Native Son (Revised)

by  Richard Wright, Paul Green

Full Length Play, Drama  /  15m, 14f

The story of Bigger Thomas, a black youth seeking his identity in the white world. This adpatation was originally produced by Orson Welles and John Houseman.…

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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    15m, 14f
  • Duration

    Duration

    90 minutes
  • SubGenre

    Subgenre

    Adaptations (Literature)
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Adult
    • Teen (Age 14 - 18)

Additional Info

"Native Son is drama and theatre with mind and style of its own." -- The New York Times

"Native Son is one of the most important works ever written in the city. You never doubt the truth of all that you are seeing in this gutsy, powerful, relentless, profoundly disturb-ing piece of theater." -- The Chicago Tribune

In 1938, a young African-American named Robert Nixon, a man born in small-town Louisiana, was executed by the electric chair in Chicago for the murder of Florence Thompson Castle, whom Nixon was convicted of killing with a brick. Even by the standards of the time, the racist outpouring that followed Nixon's arrest was astonishing. "He is very black — almost pure Negro" read the last paragraph of the story in this newspaper on June 5, 1938. "His physical characteristics suggest an early link in the species."

That case — and, according to interviews at the time, that specific article — provoked a brilliant young Chicago writer named Richard Wright, the son of a sharecropper, to fully forge "Native Son." The 1940 story of a young black man named Bigger Thomas for whom racism, poverty and ill treatment become so imbued in his psyche as to turn his South Side existence into hell itself. "Native Son" is one of the most thematically crucial and formatively complex American novels of the first half of the 20th century. It sold 250,000 copies within three weeks of its publication. But, all boiled down, it's the story of an impoverished and oppressed man trapped in the very depths of human existence and in a destiny defined and compelled by others.

Mr. Green and Mr. Wright have translated a murder story into a portrait of racial fright and hatred and given it a conclusion that brings peace to a taut, bewildered mind.

Bigger Thomas is an ignorant Negro boy who hates a world that has imprisoned him with shadowy forces he does not understand. On the one side he smolders with resentment; on the other he is panicky with fright. He murders the daughter of his white employer in terror and by accident. But the murder gives him a sense of power and achievement. Now he is a man of action, fighting the enemy for his own life.

He is captured, of course, in a manhunt through Chicago's rookeries, and his lawyer persuades him to plead guilty in the courts. At the trial his lawyer defends him, not on the facts of the case, which are hopeless, but on the causes of Bigger's psychological tangle. As he stands in the death cell Bigger for the first time understands that he is a member of the human race.
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Considerations

Performing Groups

  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Shoestring Budget

Cautions

  • Caution Alcohol Alcohol
  • Caution Smoking Smoking

License details

  • Minimum Fee: $100 per performance

Production

Details

  • Time Period: 1940s / WWII
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Setting: The Black Belt of Chicago, 1939
  • Additional Features: No intermission

Casting

15m, 14f
BIGGER THOMAS - A Negro youth about twenty or twenty-one years old.

HANNAH THOMAS - His mother, fifty-five.

VERA THOMAS - His sister, sixteen.

BUDDY THOMAS - His brother, twelve.

JACK HENSON

GUS MITCHELL

"G.H." RANKIN - Cronies of Bigger and about his age.

ERNIE JONES - A cafe and night club owner.

HENRY G. DALTON - A capitalist, about fifty-five.

ELLEN DALTON - His wife, about fifty.

MARY DALTON - Their daughter, twenty-two or twenty-three.

PEGGY MACAULIFE - The Dalton cook and maid, forty.

JEFF BRITTEN - A private detective and local politician, forty-five.

JAN ERLONE - A labor leader, twenty-eight.

JED NORRIS - A newspaperman, forty.

CLARA MEARS - Bigger's girlfriend, twenty.

Miss EMMET - A social worker, thirty-two.

DAVID A. BUCKLEY - District Attorney, forty.

EDWARD MAX - An elderly lawyer.

REVEREND HAMMOND - A fundamentalist preacher, fifty.

REPORTERS, GUARDS, JUDGE ALVIN C. HANLEY, and COURT STENOGRAPHER
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Cast Attributes

  • Role(s) for Black Actor(s)
  • Reduced casting (Doubling Possible)
  • Multicultural casting
  • Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle)

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Authors

Richard Wright

Richard Wright

Paul Green

Paul Green (1894 - 1981) received the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for In Abraham's Bosom. Other works include Johnny Johnson (music by Kurt Weill), the stage ...

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Native Son opened on Broadway in the Saint James Theatre on March 24, 194.

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