Ancient, Indigenous and Modern Plays from Africa and the Diaspora

Edited by Simon Gikandi and R.N. Sandberg

The power of theatrical performance is universal, but the style and concerns of theatre are specific to individual cultures. This volume in the Global Theatre Perspectives series presents a reconstructed ancient performance text, four one-act indigenous African plays and five modern dramas from various regions of Africa and the Caribbean Diaspora.

Because these plays span centuries and are the work of artists from diverse cultures, readers can see elements that occur across time and space. Physicalized ritual, direct interaction with spectators, improvisation, music, drumming, and metaphorical animal characters help create the theatrical forms in multiple plays. Recurring themes include the establishment or challenging of political authority, the oppression or corruption of government, societal expectations based on gender, the complex and transformational nature of identity, and the power of dreams.

Though each play is its own unique entity, reading them together allows readers to explore what theatrical elements and cultural concerns are perhaps essentially African. The Caribbean plays add further perspective to the questions of what values, theatrical and societal, are part of African drama, how these have influenced the Caribbean aesthetic, and what the relationships are between the old and new world.

Among the creators of the pieces are two Nobel Laureates, those who have been exiled or jailed for the political nature of their work, and the author of his country's first constitution. The volume can serve as the primary text for an intensive semester-long investigation of African drama and culture. But it is also possible to use this volume along with others in the series as texts for a single course on drama from around the world. The global perspectives approach, letting works from ancient, indigenous, and modern times resonate with each other, encourages thinking across boundaries and connective human understanding.

R.N. Sandberg