Background of “The America Play”

Background of “The America Play

Authored by Denzel Belin

The America Play takes place in “a great hole” in “the middle of nowhere,” a hole that is “an exact replica of the Great Hole of History” (159). The first act of the play focuses on the Foundling Father (or Lesser-Known), a black gravedigger who has traveled west, abandoning his profession and his family, to entertain crowds with his Lincoln impersonations. The Foundling Father relates anecdotes (often apocryphal) about Lincoln’s life, and recites passages from his speeches, but he achieves success as an impersonator only after he begins to enact Lincoln’s assassination on stage, allowing members of the audience to choose weapons and “shoot” him from behind. In the second act, the Foundling Father’s wife Lucy and his son Brazil go west to search for his bones in the “great hole” that he excavated before dying alone. As they unearth the detritus of his life and career, Lucy and Brazil remember his influence upon their own lives and mourn his lonely death. At the end of the play, the Foundling Father appears before them, enabling them to lay him to rest – dressed as Abraham Lincoln – in the “great hole.”

Pertinent cultural, historical, and social background of the play:

Timeline

Recommended Book List

Race at St. Olaf Today

Interview: Donna Wright

Newsletters and Scholarly Discussion