Performance Art Research Paper

898 Words4 Pages
Performance art, whether it is in the form of theatre performance, dance, or music, can teach a lesson or spark the imagination of an audience. Moral and/or ethical messages can impact a production and drive home the philosophy of a particular race or culture. Without performance art, many individuals of differing races or ethnicities would not have the opportunity to educate other ethnic groups about their culture nor would others be educated on the diverse heritages, struggles, or contributions of other racial groups. Thankfully, knowledge gained from performance art, past and present, has been discovered and rediscovered all the time, hopefully pushing society towards an understanding and acceptance of differing races or ethnicities. Specifically,…show more content…
Black performers were not allowed to perform on stage for most of the 19th century. Ernest Hogan, a black minstrel and vaudeville comedian, made great strides in black performance as “the first African-American performer to play before a white audience on Broadway,” but was forced to perform in “blackface” for much of his career. (‘Shuffle Along’ and the Lost History of Black Performance in America, Sullivan). Ironically, white people used “blackface” to portray black people on stage, but it was considered inappropriate for a black person to appear on stage; “they could not, that is, appear as themselves. The sight wasn’t tolerated by white audiences” (Sullivan). If white men could paint their faces black and this was acceptable, then why not black men paint their faces black? This phenomenon led to the practice of “blacks in blackface”. Thus, they could hide their true ethnicity behind a “darker blackness, a false one, a safe one” (Sullivan). Additionally, since a stage with its high elevation was considered a place of supremacy, and not a place where blacks belonged, “blacks-in-blackface” only found their place on the lofty stage by disrespecting their own race and culture, and then and only then “tolerated” by white audiences. “Blacks-in-blackface” became a genre for black performers starting as far back as…show more content…
From primitive dances with body paints, to ritualistic performances with elaborate depiction masks, to modern televised performances of singers, actors, and dancers, it has become evident that the black culture has an intricate storyline. It is layered with strife, difficulty, opposition, and oppression, as well as successes and achievements. The first all-black musical “Shuffle Along” demonstrates the “purity” of the early black performer. George C. Wolfe explains, “In the sense that they didn’t have time to have a full awareness of what they were doing.” They wanted to perform and act because it was their passion, but they also had to “deal with all sorts of racism.” Throughout this process black performers questioned, “How do I keep pushing against this thing in order to be what I need to be?” (Sullivan). This exemplifies the persistence of black performers such as Kendrick Lamar, and others like him, who represent the modern version of black performance and black performers, advocating for equality on the global
Open Document