Broadway Is Brimming With Black Playwrights. But for How Long?


In addition to “Chicken & Biscuits,” this season’s plays by Black writers include a long-slighted classic (“Trouble in Mind”), an autobiographical reminiscence (“Lackawanna Blues”), two naturalistic dramas (“Clyde’s” and “Skeleton Crew”) and two more formally adventuresome works (“Pass Over” and “Thoughts of a Colored Man”).

“They are seven different plays that examine fundamentally different aspects of the Black experience,” said Lynn Nottage, whose “Clyde’s,” about a truck stop sandwich shop owner managing a staff of formerly incarcerated people, begins previews Nov. 3 at the Hayes Theater.

Nottage is the most celebrated of this season’s playwrights: she is a two-time Pulitzer winner, for “Ruined,” which infamously never made it to Broadway despite a repeatedly extended Off Broadway run in 2009, and “Sweat,” which played on Broadway in 2017.

For most shows, the Broadway audience is — or at least was, before the pandemic — predominantly white. And theater owners have long pointed to that to justify their programming choices.

“I still grapple with why Broadway matters, and why we are so deeply invested in presenting our work in these commercial realms that traditionally have rejected our stories,” Nottage said. “But it’s a really big platform. On Broadway, you’re speaking to the world.”

Like Lyons, most of the writers have never been produced on Broadway.

Keenan Scott II is the author of “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” which is about a day in the life of seven Black men in Brooklyn, and which begins previews Oct. 1 at the Golden Theater. Scott was a slam poet before turning to theater; for years he produced his own work, with money borrowed from family and friends, at locales including the Frigid Festival and Frostburg State University, his alma mater.

“When I got to college and started reading plays, I wasn’t seeing myself,” he said. “I wasn’t seeing my essence as a young Black man captured onstage.”



New York time

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