BLACK AFRICAN DIASPORA - Black/African Diasporic Theater...

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Black/African Diasporic Theater March 9, 2008 " The stretching of 'performance' to include rituals, festivals, and other aspects of everyday life clearly goes against and beyond the conception of traditional theater […] These efforts come from an attempt to relate more traditional forms of performance to a wide variety of cultural practices that together constitute 'culture' and that form the sites of legitimation and contestation of social and political power." (Reinelt, 210) Although Janelle Reinelt's quote emerges from a discussion on performative theory and its discourse, it inextricably relevant to the discussion of the relationship between what is commonly referred to as “Western theater” and the theater of the "other" - particularly that of postcolonial theater of African and Caribbean diasporas. This paper seeks to explore the relationship between the traditional aesthetic paradigm of “Western” theater and what might be called “Black theater” by firstly defining precisely what constitutes “Western theater,” and then examining how Ama Ata Aidoo’s Anowa and Debbie Tucker Green’s Stoning Mary compare to this paradigm, based on the assertion that these two texts represent the two extremities of the spectrum of “Black theater.” In order to illustrate the relationship between “Western theater" and the variety of theater demonstrated in these texts, one must first establish a working definition of what exactly constitutes “Western theater.” As a point of reference one could begin by examining what it is not, looking to Janet Reinelt’s suggestion that the rise of performance studies and avant-garde theater developed in deliberate opposition to the "aspects of traditional theater practice that emphasized plot, character, and referentiality: in short, Aristotelian principles of construction and
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Platonic notions of mimesis." (Reinelt, 202) As noted by Reinelt, the traditional structure of “Western” plays finds its roots in Aristotle's Poetics ; plots are structured linearly and comprise of three parts, or acts, that represent the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Mimetics, also mentioned by Reinelt, basically translates into a major assumption underlying the aesthetic principles of traditional “Western” theater: Naturalist modes of performance, as epitomized by the methods and theory of Stanislavski, are the aesthetic ideal, so to speak. Another major component of “Western theater” is how its aesthetics are grounded in ideologies inherent to “Western” dominant - meaning white - culture. Here the forces of idealism and individualism play a crucial role. The trend in “Western” dramatic tradition is to romanticize a prominent white protagonist as an idealized individual who typically triumphs over tremendous adversity, or, when this is not the case, is the tragic victim of forces beyond his control. To put it another way, this means what when the hero triumphs it is commonly seen as a testament to the
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BLACK AFRICAN DIASPORA - Black/African Diasporic Theater...

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