Originally published in the July/August 2016 issue of The Dramatist
Three years ago I was standing in the lobby of a theater, the typical Broadway cluster-mob awaiting entrance, with more than half the horde African-American. This would be logical, as the show was the musical revue After Midnight, a refurbishing of a prior concert piece entitled Cotton Club Parade celebrating Ellington-era jazz and dance. Inside, my sister and I were led to our orchestra seats, and I looked around: not another black face in sight. It took me a moment to realize that The Mystery of the Vanishing Black Folks likely would have been quickly resolved had we moved up to the balconies. But from where I sat, observing the complexion of the performers versus that of the onlookers, it was the Cotton Club, the Colors entertaining the Caucasians, and that the upper tiers may have been filled with black faces was not exactly comforting, an economically induced throwback to Jim Crow segregation with African Americans relegated to the peanut gallery.