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Happy Ending and Day of Absence

Happy Ending and Day of Absence
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Douglas Turner Ward
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service (cover may change)
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 58
Pub. Date: 1994
ISBN-10: 0822202778
ISBN-13: 9780822202776

About the Play:

The double-volume Happy Ending and Day of Absence contains two one-act comedies by Douglas Turner Ward. Two sharp, satirical one-act plays from a major pioneer in Black theatre, Day of Absence / Happy Ending are traditionally presented on the same playbill. The plays blend biting satire, farce, and absurdism while turning a sharp eye on the social, moral, and racial biases that permeate American society.

Happy Ending tells the story of two shrewd black domestic workers, both sisters: Ellie and Vi. For years they have worked for a white couple, the Harrisons. As the play begins Ellie and Vi are bemoaning the end of their good times. Mr. Harrison has just discovered his wife has been having an affair and wants to divorce her. The sisters fear that if the marriage breaks up they will be both out of a job – which Ellie and Vi rely on to maintain their lives more than the Harrisons realize. Their idealist nephew, Junie, berates them for their subservient ways at a time when blacks are on the march toward liberation. But Ellie gives Junie an earful about life in the real world: how she feeds and dresses her relatives and furnishes their homes at the Harrison's expense. All this time they have been lifting food, clothing, and other items of value from the Harrisons, who own too much to notice. "I know the pay is bad," she declares, "but I'd be losing money on any other job." But when things look grimmest, Happy Ending provides just that – along with a lesson about getting by in a hostile world. (Cast: 2 female, 2 male)

What people say:

"Laughter is a powerful weapon…." — New York Herald-Tribune

"The message underlying the Happy Ending script is as pertinent now as in the 1960s where the stakes were even higher than Haves and Have-Nots." — DC Theatre Scene

Day of Absence is one of the most famous contributions of Black playwrights to the Off-Broadway movement in the 1960's. The play is a clever and enormously amusing satire that reverses the tradition of "blackface" minstrel shows. Set in a sleepy Southern town, the white characters are played by black actors in "whiteface" to show how lost whites would be if a racist fantasy came true and all its black citizens suddenly, mysteriously disappeared. As babies cry without their caretakers and factory production grinds to a halt, the town quickly descends into chaos when the white citizens find themselves utterly incapable of maintaining a functioning society. As the town comes to realize that all the blacks have taken a "day of absence", they begin to lobby for their return, with hysterical results. The "Clan" blames the Mayor and the Mayor blames the "Clan." On a nationwide radio network the Mayor melts down from begging the whole formerly unappreciated class of citizens to return. He shows them the cloths with which they wash cars and the brushes with which they shine shoes as sentimental reminders of the goodies that await them. In the end the blacks begin to reappear, as mysteriously as they had vanished, and the white community, sobered by what has transpired, breathes a sigh of relief at the return of the rather uneasy status quo. What will happen next is left unsaid, but Day of Absence will keep your audience laughing while its message, suddenly and strikingly relevant in today's political atmosphere, hits home. (Cast: 6 female, 8 male, many roles doubled)

What people say about Day of Absence:

"Laughter can be as effective as anger in telling white America what [Douglas Turner Ward] has on his mind." — New York Times

"…a gust of fresh air among racial plays." — Life Magazine

"Hilarious, and hilariously telling.... a stunner, bringing the hurt, the hypocrisy, and the history to bear unforgettably." — DC Metro Theater Arts

Happy Ending / Day of Absence, a program of two one-act plays, premiered in 1965 at the St. Mark's Playhouse in the East Village of Manhattan. These satirical one-acts won the 1966 Drama Desk Award and ran Off-Broadway for more than 500 performances over 15 months. Scholars now consider Day of Absence an example of the best non-musical satire of its period. It still offers important commentary on race in America at a time when race and bigotry are again in the forefront of the national consciousness.

About the Playwright:

Douglas Turner Ward (1930-2021) was a highly influential American playwright, actor, director. He made his playwriting debut in 1965 with two one acts, Happy Ending and Day of Absence. He is perhaps best known as a founder in 1967 of the celebrated Negro Ensemble Company (NEC), and served for many years as its artistic director. Guided by a desire to continue the legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois who helped form the NAACP, he was determined to create a New York theatre group that supported Black writers and actors at a time when there were few opportunities for them. He was enshrined into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1996. He was also conferred the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award.