• On the Verge of Fame: The Free People of Color and the French Theatre of Antebellum New Orleans

    Juliane Braun (see profile)
    GS Drama and Performance, LLC 19th-Century American, LLC 19th-Century French, LLC Early American, LLC Literatures of the United States in Languages Other Than English
    Louisiana, African Americans--Social life and customs
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    French Creole, African American culture
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    This essay recovers, describes, and analyzes the theatrical tradition emerging from New Orleans's free people of color during the antebellum period. I will start out by tracing the presence of free people of color in the francophone theatres of New Orleans, teasing out their impact on the early formations of a francophone theatrical culture in the Crescent City. Next, I will examine more closely the 1837 breaking point in theatrical race relations and the ensuing foundation of two theatres by and for free people of color, the Théâtre Marigny and the Théâtre de la Renaissance. Considering the material conditions of the two theatres – including their location and interior layout – as well as their admittance policies, troupes, and repertoire, I assess the function of these playhouses for a population that was bound to remain in a position of liminality throughout the antebellum period. Through an analysis of four of the plays performed at the free black theatres I uncover the relevance of a seemingly outdated and imported repertoire for the day-to-day experiences of New Orleans’s free black population. Ultimately, I argue that New Orleans’s free people of color developed a distinct theatrical tradition that reflected as well as complicated the specific contours of their liminal position within the city.
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    Last Updated:
    5 years ago
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