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Blackness in Opera$
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Naomi Andre, Karen M. Bryan, and Eric Saylor

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036781

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036781.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 27 February 2021

Performers in Catfish Row

Performers in Catfish Row

Porgy and Bess as Collaboration

(p.164) 8 Performers in Catfish Row
Blackness in Opera

Gwynne Kuhner Brown

University of Illinois Press

This chapter challenges the assumption that George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess is something done by whites to blacks by highlighting the indispensable, active role played by African American performers in every critically successful production of the opera. Porgy and Bess has been the subject of controversy for decades owing to its depiction of African Americans. Many of the arguments against Gershwin's work casts African Americans as the victims of malevolent or thoughtless white actions. This chapter examines how Porgy and Bess came into being as an opportunity for productive interracial collaboration by focusing on the Theatre Guild production of 1935, one of several postwar productions of Porgy and Bess that have managed to bring performers and the director together. It also considers Gershwin's respect for his cast members as individuals and concludes with a discussion of five case studies that speak of the tension in the relationship between white directorial staff and black performers in Porgy and Bess, including the production of Samuel Goldwyn's 1959 Technicolor film about Catfish Row.

Keywords:   interracial collaboration, George Gershwin, Porgy and Bess, African American performers, African Americans, Theatre Guild production, whites, Samuel Goldwyn, Catfish Row

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