I think all in all, one thing a lot of plays seem to be saying is that we need to, as black Americans, to make a connection with our past in order to determine the kind of future we're going to have. In other words, we simply need to know who we are in relation to our historical presence in America.
Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.
Blues is the bedrock of everything I do. All the characters in my plays, their ideas and attitudes, the stance they adopt in the world, are all ideas and attitudes that are expressed in the blues.
Don't you try and go through life worrying about if somebody like you or not. You best be making sure they doing right by you.
Jazz in itself is not struggling. That is, the music itself is not struggling... It's the attitude that's in trouble. My plays insist that we should not forget or toss away our history.
HEDLEY: He would not call me King. He laughed to think a black man could be King. I did not want to lose my name, so I told him to call me the name my father gave me, and he laugh. He would not call me King, and I beat him hard with a stick.
Scripts were rather scarce in 1968. We did a lot of Amiri Baraka's plays, the agitprop stuff he was writing. It was at a time when black student organizations were active on the campuses, so we were invited to the colleges around Pittsburgh and Ohio, and even as far away as Jackson, Mississippi.
For me, the original play becomes an historical document: This is where I was when I wrote it, and I have to move on now to something else.
My influences have been what I call my four Bs - the primary one being the blues, then Borges, Baraka, and Bearden.
Foreigners in a strange land, they carry as part and parcel of their baggage a long line of separation and dispersement which informs their sensibilities and marks their conduct as they search for ways to reconnect, to reassemble, to give clear and luminous meaning to the song which is both a wail and a whelp of joy.
I'm a De Niro fan. I went eleven years without seeing a movie; the last one before that, February 1980, was De Niro and Scorsese in 'Raging Bull,' and when I went back, it was 'Cape Fear,' with De Niro and Scorsese. I picked up right where I left off at.
My early attempts writing plays, which are very poetic, did not use the language that I work in now. I didn't recognize the poetry in everyday language of black America. I thought I had to change it to create art.
Blacks have traditionally had to operate in a situation where whites have set themselves up as the custodians of the black experience.
I dropped out of school when I was 15 years old. I dropped out because I guess I wasn't getting anything out of my investment in the school.
The blues are important primarily because they contain the cultural expression and the cultural response to blacks in America and to the situation that they find themselves in. And contained in the blues is a philosophical system at work. And as part of the oral tradition, this is a way of passing along information.
I think of dying every day... At a certain age, you should be prepared to go at any time.
In 1980 I sent a play, 'Jitney,' to the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis, won a Jerome Fellowship, and found myself sitting in a room with sixteen playwrights. I remember looking around and thinking that since I was sitting there, I must be a playwright, too.
I've never seen 'Seinfeld', never seen 'The Cosby Show'; I just don't watch it. I saw half of 'Oprah' one time. I'd rather read.
Once I started to value and respect my characters, I could really hear them. I just let them start talking.
From Romare Bearden I learned that the fullness and richness of everyday life can be rendered without compromise or sentimentality.
I been with strangers all day and they treated me like family. I come in here to family and you treat me like a stranger.
I work as an artist, and I think the audience of one, which is the self, and I have to satisfy myself as an artist. So I always say that I write for the same people that Picasso painted for. I think he painted for himself.
I do - very specifically, I remember Bessie Smith; I used to collect 78 records that I would buy from the St Vincent de Paul store at five cents apiece, and I did this indiscriminately. I would just take whatever was there. And I listened to Patti Page and Walter Huston, 'September Song.'
I seen a man grab hold to a fellow and cut off his arm. Cut it off at the shoulder. He had to work at it a while...but he cut it clean off. The man looked down saw his arm gone and started crying. After that he more dangerous with that one arm than the other man is with two. He got less to lose. There's a lot of one-arm men walking around.
I've seen some terrible plays, but I generally enjoy myself. One play I walked out of, I have a tremendous respect for the author. That was Robert Wilson, something called 'Network,' which consisted of Wilson sitting on a bunk, the dialogue of the movie 'Network' looped in while a chair on a rope went up and down.
All art is political in the sense that it serves someone's politics.
I didn't always value the ways black people talked. I thought, in order to make art out of it, you had to change it.
From the deep and the near South the sons and daughters of newly freed African slaves wander into the city. Isolated, cut off from memory, having forgotten the names of the gods and only guessing at their faces, they arrive dazed and stunned, their heart kicking in their chest with a song worth singing.
Aunt Esther: You think you supposed to know everything. Life is a mystery. Don't you know life is a mystery? I see you still trying to figure it out. It ain't all for you to know. It's all an adventure. That's all life is. But you got to trust that adventure.
I just write stuff down and pile it up, and when I get enough stuff, I spread it out and look at it and figure out how to use it.
I just want to come and sit on your front porch and drink mint juleps.
I don't write particularly to effect social change. I believe writing can do that, but that's not why I write.
Part of what our problem as blacks in America is that we don't claim that. Partly, you see, because of the linguistic environment in which we live.
You not the only one who's got wants and needs. But I held on to you, Troy. I took all my feelings, w=my wants and needs, my dreams... and I buried them inside you....Cause you was my husband.
It was early on in 1965 when I wrote some of my first poems. I sent a poem to 'Harper's' magazine because they paid a dollar a line. I had an eighteen-line poem, and just as I was putting it into the envelope, I stopped and decided to make it a thirty-six-line poem. It seemed like the poem came back the next day: no letter, nothing.
I think it was the ability of the theater to communicate ideas and extol virtues that drew me to it. And also, I was, and remain, fascinated by the idea of an audience as a community of people who gather willingly to bear witness.
If you want to participate in life, you have to deny your identity.
My hero when I was 14 was Sonny Liston. No matter what kinds of problems you were having with your parents or at school, whatever, Sonny Liston would go and knock guys out, and that made it all right.
Have a belief in yourself that is bigger than anyone's disbelief.
As soon as white folks say a play's good, the theater is jammed with blacks and whites.
I once wrote a short story called 'The Best Blues Singer in the World,' and it went like this: 'The streets that Balboa walked were his own private ocean, and Balboa was drowning.' End of story. That says it all. Nothing else to say. I've been rewriting that same story over and over again. All my plays are rewriting that same story.