Different authors employ different styles while writing their plays. Play authors also incorporate different techniques while writing about a play. Playwriting is not similar to novel or other different forms of writing. Different considerations are taken the play entice and educate the society. While writing about a play, the final product should be developed in a manner that can be performed to an audience. Some of the key features that different play writers incorporate to make their play include different casting techniques and acts styles. To evaluate how play writers have developed and deployed the distinct convections needed in playwriting, Amen Corner by James Baldwin and Dutchman by Amiri Baraka will be employed in accessing how different authors compare in their writing styles and some of the social movement associated with the plays.
Comparison: The Amen Corner and Dutchman
The Amen Corner is a 3-act play that was written by James Baldwin. The play was first published in the year 1954. The theme that the play address is the role of the church in the lives of African-American families (Baldwin, 1998). Another theme that the play addresses is the effect of poverty, born from racial prejudice that the African American families face.
Dutchman is a play by Amiri Baraka. It was first presented in the year 1964. The action of the play focuses on the two characters who represent the black and the white race. The first character is Lula-a white woman, while the second character is Clay- a black man. Clay’s name symbolizes the black race, whereas Lula is a symbol of the white race. The major author’s theme is how black individuals are perceived, and some of the stereotypes that are associated with the black race. Generally, it addresses the hatred between the black and the white race.
From both the play, the author has employed similar and distinct styles in their plays. One of the different devices between the two plays is cross-cultural casting and color casting. Cross-cultural casting refers to the method where an author casts a character to a role that does not depict their race or their ethnic appearances (Hopkins, 2018). On the other hand, color casting refers to the style where the author selects a character to a particular role regardless of their ethnic and racial appearances. Robert Baldwin, in the play The Amen Corner has used a Caucasian actress in a role that would best fit a woman of color. Sister Margaret who is a Caucasian plays the role of a strong, devoted and fiery loving woman (Baldwin, 1998). She is a pastor and also a single woman. These characters are associated with black women.
However, in the play Dutchman by Amiri Baraka, traditional casting has been employed by the author. Traditional casting refers to the process where an author casts a character to a particular role while primarily considering their skin color and ethnicity (Hopkins, 2018). Amiri Baraka characters have been cast on the basis of their skin colors. Lula who is a white woman undertakes a role that fits a white woman. On the other hand, clay play roles that fit the African-Americans (Baraka, 2001). From this play, it is evident that the author has cast his characters on the basis of their skin color and ethnic affiliations.
Research has argued that color-blind casting and cross-cultural casting are used by authors so as to choose characters on the basis of their skills rather than on the basis of their races. This choice enables actors and actresses to play roles that fit them rather than playing traditional roles. However, some researchers feel that traditional casting provides a good play as an individual has the necessary requirements needed in performing the traditional role (Hopkins, 2018). For instance, an African-American will perform a black role perfectly when compared to a Caucasian or an Asian.
Another play device that is different from the two plays is the number of acts in the play. An act is an essential part of a play and is defined by distinct elements such as the climax, resolution and the rising of elements. The majority of the plays range from one act to five acts. The play Amen Corner has 3 acts. All three acts portray the inaptness of religious naivety and the harsh reality that the African-American has been plagued by prejudice and poverty undergoes. More so, the acts in the play also indicate the dangers that exist between secular and spiritual world and also what is unsafe and safe. The major reason depicted for have multiple acts is to have a change in plot. The Amen Corner is a play that changes in plot, and also some of the characters in the play also change. For example, Sister Margaret has a past which she does not tell her congregation about. The multiple acts make it possible to provide emphasis on the scene rather than when using a single action scene (Baldwin, 1998). More so, a multiple act play can also incorporate different themes. Several themes are present in America Corner. The themes of poverty and religion are evident in the play.
On the other hand, Baraka`s play-Dutchman is a one-act play. A one-act style is employed when writing a play where the theme to be addressed is one. This is the case of Dutchman. Baraka has employed one act to address the hatred that exists between the blacks and the whites. The major theme of the play is for the reader to understand the hatred that exists between the blacks and the whites. More so, one-act play always consists of the standard elements of an act. The three standard elements in act are resolution, climax and action. The major reason behind the use of these elements is that they play only prolongs one theme from the beginning to the end.
Despite the differences between the two plays, there also exist some similarities. One of the similarities that exist is that both authors have used different social movements in their plays. Each play has a unique social movement associated with it. Social movement refers to a platform that allows individuals to conjoin and speak their minds. The social movement enables individuals to become aware of a specific issue that is happening in society (Kolers, 2016). For instance, in the play The Amen Corner, Baldwin has employed different social movements. The social movement does not only exist at the societal level but also exists at an individual level. One of the social movements that he has used in his play is religion. Religion has been categorized as a redemptive social movement. A redemptive social movement is one that seeks the total transition of an individual and is naturally religious (Kolers, 2016). In this play, Margaret uses religion to transform her life fully. This is evident from the critics that she receives from people after her past life has been discovered (Baldwin, 1998). However, Baldwin wants the audience to understand how religion can shape the lives of individuals.
More so, religion as a social movement is employed in identifying individuals within the black church who have used their power to abuse their position and those individuals who are under their authority. Baldwin addresses how the white men in the church are oppressing black people (Baldwin, 1998). The religion social movement is employed in addressing the problem that the problems that majority of the black people face while under the church.
Amiri Baraka also employs social movements in his play. One of the social movements that he employs is racial stereotype. Racial stereotypes can be categorized as a reformative social movement. Reformative social movement refers to a societal movement that attempts to change some societal functions (Kolers, 2016). Racial tension has been present between the whites and the blacks for a long period. Through the play, Amiri attempts to use racism so that blacks can become aware of their cultural loss. Through the flirtatious talk that Lula and Clay engage in, Lula tells clay that he has compromised his movement so that he gets along with the white society. Clay loses his composure and rebuffs Lula that he has his own right to choose whatever he wants to be. The confrontation becomes so bad to the point that Lula stabs Clay and throws his body off the moving train (Baraka, 2001). Racism has been used as a social movement by Amiri Baraka to enlighten the black race on how they are losing their culture to the point of death.
The plays, The Amen Corner and Dutchman, have some similarities and some differences. The major difference between the two plays is the casting of the characters. Baldwin uses color-blind casting whereas Amiri uses traditional casting. Another difference is the number of acts in the play. Despite these differences, the plays also have similarities, especially through the use of social movements. Generally, it is evident that authors use different styles while writing plays.
Baldwin, J. (1998). The amen corner : a play. New York: Vintage Books.
Baraka, A. (2001). Dutchman and the slave. New York: Harper Perennial.
Hopkins, K. (2018). There’s No Business Like Show Business: Abandoning Color-Blind Casting and Embracing Color-Conscious Casting in American Theatre. Retrieved from https://harvardjsel.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/2018/06/HLS201.pdf
Kolers, A. (2016). Social movements. Philosophy Compass, 11(10), 580–590. https://doi.org/10.1111/phc3.12351