Classic Female Playwrights

Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress – Playwright, Novelist & Activist

The first full-length play by Alice Childress, Trouble in Mind, premiered in 1955 at an interracial theater co-sponsored by a Presbyterian church and a synagogue in Greenwich Village.

According to accounts at the time, the audience “applauded and shouted bravos, and would not leave their seats until the author was brought on stage.” Despite initial audience enthusiasm, decades would pass before the play received the recognition it has today as a classic of American theater.

The show received an Obie Award for best original off-Broadway play that season and was slated to open on Broadway in 1957, but Childress herself pulled the plug on that production. Read More→

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Eulalie Spence, Playwright of the Harlem Renaissance Era

Eulalie Spence (June 11, 1894 – March 7, 1981) was an award-winning American playwright, stage director, actress, and educator. As a prolific Black writer in the first half of the twentieth century, Spence was most active during the Harlem Renaissance era.

She was so esteemed and  prolific in her heyday that her relative obscurity today is unfathomable. Like many of her contemporaries who blossomed during the Harlem Renaissance years, she was multitalented — a writer and playwright, as well as an actress and teacher. She authored some fourteen plays, five of which were preserved in print; nearly all were staged. 

An immigrant from the British West Indies, Spence went against the prevailing trend of her time among Black creatives, which was to use the arts in all forms to press for racial justice. She believed that plays were for entertainment and considered herself a “folk dramatist.”  Read More→

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8 Black Women Playwrights of the Early 20th Century

In the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920s, and the years just before and after, a notable number of Black women made a name for themselves as writers, playwrights, poets, editors, and journalists.

Here, we’ll take a look at seven Black women playwrights of the early twentieth century. For further in-depth overviews of Black women playwrights of the early twentieth century, consult these sources: Read More→

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