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3 Plays Set Next Week By Local Black Theatre

3 Plays Set Next Week By Local Black Theatre image
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The Ann Arbor Black Theatre will present three one-act plays by contemporary black authors at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday in the 300-seat Shorling Auditorium of the old University School, now the University School of Education.

Singer Buchannan, professor of drama of Eastern Michigan University, will direct a mostly U-M student cast in "A Son, Come Home" and "Clara's Ole Man" which garnered the 1968 Vernon Rice Drama Desk Award for Playwrighting [sic] for author Ed Bullins.

Jimmy Garrett's "And We Own the Night" is the third play on the bill.

Garrett is a former SNCC worker and student at San Francisco State College. His play first was performed as a part of the 1967 Black Communications Project at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, where writer LeRoi Jones directed the production.

Bullins is co-founder of San Francisco's Black Arts West, a repertory theatre school.

Until recently, Bullins was a contributing editor to "The Drama Review." He now edits The New Lafayette Theatre's magazine, "Black Theatre."

The Ann Arbor Black Theatre was established last spring and produced Jones' "The Baptism" as its first offering.

The Black Theatre of Ann Arbor has a larger aim than the presentation of entertainment, according to Harold J. Cruse, head of the Educational Committee. 

"It aims to provide a certain kind of much needed education for the black youth of Ann Arbor -- the education about one's self, one's history, one's cultural heritage," Cruse said. "The black American group is a profoundly artistic group, much gifted in the dramatic arts, including dance, poetry and music. The heritage of slavery, a demeaning history, most often obscures this fact and blinds many people to the essential nature of the black man's gifts to the American cultural stream."

In 1821, enterprising blacks of New York City established a theatre company, the African Company, which produced Shakespearean classics such as "Othello" and "Richard III." In this period, the first great American actor, Ira Alridge, came to the fore.

Due to the peculiar nature of the developing American theatre, the blacks did not produce more outstanding dramatic stars until well into the 20th century. 

"This was because Ameri-playwrights [sic] until this time," Cruse said. "Then came black actors, including Charles Gilpin, Paul Robeson, Richard B. Harrison, Abbie Mitchell, Rose McClendon, Frank Wilson and Ethel Waters."

James Earl Jones, who attended the U-M, is the latest black actor to make a big name on the stage. 

Cruse said that the stereotyped mythology that came out of the ribald mimicry and cheap imitation of the black-faced minstrel tradition has obscured a native American theatrical traditional as "original and significant as that of the ancient Greeks."

"Today the entire story of this cultural development in America needs to be retold and re-evaluated in the light of our changing attitudes in educational and cultural values," Cruse said. "This is why the Ann Arbor Black Theatre and similar institutions have the important function of informing black youth about themselves and their cultural heritage. On the other hand, whites will also learn more about the roll of black cultural heritage in the shaping of America." 

About 20 young people will take part in next week's production.

Tickets to the plays are $3 and $2 for students. Tickets are available at Discount Record Shop on State St., Centicore Bookshop on S. University and Ned's Bookstore, 711 W. Cross, Ypsilanti. They also will be sold at the door.


Play In Rehearsal

In a scene during a rehearsal of "And We Own The Night" by the Ann Arbor Black Theatre, Ruffer Harris (left) clutches his chest and grimaces in pain as Barry Pugh, who plays the doctor, attends him. Nelson Ashton (with stick) and Duane Williams (right) play friends of the injured man.