Madea: Coonery or Black Theatre?

In the 21st century, Tyler Perry has dominated the Black Theatre scene. His popular, “Urban Theatre” melodramas have been a huge success over the past several years grossing close to $100 million in ticket and DVD sales. Several of his plays feature the recurring character “Madea,” an outspoken grandmomma played by Perry himself. Many of us are familiar with Tyler Perry’s work outside of theatre. He’s dropped three box-office hits: Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2002), Madea Goes to Jail (2006) and Daddy’s Little Girls (2007), he’s written a New York Times bestseller, and is releasing a Black mini-series entitled House of Pain on TBS this summer. But his success has not been enough to grant him the respect of the National Black Theatre Festival. Founder Larry Leon Hamilton all but charged Perry for minstrelsy, calling his plays “low brow,” as compared to his “quality theatre of excellence.” There appears to be a class struggle going on, as Hamilton suggests that fans of urban theatre lack intellect. Take a look for yourself,

Minstrel shows were once the most popular type of theatre in the world. Is Tyler Perry moving black theatre back to the era of stereotypical representations of Blackness? Or are Larry Hamilton and Theo Huxtable (Malcolm Jamal Warner) tripping because traditional Black theatre isn’t getting the love it deserves?

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Published on March 6, 2007 at 12:02 pm. 15 Comments.
Filed under entertainment,mainstream culture,theatre.