Professor of Dramatic Criticism James Leverett from The Yale School of Drama joins us in this video to give context and background to Dion Boucicault’s 1859 melodrama THE OCTOROON. In our next mainstage play, playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has radically reshaped the original to dizzying meta-theatrical effect.
Boucicault’s play courted immediate controversy when it debuted in the US. The play examines race, slavery, gender, and the 19th century’s perception of these themes; in other words, a prime play for Jacob-Jenkins (author of the blistering NEIGHBORS and current APPROPRIATE at Signature Theatre) to explore.
James Leverett is Associate Professor of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism. He holds a B.A. in German from Millsaps College, an M.A. in German from Rutgers University, and a M.A. in Theatre from the City University of New York. He was founding director of the Literary Services department at Theatre Communications Group, the national organization of nonprofit professional theatres. There he was series editor of Dramatists Sourcebook, Plays in Process, and New Plays USA. In 1988, he received the first Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas Award for service to the field. His writings have appeared in numerous national and international publications, including the Soho News, Village Voice, American Theatre, Performing Arts Journal, Theater heute, Die Deutsche Bühne and Theater, for which he is a contributing editor. His consultancy work includes the Rockefeller Foundation, Fulbright Fellowships, McKnight Foundation, W. Alton Jones Foundation, Mellon Foundation, Alpert Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and New York State Council on the Arts, for which he served as chair of the Theater Panel. He has taught in the Playwriting Workshop at the University of Iowa and worked as a dramaturg at the Mark Taper Forum, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Theatre for a New Audience, Berkshire Theatre Festival, and New York Shakespeare Festival. In addition to his position at Yale, he is visiting professor in the Theatre Division of the Columbia University School of the Arts.