In Autumn of this year, the UK’s Theatre Royal Bath announced a season of works from North America for its Ustinov Studio Theatre. Opening the season was Nancy Meckler directing Canadian John Mighton’s poignant comedy, HALF LIFE, about an octogenarian love affair. Up in the second slot Artistic Director Laurence Boswell himself directed Tanya Moodie and Joseph Marcell in TROUBLE IN MIND by the pioneering playwright Alice Childress.
TROUBLE IN MIND is Childress’s first professionally produced play. The author directed the first production as well, which debuted on November 5, 1955, in Greenwich Mews Theatre, New York City, and ran for 91 performances. For TROUBLE IN MIND, Childress won an Obie Award in 1956 for Best Original Off-Broadway production, making her the first African-American woman to win an Obie. The show was a hit with critics and audiences at the time. The play is about the troubled production of a fictional, anti-lynching Broadway play, CHAOS IN BELLEVILLE. Wiletta Mayer, the African-American lead of the CHAOS, as well as the other black actors, must deal with the condescending attitude of their white director, Al Manners. Wiletta stands up to Manners and reveals his racist attitudes but faces severe consequences as a result.