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The Great White Hope

The Great White Hope
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Howard Sackler
Publisher: Samuel French (cover image may change)
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 136
Pub. Date: 2010
ISBN-10: 0573609608
ISBN-13: 9780573609602
Cast Size: 3 female, 8 male (doubling possible, room for extras)

About the Play:

The Great White Hope has long been a favourite of acting teachers for female/male scenes.

The Great White Hope is a full-length tragic drama by Howard Sackler, later adapted by the author for a film of the same name. African-American boxing champion Jack Jefferson suffers racism due to his success and his relationship with a white woman, in Howard Sackler's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama. The Great White Hope is loosely based on the life of the legendary Jack Johnson, who became the first black heavyweight boxing champion in 1908.

The Great White Hope centres around Jack Jefferson, a fictionalized version of Jack Johnson, the first black world's heavyweight boxing champion. Johnson was a proud, articulate man who refused to be less than he was to please white people. Acting as a lens focused on a racist society, The Great White Hope explores how segregation and prejudice created the demand for a "great white hope" who would defeat Johnson and how this, in turn, affected the boxer's life and career. When he married a white woman at the turn of the century it caused a scandal and led to him being persecuted by the police and eventually leaving the United States. Howard Sackler's play remains a fascinating character study about a real-life, trash-talking black boxer who challenges American social values, both black and white. And doing so in the early 1900s, decades before Muhammad Ali perfected the butterfly-bee similes.

The Great White Hope premiered in 1967 at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., with James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander in the lead roles. It was the first regional staging to transfer to Broadway in 1968 at the Alvin Theatre. The play won the 1969 Tony Award for Best Play and the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It was later adapted in 1970 for a film of the same name (with James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander reprising their stage roles). The play has become a favourite scene study vehicle in acting classes and workshops and has been performed in regional repertory, college, and community theatre productions.

Cast: 3 female, 8 male (doubling possible, room for extras)

What people say:

"A great part ... a tragic hero, cheated, degraded, and at last brutally beaten. Mr. Sackler has used his hero, a figure based on the first Black heavyweight champion of the world, Jack Johnson (played by James Earl Jones), as a symbol in part of Black aspiration... Has an epic scope and range... It picks up the Johnson story soon after the Australian day in 1908 when Johnson whipped Tommy Burns and takes it to Havana in 1915, when Jess Willard, the Great White Hope, won it back for the Whites at least for a time." — The New York Times

"A highly theatrical and hugely rewarding evening." — New York Daily News

"Great theatre. Broadway at its very best." — Associated Press

About the Playwright:

Howard Sackler (1929-1982) was an American screenwriter and playwright who is best known for writing The Great White Hope.