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Native Son (Kelley/Wright) - Full Length Play, Drama

Native Son (Kelley/Wright)

Nambi E. Kelley

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Full Length Play, Drama

5m, 4f

ISBN: 9780573704659

Richard Wright's iconic novel about oppression, freedom, and justice comes to life on stage in this ground-breaking adaptation.

More Information Below:

Description | Characters | Media | Author | Now Playing | Reviews
: Acting Edition
: Large Print
: Stage Manager

Minimum Fee: $75 per performance


Full Length Play


Adaptations (Literature)

90 minutes

Time Period - 1930s

Settings Of Play -

December 1939. Chicago’s Blackbelt and surrounding areas.


No intermission, Puppetry, Stage Combat

Interior Set, Unit Set/Multiple Settings, Bare Stage/Simple Set

Period Costumes




College Theatre / Student, Professional Theatre, Large Stage

Suffocating in rat-infested poverty on the South Side of Chicago in the 1930s, 20-year-old Bigger Thomas struggles to find a place for himself in a world whose prejudice has shut him out. After taking a job in a wealthy white man's house, Bigger unwittingly unleashes a series of events that violently and irrevocably seal his fate. Adapted with theatrical ingenuity by Chicago's own Nambi E. Kelley, this Native Son captures the power of Richard Wright's novel for a whole new generation. 


4 out of 4 stars. You never doubt the truth … you are seeing in this gutsy, powerful, relentless, profoundly disturbing piece of Chicago theater.” - Chicago Tribune, Read More  

"Stirring ... strong, serious stuff, just as it should be." - Wall Street Journal, Read More  

"5 out of 5 stars. Playwright Nambi E. Kelley’s achievement is impressive not only for successfully dramatizing the tale of Bigger Thomas and his seemingly inevitable succumbing to systemic racism and poverty on the South Side, but for doing so by not being slavish to her source." - Time Out Chicago, Read More  

"Unflinching in its honesty and searing in its passion, Native Son is not only a Grade-A example of literary adaptation, but also a play that truly speaks to our times and the ever-troubled American spirit that defines them." - Chicago Theatre Review, Read More 

Check out these photos of the co-production between The Court Theatre and American Blues Theatre of Native Son in September 2014.

Native Son premiered in a co-production between the American Blues Theater and the Court Theatre in Chicago, IL in September 2014 under the direction of Seret Scott.



5m, 4f


Role(s) for Black Actor(s), Ensemble cast, Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle)


-The live black rat that Bigger chases, and the white cat can be puppets activated by an unseen manipulator.

BIGGER - African-American male of 20
THE BLACK RAT - Afican-American male 20s, the voice inside Bigger’s head
MARY - Caucasian female, early 20s, edgy and simultaneously precious
JAN - Caucasian male, 30s, well-intentioned with an edge; plays a variety of roles
HANNAH - African-American female, early 40s, tough, broken, the edge of anger; plays a veriety of roles
BUDDY - African-American male to play teens, soft, a follower; plays a variety of roles
BESSIE - African-American female to play teens to mid 20s, alcoholic; also plays VER and a variety of roles
MRS. DALTON - Caucasian female, late 40s to early 50s, blind and well-intentioned; plays a variety of roles
BRITTEN - Caucasian male, 40s-50s, main investigator, thrives on mischief; plays a variety of roles

  • Scene from Native Son

  • Native Son - Act One: Fear

  • Native Son - Act Two: Flight

  • Native Son - Fate

Nambi E. Kelley

Nambi E. Kelley

Nambi has penned plays for Steppenwolf, Goodman Theatre, and Court Theatre/American Blues Theater in Chicago, Lincoln Center in New York, and internationally internationally with LATT Children’s Theatre/Unibooks Publishing Company (South Korea) Teatri Sbagliati (Italy), and The Finger Players (Singapore) where she also performed in the co-adapted production in Singapore of The Book of Living and ... view full profile

Now Playing
gina neuerer 2/15/2017 10:24 AM
An excellent, contemporary adaptation of the novel

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