Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
At a cast party following a Dillard University theatre production in 1965, Guy West, a senior in theatre, stated that one of his dreams was to perform in his own theatre. These remarks by West proved to be the inspiration that began New Orleans' Dashiki Project Theatre. Prior to 1965, Free Southern Theater was the only theatre of the black experience in New Orleans. Through Dashiki Project Theatre, the black community found another opportunity to relate to black experience through the medium of theatrical performance. In the mid-sixties Theodore Gilliam, a Dillard University professor, and his associates founded Dashiki Project Theatre in New Orleans. For more than twenty years Dashiki staged many plays, including new black plays as well as published traditional plays. This theatre proved to be the second most prolific black theatre in the South during the 1960s. Despite the important contributions of this theatre, only a minimum of scholarly research has examined its existence. This dissertation chronicles the history of Dashiki Project Theatre, examines how the theatre related to the Black Arts Movement of the sixties and seventies, and highlights how the theatre established a more inclusive black identity in its structure as well as in its productions. To accomplish these goals, this work examines evidence in the form of books, articles, theatre reviews, playbills, and research in the form of personal interviews with key figures and constituents associated with Dashiki. Thus, this study results in the first comprehensive documentation of Dashiki's existence, the Black Arts Movement's impact on it, and the establishing of a unique black identity. In focusing on the development and historical significance of Dashiki Project Theatre through the context of the Black Power and Black Arts Movements, this dissertation explains how Dashiki Project Theatre reflected the tastes, the guidance, and the vision of Ted Gilliam. It also explains how Dashiki Project Theatre avoided political posturing while subtly making choices that would impact New Orleans society, choices that did not always align with the philosophies of the more militant movements of the 1960s. This study, the first to deal with the impact and significance of this vital theatre, recognizes and documents the contributions of a notable black theatre operation that scholarship has ignored.
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Coleman, Stanley R., "Dashiki Project Theatre: black identity and beyond" (2003). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 922.