Course meets during the last seven weeks only, First Class: March 24; Last Class: May 5.
This course will explore the conflicting ideologies apparent in the works of Noble Sissle and James Hubert “Eubie” Blake. Famed for such hit musicals as “Shuffle Along” and “Chocolate Dandies,” Sissle and Blake formed one of the most successful musical theatre collaborations of the 1920’s. Their work draws strongly on the minstrel tradition in African American theatre, and attempts to subvert many of its conventions. It may be argued that their commercial success had the opposite effect, and served to update and modernize the very theatre conventions they sought to destroy. We will examine the effect of Sissle and Blake’s oeuvre on musical theatre in general and African American musicals in particular. Readings may include Black Musical Theatre: From Coontown to Dreamgirls by Allen Woll, Black Drama by Loften Mitchell, with excerpts from Terrible Honesty by Mary Douglas, Blacks in Blackface by Henry T. Sampson, Reminiscing with Sissle and Blake by Robert Kimball, and essays by W.E.B. DuBois and Alain Locke. Archival sound and film footage will be utilized along with such works as Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled .