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February 4, 2000

New Book Aides Learning Diversity in the Theatre

By Emily Felling
UW-RF News Bureau

University of Wisconsin-River Falls Professors Margaret Swanson and Robin Murray worked diligently for seven years to make their book "Playwrights of Color," come alive. During those years, the book went from an idea to a concept and then finally was published by the Intercultural Press.

The book is named after the theater diversity class that Swanson and Murray created eight years ago. "Playwrights of Color" resulted from a need for a guiding tool that professors can use when teaching about diversity in the theater. The book consists of 15 plays written by playwrights of color, 14 from the United States and one from Canada. Each chapter focuses on a single play and has background material to enhance the student's understanding and appreciation of both the dramatic work and the cultural or ethnic perspective of the playwright, Swanson said.

In addition, all chapters include an overview of the historical, sociological, cultural or political background relevant to the play. Playwright biographies and important production companies' descriptions are included the book's chapters.

Some of the book's plays were commercial successes, while others were critical successes and financial failures, according to Swanson. Swanson notes there is a wealth of plays available, but that the decision to include a play does not suggest that she and Murray thought that it is better or more important than other plays that were excluded. She added, though, that the plays they selected have much to teach.

The playwrights and their subjects include African Americans, Asian Americans, Latin Americans and Native Americans. Some of the plays and playwrights include: "Black Eagles" by Leslie Lee, "Letters to a Student Revolutionary" by Elizabeth Wong, "Broken Eggs" by Eduardo Machado and "Pow Wow; or the Great Victory" by William Lang.

By listening to the voices of playwrights of color, all of us can learn more about the pluralistic society in which we live, understand the issues that divide us and come to a fuller appreciation of cultural diversity, Swanson said.

The book costs $59.95 and is available by ordering it through the Intercultural Press, Inc. via mail, phone, fax or e-mail. Write to: Intercultural Press, Inc., P.O. Box 700, Yarmouth, ME 04096. Phone: 800/370-2665 or 207/846-5168. Fax: 207/846-5181. The publisher can be reached via e-mail at:

For more information, call Swanson at 715/425-3115.

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