic, and political dramas, Scottsboro Limited, Harvest (also known as Blood on the Fields), Angelo Herndon Jones, and De Organizer. Each play reflects Hughes’ remarkable professionalism as a playwright as well as his desire to dramatize the social history of the African American experience, especially in the context of the labor movements of the 1930s and their attempts to attract African American workers. Hughes himself counted prominent members of these leftist groups among his close friends and patrons; he formed a theater group with Whittaker Chambers, prompting an FBI investigation of Hughes and his writing in the 1930s. These plays, while easily read as idealistic propaganda pieces for the left, are nonetheless reflective of Hughes’ other more influential and studied works.
The first scholar to offer a systematic study of Hughes’ plays, Susan Duffy provides an informed introduction as well as a detailed analysis of each of the four plays. Duffy also establishes that De Organizer, a collaboration with noted jazz pianist and composer James P. Johnson (who also wrote its score) was indeed performed by the Labor Stage.
By making these forgotten texts available, and by presenting them within a scholarly discussion of 1930s leftist political movements, Duffy seeks to spark a renewed interest in Langston Hughes as an American playwright and political figure.
In such popular television series as The West Wing and 24, in thrillers like Tom Clancy’s novels, and in recent films, plays, graphic novels, and internet cartoons, America has been led by an amazing variety of chief executives. Some of these are real presidents who have been fictionally reimagined. Others are “might-have-beens” like Philip Roth’s President Charles Lindbergh. Many more have never existed except in some storyteller’s mind.
In The Presidents We Imagine, Jeff Smith examines the presidency’s ever-changing place in the American imagination. Ranging across different media and analyzing works of many kinds, some familiar and some never before studied, he explores the evolution of presidential fictions, their central themes, the impact on them of new and emerging media, and their largely unexamined role in the nation’s real politics.
Smith traces fictions of the presidency from the plays and polemics of the eighteenth century—when the new office was born in what Alexander Hamilton called “the regions of fiction”—to the digital products of the twenty-first century, with their seemingly limitless user-defined ways of imagining the world’s most important political figure. Students of American culture and politics, as well as readers interested in political fiction and film, will find here a colorful, indispensable guide to the many surprising ways Americans have been “representing” presidents even as those presidents have represented them.
“Especially timely in an era when media image-mongering increasingly shapes presidential politics.”—Paul S. Boyer, series editor
“Smith's understanding of the sociopolitical realities of US history is impressive; likewise his interpretations of works of literature and popular culture. . . .In addition to presenting thoughtful analysis, the book is also fun. Readers will enjoy encounters with, for example, The Beggar's Opera, Duck Soup, Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, Philip Roth's Plot against America, the comedic campaigns of W. C. Fields for President and Pogo for President, and presidential fictions that continue up to the last President Bush. . . . His writing is fluid and conversational, but every page reveals deep understanding and focus. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers.”—CHOICE
W.D. King Temple University Press, 1997 Library of Congress PS3569.H387Z74 1997 | Dewey Decimal 812.54
Wallace Shawn usually appears in our mind's eye as the consummate eccentric actor: the shy literature teacher in Clueless; the diabolically rational villain in The Princess Bride; or as the eponymous protagonist of Vanya on 42nd Street. Few of us realize, however, that Shawn is also one of today's most provocative and political playwrights.
Writing Wrongs: The Work of Wallace Shawn is a close and personal look into the life and literary work of the man whom Joseph Papp called "a dangerous writer." As the son of the late William Shawn, renowned editor of The New Yorker, Wallace Shawn was born into privilege and trained to thoroughly liberal values, but his plays relentlessly question the liberal faith in individualism and common decency. In an uncompromising way that is all his own, Shawn registers the shock of the new.
In works such as Aunt Dan and Lemon, My Dinner with Andre, and The Designated Mourner, he wrenches out of place all of the usual, comfortable mechanisms by which we operate as audiences. Perhaps our discomfort and struggle to understand a play might provoke some change in the way we see ourselves and behave in relation to others -- but Shawn offers little in the way of solace.
W.D. King's incisive critiques of the plays and inquiry into the life and times of their author develop a portrait of Shawn as a major figure in contemporary theater.