Musical Theater

Question #1 Pg. 236

How did the minstrel show develop? Describe its form, major characters, and musical content. When and why did African Americans become minstrels? In what seminal ways did African American and White minstrel performances differ?

Minstrel shows, or theatrical entertainment featuring performers in black face emerged in the 1840’s. Thomas Dartmouth and a few others are noted fr developing the black makeup face used by minstrel performers. The idea of minstrel shows were to mirror the stereotypes of southern African American life. These parodies came in the form of songs, dances and comedy skits. Minstrel shows usually comprised of an opening song, miscellaneous variety acts, an elaborate skit, and a final dance which was included the black face as a finale.

African Americans entered the popular theater following the Civil War between 1865-1890. Although blacks still used the black face, it was done in an effort to amend the message of minstrel shows. Compared to white minstrel performances, black minstrel performances reinforced images of independence within African American communities through the use of different gestures and tones. Black minstrel performances also showcase black talent and contradicted the acts of white minstrel performers. With this the authenticity of their white counterparts was questioned.

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