Open Forum

Black Stories/Social Justice Devising Material

  • 1.  Black Stories/Social Justice Devising Material

    Posted 06-29-2020 13:20
    Any suggestions for source material from which to devise on the topics of the Black experience and/or social justice in general? I'm more than open to banks of stories, historical archives, any specific events that might be more obscure, etc.
    I'm really hoping to dig into devising with some of my more advanced students this year. Thanks!

    Drew Whitley
    D. W. Daniel High School
    Central, SC

  • 2.  RE: Black Stories/Social Justice Devising Material

    Posted 06-30-2020 07:33
    Edited by Suzanne Katz 06-30-2020 07:36
    About this Collection | Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938 | Digital Collections | Library of Congress

    Also, check for narrative collections at your local historical societies.  If you are interested in stories of the Great Migration, read  The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.

    Suzanne Katz
    Washington DC

  • 3.  RE: Black Stories/Social Justice Devising Material

    Posted 07-01-2020 12:05
    Ragtime would be an excellent musical to read as a class and discuss the black/immigrant experience in America at the turn of the 19th century.

    Kathryn Chapin
    Theater Director/Social Studies Teacher
    Teton County Schools
    Jackson WY

  • 4.  RE: Black Stories/Social Justice Devising Material

    Posted 07-01-2020 19:30
    I've always wanted to adapt The Woman in the Snow by Patricia McKissack. It is a beautiful ghost story with an embedded narrative of Southern racism in bus-riding and driving. You can find it in her award-winning collection of short stories The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural. Always envisioned it as very physical a story-theatre ensemble piece, but I am going to look at it again and see if it would work in the DL environment.

    Janet Borrus
    Santee Education Complex
    Los Angeles CA

  • 5.  RE: Black Stories/Social Justice Devising Material

    Posted 07-02-2020 01:02


    I recommend N by Adrienne Pender. It is the story of the historic feud between Charles Gilpin, the first African-American to appear on Broadway, and Eugene O'Neill over the use of the N-word in Emperor Jones. The role gave Gilpin his first big role and also destroyed his career. Also, She'll Find Her Way Home by Valetta Anderson, a family drama in which skin color threatens a budding young romance. It's based on the African-American founders of Mound Bayou, Mississippi right after the Civil War.  

    This is a historical and dramatic representation of the African-American experience. 

    Julie Danao-Salkin
    University of Miami
    Miami FL

  • 6.  RE: Black Stories/Social Justice Devising Material

    Posted 07-02-2020 17:09
    You can tell by my photo that I am a white woman, and I willingly hand the microphone to any Black person on this matter, but I hope you will keep in mind that many students will be traumatized by the whole experience of being trapped at home, possibly knowing multiple people who have died of Covid-19, and watching all of these videos of Black people dying.  While they might need to talk and process as a group what they have seen, they might not benefit from exploring and inhabiting contemporaneous characters going through traumatic experiences.

    It might be good to step back in time, perhaps to the Civil Rights Movement, or even earlier.  If I were still teaching--I retired in June 2019--I believe I would have students explore oral histories and either stitch together monologues from the histories or write monologues based on the source material there.

    If you search for "oral histories..." then add anything, you will find plenty of material.  Many of them have been transcribed.

    I searched under "Library of Congress civil rights oral history" and found an astonishing collection.  There were white allies during the Civil Rights movement, so performance material would not be limited to Black students.

    Many issues of "The Crisis" magazine, founded in 1910, are online.

    Since performances for the foreseeable future will need to be via Zoom, or something similar, it seems a great time to devise theatre pieces of monologues.  I wish you all kinds of success!

    C. J. Breland
    Retired Theatre Arts Educator
    Asheville NC

  • 7.  RE: Black Stories/Social Justice Devising Material

    Posted 07-19-2020 12:13

    C. J.

    Please send more information to me about this project. I am a cofounder of a group called Minority Voices Theatre here in Eugene, Oregon. And I believe this material might work well for our mission. Here is the website for our theatre:

    Thanks for your great information. I also asked for a copy of your Spoon River

    Stan Coleman

    Stanley Coleman
    Eugene OR

  • 8.  RE: Black Stories/Social Justice Devising Material

    Posted 07-20-2020 12:09
    Edited by Ginny Butsch 07-20-2020 15:33
    A fellow troupe director and I have been working on a project that encourages Devising for the coming school year. We came up with the idea after presenting "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," (A collection of devised and improvised scripts) and attending a workshop on Devising. After watching the events of 2020 unfold, and particularly the Black Lives Matter movement, we wanted to give teachers and students the opportunity to express their views on these remarkable times. Although, our project is only open to students in the Southeast, maybe you could start the same project out there in the Northwest. Check the project out at

    The best part is the material can be used in person or online, or going back and forth between the two. Even performances could be virtual. and FREE! Feel free to use the idea and contact me if you have any questions. My new email is below. I had to retire due to the dangers COVID-19 presented to me :(

    Dr. Frieda Gebert

    Frieda Gebert
    Drama and Speech
    Boyle County Schools
    Danville, KY

  • 9.  RE: Black Stories/Social Justice Devising Material

    Posted 08-16-2020 10:16
    Edited by Steven Fleming 08-16-2020 13:51
    Have you considered having your students bring source material?  Devising theatre tends to work well, when all of the participants are part of the process form the start.  I do recognize the need to have some structures in place to help the development process, but I often had success in allowing the students to bring in stimulus.  You can pick the medium (ie: they bring in newspaper articles, headlines, visual artwork, music, ect.)  Sometimes I would even have them write a short statement on why the piece they selected impacted them.  Devised theatre can be a great tool to let your student's voice shine.  My biggest advice is to be a facilitator of the process and be open to a change in direction based on the story that the student voice wants to tell.  As the facilitator you can set requirements or structures to ensure you meet your curricular standards and follow any school policies.

    Steven Fleming
    Columbia, MD