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Black Actors in Theater: An Examination of Their Perceptions and Experiences through Critical Race T

Theater has been an integral part of how communities tell stories and impart morals. I have been acting for over a decade and theater is a very big piece of my life. As a Black actress – I’ve identified myself as Black because that is typically how I’m viewed in terms of roles and casting – I have encountered little discussion, academically, about the perceptions of Black actors in racially themed/charged plays. The lack of information has fueled my desire to conduct a case study about the perceptions of Black actors in racially themed/charged plays, specifically those participating in a local theater production of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Blacks/African Americans make up 3.3% of the population of Albuquerque (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). This population is small, and because of its size, is generally marginalized. This marginalization seems to increase when taken to the stage. There are little historical artifacts and scripts to help construct a picture of Blacks’ experiences and contributions to theater. Theater is a predominantly White participant and patron dominated art form. When enslaved Africans were brought to America, they brought with them their music, dance and pieces of their cultures. In the 1830s, Blackface was born and many art forms experienced cultural appropriation and mockery for the enjoyment of White audiences (Hughes and Meltzer, 1967). Black performers eventually followed in their footsteps, using Blackface and exaggerated speech, songs and dances. Even with the introduction of a stage adapted version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852, White actors would