4/27 Discussion

One main question I had was, how in the world is this play staged? Reading it makes it sound very confusing, but I can’t picture how it could have actually been staged at all.

What is the reason for the odd stage directions? BJJ is giving a sort of commentary in them – is this commentary meant for the audience at all?

What was the reason for Brer Rabbit? He doesn’t really interact onstage, other than wandering in occasionally to observe what is going on, or to look at the audience. What does the addition of Brer Rabbit do for this play?

4/27 Discussion

  1. Who is the Playwright supposed to represent in the prologue?
  2. In what ways does Jenkins-Jacob critique theatre in his creation of it? How does this add to our conversation of creating art for the sake of art from In Dahomey?
  3. Is the use of white face in An Octoroon minstrelsy? How is it different and how does this build off of works that we have read before?

4/27 Discussion Questions

First off, I just want to say that there is so much going on in this play — I’m glad we’ll get to discuss it together. I barely know where to start.

What does the tripling of roles in An Octoroon add to our conversation about identity and encounter within minstrelsy?

With our knowledge about theatre and the uses of drama from our course, what is BJJ trying to say when he writes, “I’m a ‘black playwright.’ I don’ t know exactly what that means.” How does this introduction affect how we treat the play that follows?

A big deal is made  out of the camera and how its relevance to the play doesn’t age well.   Does this say something about modernity and its relationship to the play’s themes? Or maybe the development of theatre?

4/27 Discussion Questions

What do the bees represent in the Prologue? How does the Prologue work to frame the play and how would the play be different without it? Does Jacob-Jenkin’s use of comedy add to the messages that he is putting forth in the play?

In the fourth act, BJJ and Playwright remark that the fourth act of the play is the most important and holds the most potential. Why did Branden Jacob-Jenkins choose to interrupt the play and derail it in the fourth act if it is supposedly the most important? What comes across in allowing BJJ and the playwright back onto the stage?

As the last text that we are reading, how does this compare to the others and what does it tell us about the Black and Green Atlantic? Where does it fit? What texts are the most similar to it and what are the least?

Discussion Questions (4/27)

  1. Though Jacobs-Jenkins remains relatively faithful to Boucicault’s work, he distinctly adds more conversation between the slaves in which the slaves speak in a contemporary way. What effect does that addition have?
  2. What is significance between the house slave and field slave dynamic, drawn out in Act 3?
  3. In Act 4, Wahnotee brutally kills McCloskey. Considering that Wahnotee was played by the playwright in red face and McCloskey was played by BJJ in white face, does the play achieve the expectations it sets for the fourth act of a play?

4/27 Discussion questions

  1. What does the comic relief of Minnie and Dido serve in the play? Do they simply point out the ridiculousness of the plot as the ending suggests or do they serve to point out the absurdity of slavery in general?
  2. The several asides from the playwright also function in a comedic way, but at times they are rather grim like when he remembers he has no therapist and turns to alcohol as his therapy. The darkness depicts the continuation of African American struggle in the modern world, but is layered underneath comedic elements. Why does Jacobs-Jenkins bury serious issues within comedy and is it appropriate to do so?
  3. The “trial” of M’Closky is an intersection of whites, blacks, and a Native American man. Ultimately M’Closky’s punishment is death by the Tomahawk even though George insisted on giving him a fair trial rather than giving into revenge. Was the murder of M’Closky a moral punishment misconstrued by white terms of justice or was his murder truly unjust?

4/27 Discussion Questions

  1.  How does the inclusion of BJJ and the playwright interjecting the story affect the reception of the story?  In his explanation of Act IV to the audience, does Jacobs-Jenkins suggest that these sorts of works are played out?
  2. How does the use of whiteface tie into our previous mentions of reclaimations of minstrelsy?  Is this genuine colorblind casting, or is Jenkins suggesting something else?
  3. In his desire to make art without analysis of the race problem, does Jacobs-Jenkins’s inclusion of the racialized stereotype imply that racism is nearly inevitable in America, especially in a space with meetings of peoples of different backgrounds like in Terrebonne?
  4. In the slight title shift from “The” to “An,” is this a suggestion from Jenkins that these sorts of stories of oppression have become too common, seen in his frustration with others analyzing his work as tackling the race problem, and that this sort of mistreatment has become so widespread that this tale is just one of many?

An Octoroon Presentation & Discussion Questions


I have attached a link to my presentation below. Hope you guys enjoy!


Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the addition of the Prologue in An Octoroon do for the play as a whole? 
  2. Does the slave dialogue remind you of other work that we’ve seen (Especially in Act 3)
  3. BJJ believes that Boucicault’s original ending is the best version, and how Boucicault intended the play to be seen. What does that tell you about the evolution of theater?
  4.  Given what we’ve seen the past few weeks, if you are of the culture you are portraying, are you exempt from “crossing the line”?

4/22 Discussion Questions

Does the disjunction between Irish Americans and the Irish in Ireland highlight the similarities and appropriate gestures between African Americans and the Irish, especially through the lens of the Civil Rights movement?

How do Irish artists activate this space or gesture without misstepping or mislabeling their own circumstances? Can they at all? Or will there always be some element that doesn’t fit?

Why does Doyle make the choice to validate Joey in the film, when as we discussed in class, his lack of credibility is key to Doyle’s conceptualization and contrast of the working class Dubliners?

4/22 Discussion Questions

Concerning the differences between the movie and the story, is Joey really more credible in the movie? Or is he just discredited in different ways?

Why did the movie choose to show more of the aspects of Ireland and make less gestures towards African Americans? How would it have been different if the film was more like the book? If the book was more like the film? Would it change the audience’s reception of either?

Are gestures from the Irish destined to fall short or suffer some kind of problematic disconnect? In connecting themselves to the black experience, are they really trying to reject colonialism and failing to mimic the colonizers (Onkey 4)?