Experiencing Black Theater in America

This past spring, Associate Professor of Theater Monica Ndounou taught a class made possible through an experiential learning seed grant from the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning. Titled, “The Making of 21st Century Exhibits: Curating a National Black Theater Museum/Institution,” the course was cross-listed with the Theater Department and African and African-American Studies Program. This class provided seventeen students an opportunity to learn about black theater history, scholarship and practice in the U.S. and abroad. In the process, students helped develop ideas and curated exhibits that represented a range of formats and platforms.

As social media and academe become interdependent in the 21st-century digital era, the course enabled participants to imagine and implement exhibits for the museum as a digital and onsite space where national and international contributions to developing black theater can be shared with the larger public. This current exhibit, “Experiencing Black Theater in America,” is one facet of the experiential learning component of the class, which also included a visit to the National African American History and Culture Museum in Washington, D.C., the opportunity to work with the local community’s regional black theatre, JAG Productions, and a chance to attend events featuring choreographer Camille A. Brown during her spring 2019 Dartmouth residency.

The majority of the documents in this exhibit come from the papers of Theater Professor Errol Hill, the first African-American educator to receive tenure at Dartmouth College. A Trinidadian native, Hill joined the faculty of Dartmouth’s Drama Department in 1968 and worked tirelessly here for thirty-five years before retiring in 1989. Hill was a wellspring of productivity, whether as a scholar, a playwright, or a director: over the span of his career, he wrote eleven plays, authored or edited fifteen major books and periodicals, and wrote twenty-five major articles on drama and theater history. While at Dartmouth, he taught a portfolio of thirteen different courses on acting, directing, playwriting, and theater history, directed thirty-three full-length productions, and wrote numerous influential works including Shakespeare in Sable: A History of Black Shakespearean Actors (1986) and, with Professor James Hatch, A History of African American Theatre (2003).

The exhibit was curated by Stella Asa ‘22, Asanni Brown ‘21, Laura Calderon ‘19, Stephanie Everett ‘19, Arielle Isedenu ‘22, Rena King ‘20, Will Maresco ‘19, Devon Mattie ‘20, Jelinda Metelus ‘22, Eleanor Mitchell ‘20, Millenah Nascimento ‘21, Owen O’Leary ‘19, Daniella Omeruo ‘21, Kerrigan Quenemoen ‘20, Chelsea Rafferty ‘21, Lexi Warden ‘21, and Sam West ‘20. It is on display in the Class of 1965 Galleries at Rauner Library in Webster Hall from June 7th through September 6th, 2019.

You may download a small, 8x10 version of the poster: ExperiencingBlackTheaterInAmerica.jpg.

 For more information about the exhibit and the included materials, please visit the Rauner Library site: Experiencing Black Theater in America.