Dramatizing Lynching and Labor Protest: Case Studies Examining How Theatre Reflected Minority Unrest in the 1920S and 30S
Description: Theatre is widely unrecognized for the compelling influence it has held in society throughout history. In this thesis, I specifically examine the implications surrounding the social protest theatre of black and Jewish American minority communities in the first half of the twentieth century. I discuss how their historical circumstance, culture, and idiosyncratic natures caused them to choose agitated propaganda theatre as an avenue for protest. I delve into the similarities in circumstance, but their theatre case studies separate the two communities in the end. I present case studies of each community, beginning with anti-lynching plays of the 1920s that were written by black American playwrights both in response to white supremacist propaganda theatre and to assert a dignified representation of the black community. However, their plays and protest movement never developed a larger popular following. My next minority theatre case study is an examination of 1930s Jewish labor drama created in protest of popular anti-Semitic theatre and poor labor conditions. The Jewish community differs from the black community in their case because the racist propaganda was produced by a man who was Jewish. Another difference is that their protest theatre was on the commercial stage by this point because of a rise in a Jewish middle class and improvement of circumstance. Both the Jewish protest theatre and labor reform movements were more successful. My conclusion is a summation of black and Jewish American theatre of the era with a case study of collaboration between the communities in George Gershwin’s operetta about black Americans, Porgy and Bess. I conclude that these two communities eventually departed from circumstance and therefore had differing theatrical, political, and social experiences in America during the 1930s.
Date: December 2013
Creator: Goldmann, Kerry L.
Item Type: Thesis or Dissertation