Dialogues Community Programs

2002 Legacies Series

On Genet's "The Blacks"


The Foundry’s Legacies Series features the living experiences of our theatre ‘elders’—working people who have kept alive a dedication to the precarious profession that is theatre.  In this Legacies event, curators Talvin Wilks and Hattie Gossett, with Pulitzer Prize winning NYTimes cultural critic, Margo Jefferson explore the celebrated 1961 NYC premiere/production of Jean Genet’s The Blacks, a seminal event in theatre history, in a seminal chapter of American cultural history.  This special edition of the Legacies series features some of the original cast, Genet scholars and cultural historians in two events that look back at this unforgettable production and its unforgettable times.  


April 2002 : Hosted on the set of Carl Hancock Rux’s Talk @ The Public Theatre




Produced by Andre Gregory and Sidney Bernstein, and performed at the St. Marks Playhouse, the 1961 New York City premiere of The Blacks had an astounding impact on New York City’s theatrical and cultural history. Genet’s profane and violent meditation on race and colonialism was incredibly controversial; and forever changed the Off Broadway theatre with its unparalleled commercial success — running for four years and grossing over $500,000.The Blacks also helped launch the careers of many now legendary American artists. The production’s then relatively unknown cast included: Maya Angelou, Ethel Ayler, Godfrey Cambridge, Lou Gossett Jr., James Earl Jones, and Cicely Tyson, among others.

Maya Angelou (foreground) w. Charles Gordone
Cicely Tyson w. James Earl Jones



Event One


A conversation with original actors from the American production and subsequent European tour of Genet’s The Blacks:  Vinie Burrows, Roscoe Lee BrownClebert Ford, who will be joined by celebrated writer and Genet biographer, Edmund White.
Moderated by playwright Carl Hancock Rux and Una Chaudhuri, Professor of English and Drama, NYU



Event Two

beatniks & militants & hipsters
& barflies & firebrands:
Negro/Black Radical Arts and Politics 1958 – 1964

When did people stop saying Negro and start saying Black? When did pork become unfashionable? Did beatniks invent the phenomenon of reading poetry with jazz accompaniment? Was there a militant black political movement before the Black Panthers?

These questions and more will be explored by an illustrious group of witnesses who include David Henderson (founding member of UMBRA), Kwame Brathwaite (Artist/Journalist/Activist), Clebert Ford (Actor, The Blacks cast member and Writer for The Liberator), steve ben israel (Member of The Living Theater), Vinie Burrows (Actor/Activist,The Blacks cast member), and Daisy Voigt (Journalist and Co-founder of the Johnson Girls).

Co-curated and Moderated by Hattie Gossett (Writer/Spoken-word Artist).