The Blacks ran at the CTH in Harlem, Jan. 31-Feb. 23. The 1961 production of The Blacks is remembered for a number of powerful reasons. It was one of the first big successes of the then-nascent Off-Off-Broadway movement. It was also one of the longest-running New York productions not on Broadway, playing 1,408 performances. Most importantly, however, it was a landmark in African-American theatre, as the cast was entirely made of black men and women, many of whom went on to greater fame. Among the actors to pass through the staging at St. Mark's Playhouse were James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Browne, Louis Gossett, Jr. and Cicely Tyson.
The play, subtitled "A Clown Show," deals in Genet's usual concerns of power, social perversity, illusion and role-playing. It shows a group of blacks who enact a ritual rape and murder of a white woman, while being watched by another group of black wearing white masks.
The CTH, which uses many local actors and mounts serious but seldom-seen dramas, has won acclaim since starting up in 1999, with lauded productions of Native Son and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. It has also received an Obie Award grant.