This collection of five award-winning plays by Charles Smith includes Jelly Belly, Free Man of Color, Pudd’nhead Wilson, Knock Me a Kiss, and The Gospel According to James. Powerful, provocative, and entertaining, these plays have been produced by professional theater companies across the country and abroad. Four of the plays are based on historical people and events from W.E.B. Du Bois and Countee Cullen to the Harlem Renaissance. Accurate in the way they capture the political and cultural milieu of their historical settings, and courageous in the way they grapple with difficult questions such as race, education, religion, and social class, these plays jump off the page just as powerfully as they come to life on stage. This first-ever collection from one of the nation’s leading African American playwrights is a journey down the complex road of race and history.
Awarded annually since 1987, the Theodore Ward Prize recognizes the outstanding individual accomplishments of African American playwrights, as well as their growing importance to the shape and direction of American drama in our time. This collection, edited by a director and educator who has been affiliated with the contest for fifteen of its seventeen years, showcases a selection of the award-winning plays and offers a rich and varied view of the best of two decades of evolving African American drama.
These seven plays, which span the Ward Prize's history, represent a wide range of talents, experience, and perspectives brought to bear on diverse themes, from a unique moment in the history of baseball's Negro League to a working-class couple contending with a neighborhood bully; from a child's memories of negotiating desegregation to coming of age amidst the ravages of racism, child abuse, and AIDS. By turns poetic and moving, brave and rousing, uproarious and unsettling, these works written by established and emerging playwrights allow actors, directors, theatergoers, and readers to sample the multifarious dramatic experience being limned by African American playwrights today.