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The African Tragedian

Robin Scott Peters

Published by

Robin Scott Peters at Smashwords

Copywright 2012 Robin Scott Peters

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

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Playwright's Notes:

At the end of summer 1994 I was contacted by the "College Eight Student Activities Council" at the University of California, Santa Cruz. They had read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle concerning my work with "Midnight Basketball" Program conducted within inner-city Oakland, California neighborhoods. The program called "Shakespeare in the Hood" offered acting workshops to the youth along with the basketball component -- using Shakespeare's characters struggling with issues the youth struggle on a daily basis. I was contracted by UCSanta Cruz to develop a presentation for their Black History Month celebration. At the time of the contract I was completing class work on my doctorate at UCLA, and had recently been introduced to the 19th century African American Shakespearean actor and historical figure Ira Frederick Aldridge. I was mesmerized by this young man's quest to find freedom -- not only the freedom from racial hatred -- but also freedom to express himself artistically. I call this piece a historical docudrama because through my research on Aldridge I gathered actual accounts detailing the type of productions he was involved with and actual reviews concerning his abilities and his race, all of which are poignant and horrifying. My purpose was to use the actual accounts and develop a fictitious situation so as to delineate the strength and courage Aldridge possessed. This docudrama is to be presented as a message of hope, not as condemnation. This piece was originally produced as a solo performance which I both acted and directed. I toured The African Tragedian at numerous venues, professional and academic and as public street theater. For the director or actor who chooses to perform this piece it does not have to be a one-man show. I chose to do it in this manner as a matter of an acting exercise in playing multiple roles. Yet this piece can be done with an extended cast, and I believe it will play wonderfully in such context. I also staged my productions simplistically. Yet ultimately I envision a multimedia blend to create the "historical world" of Ira Aldridge. Whoever performs this piece, have fun, be dramatically daring, and do not forget the theme which Ira never forgot -- Freedom is worth whatever it takes to create it.

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