Representing Blackness: Metatheater and Genre Remediation in 21st-Century African American Plays

Project Details


Since 2008, a new generation of experimental black playwrights has
been emerging in the U.S. Although researchers note the political
aspirations of their work, they have not yet considered the aesthetic
strategies that underpin these political purposes. Yet, in these plays,
metatheatrical devices such as audience address, rewriting and roleplay self-reflexively theatricalize blackness, and remediations of
popular (media) genres similarly foreground race. Combining theories
of metatheater, cognitive theater studies and post-black studies with
genre theory and American cultural studies, this project situates the
metatheater and genre innovations by five African American
playwrights on the axis of political comment and theater aesthetics.
Three questions guide the analysis of twelve plays premiered since
2008: 1) how do metatheatrical devices shape the representation of
blackness; 2) to what effect are popular (media) genres remediated
with regard to race representation; 3) to what extent has the
representation of blackness by these 21st-century playwrights
developed compared to that of their late 20th-century predecessors?
By exploring how 21st-century African American metatheater reworks
and remediates popular entertainment genres and questions
contemporary attitudes towards blackness in American mass culture,
the project connects to the topical debate on ‘the black body’ that the
recent racial police violence in the U.S. revived, and carries it into the
realm of the theater.
Effective start/end date1/11/2131/10/23

Flemish discipline codes

  • Contemporary literature
  • Literatures in English
  • Postcolonial studies
  • Stylistics and textual analysis
  • Literary criticism


  • metatheater
  • African American studies
  • remediation