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Trouble in Mind

Trouble in Mind
Your Price: $23.95 CDN
Author: Alice Childress
Publisher: Theatre Communications Group
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 120
Pub. Date: 2022
ISBN-10: 1636700152
ISBN-13: 9781636700151
Cast Size: 3 female, 6 male

About the Play:

Trouble in Mind is a full-length comedic drama by Alice Childress. A radical satire of racism in theatre. In 1950s America, protests for racial equality erupt in the face of voter suppression. On Broadway, Wiletta Mayer, a talented black actress, begins rehearsals for a new play about racism – written and directed by white men. When Wiletta finds that her arguments to tell the truth of the story are dismissed, she decides to take action. First staged over 60 years ago, Trouble in Mind is widely considered the masterpiece of actress and playwright Alice Childress.

Trouble in Mind looks at a company of mostly Black actors putting on a "progressive" anti-lynching play by a white playwright and it's produced and directed by two white men. Wiletta Mayer, a Black actress and veteran of the stage, has spent her career playing stereotypes, trapped on a merry-go-round of mammies, maids, and other menials. When the curtain rises on the first day of rehearsal for Chaos in Belleville, it marks the first opportunity for the gifted actress to play a leading lady on Broadway. But as rehearsals drag on, unsettling truths spill out of the play and into the rehearsal hall, revealing the ways so-called progressive art can be used to uphold racist attitudes. As the play's stereotypical portrayal of the Black characters becomes apparent, Wiletta clashes with the white director, insisting on changes. Will Wiletta’s insistence on her dignity cost her the work she desperately needs? Following the tremendous success Trouble in Mind enjoyed off-Broadway in 1955, it was optioned for Broadway with an opening date set in 1957. But in a case of life imitating art, white producers insisted that Alice Childress provide a more upbeat ending. Like Wiletta, she had to decide: soften her message, follow the formula and sell out for success, or maintain her integrity and risk everything. By standing her ground and not making the requested changes, Alice Childress sacrificed the opportunity to become the first African-American female playwright produced on Broadway. Her masterpiece didn't make it to Broadway until 2021, 27 years after her death. Funny, incisive, and poignant, Trouble in Mind is an unflinching examination of white fragility and liberalism in the theatre industry.

Trouble in Mind premiered in 1955 at Greenwich Mews Theatre in New York City, and ran for 91 performances. Alice Childress was awarded an Obie Award in 1956 for best original Off-Broadway production, making her the first African-American woman to win an Obie.

Cast: 3 female, 6 male

What people say:

"Fascinating… A frank look at mid-1950s social attitudes, and also a commentary on the discomfort between Blacks and whites that remains relevant today… A rich, unsettling play that lives up to its title, Trouble in Mind lingers in one’s memory long after its conclusion." — New York Times

"Fresh and bold, Trouble in Mind, which premiered in 1955, feels bang up-to-date in its scrutiny of the ways in which people who blithely assert their liberal credentials are capable of racism." — Evening Standard (UK)

"Painfully relevant… One is gradually struck by how bracingly prophetic the late playwright’s script turns out to be." — Variety

"Sixty-four years late and right on time, Alice Childress' wise and stirring backstage comedy-drama Trouble in Mind is making its long-in-coming Broadway debut ... and to describe the play as prescient would be an understatement. Uncanny rings truer. ...Trouble in Mind takes a behind-the-curtain look at the racism, coded prejudice, self-flattery, sexism and built-in bigotry that Broadway has always professed to eschew." — Deadline

"Childress's witty, insightful play-in which an interracial group of theater makers chafes against stereotypes in their anti-lynching melodrama-makes that awakening painful and real. I wonder if the discussions in the past two years have been as sharp and complex as those in this backstage satire." — The Observer

"An original play, full of vitality… Miss Childress has some witty and penetrating things to say about the dearth of roles for Negro actors in the contemporary theater, the cut-throat competition for these parts and the fact that Negro actors often find themselves playing stereotyped roles in which they cannot bring themselves to believe." — New York Times (1955)

About the Playwright:

Alice Childress (1916-1994) was a pioneering African-American playwright, novelist, and actress. Her grandmother encouraged her to write and exposed her to the arts. In 1941, she joined Harlem's American Negro Theatre (ANT) where she worked as an actress, stage director, personnel director and costume designer for 11 years. A respected performer, she appeared in a variety of New York productions including Anna Lucasta (1944), which transferred to Broadway and earned her a Tony Award nomination. In 1952, her play Gold Through the Trees became the first play written by an African-American woman to be professionally produced in New York.