An Odd Sense of Color

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2012-03-25 00:00Z by Steven

An Odd Sense of Color

Toulouse Street: Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans

Mark Folse

OK, I just have to say it: it was Odd that three of the four panelists on the Tennessee Williams Festival panel New Orleans Free People of Color were white. The garrulous playwright John Guare tried to steal the show and not in a good way, and managed to annoy mystery writer Barbara Hambly when she disagreed with him but wouldn’t stop talking long enough to let her say her piece. Guare put his hand on the back of her chair at some point and it was funny to see Hambly leaning away from him to the point of tipping over.

Guare is the author of a successful Broadway play A Free Man of Color, Hanbly has penned a dozen mysteries featuring the Creole private detective Benjamin January, and the panel was rounded out by Daniel Sharfstein, author of The Invisible Line: A Secret History of Race in America and Gregory Osborne, a child of the Creole diaspora to Los Angeles in the post-World War II period and an expert on the subject who manages the archives at the New Orleans public library.

Sharfstein and Osborne thankfully stole the show away from Guare. Sharfstein’s book drew out of a a stint of volunteer work in South Africa where he met a Black woman who had been registered as Colored (of mixed race) by a census taken who was a friend of the woman’s father. He recounted a fascinating tale of a couple prosecuted f under South Carolina’s miscegenation laws, a charge from which they were exonerated after the state’s Supreme Court ruled that it was impossible to determine if the woman’s grandfather had himself been pure Black, which would have made her an octaroon and invalidated the marriage…

Read the entire article here.

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A Free Man of Color

Posted in Books, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2011-11-13 03:27Z by Steven

A Free Man of Color

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
October 2011
112 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Paperback ISBN-13: 978-0-8021-4566-6

John Guare

John Guare’s new play is astonishing, raucous, and panoramic. A Free Man of Color is set in boisterous New Orleans prior to the historic Louisiana Purchase. Before law and order took hold and class, racial, and political lines were drawn, New Orleans was a carnival of beautiful women, flowing wine, and pleasure for the taking. At the center of this Dionysian world is the mulatto Jacques Cornet, who commands men, seduces women, and preens like a peacock. But it is 1801 and the map of New Orleans is about to be redrawn. The Louisiana Purchase brings American rule and racial segregation to the chaotic, colorful world of Jacques Cornet and all that he represents, turning the tables on freedom and liberty.

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A Free Man of Color [Theater Review]

Posted in Arts, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2011-01-04 01:45Z by Steven

A Free Man of Color [Theater Review]

The Faster Times

Johnathon Mandell

Opening Date: 2010-11-18
Closing Date: 2011-01-09

Written by John Guare
Directed by George C. Wolfe

As “A Free Man of Color” begins, its hero, an ex-slave, is a bewigged, bejeweled fop who is the wealthiest and most sexually desirable man in New Orleans. Like the character, the play seems to have everything going for it: deeply talented creators, an exciting cast, splendid costumes, a fascinating period in American history. By the end of the play, the character has been destroyed, in a harrowing half hour that is the dramatic and theatrical highlight of the piece. Long before that end, however, the average theatergoer is likely to feel let down by John Guare’s new play. If it frustrates our expectations, “A Free Man of Color”—ambitious, inventive, daring, sprawling—is an honorable failure with much to recommend it, even while it is difficult to sit through.

Set largely in New Orleans between 1801 and 1806, but wandering around the world, the play, which has now opened at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater, presents the complex intrigue surrounding the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States, and imagines the effects of these actual historical events on fictitious characters.

The historical tidbits sprinkled throughout the play are tantalizing, especially those with contemporary parallels. To pick one of the more obscure examples: If the 21st century has civil unions for gay people, early 19th century New Orleans had plaçage, an arrangement between a white man and a woman of color…

Read the entire review here.

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