African American playwrights are writing about difficult topics that affect the hip-hop generation. In this paper, I will focus on the transformation of hip –hop through theatre in the work of Robert Alexander, A Preface to the Alien Garden, and the work of Kamilla Forbes, A Rhyme Deferred. These playwrights reflect the evolution and different elements of the hip-hop culture. There are many similarities and differences between them regarding themes, intent, definition of hip hop generation and black theatre, the impact each play has on the hip-hop generation, and the historical context of each play. Both playwrights do an amazing reflecting an accurate depiction of the hip-hop generation, which embodies gangster rap, regular hip-hop music, dance, and music. Kamilla Forbes is an actress, director, and playwright who wrote and directed Rhyme Deferred. She is the Founding Artistic Director of the Hip Hop Theatre Junction where she focuses on producing and creating works reflecting the hip-hop generation. Her thoughts and passion for hip hop and theatre and the idea that the new hip hop generation was not reflected through theatre, sparked her to began her story and write the play Rhyme Deferred. This highly energetic play engages the audience through dance and breaking down the “third wall” between the actors and the audience. Rhyme Deferred is the story of two brothers, both rappers. The older brother, Kain, is a mainstream rapper and becomes successful. The younger and more talented brother, Gabe, struggles in the hip-hop underground as he attempts to develop his skills. As older brother Kain's popularity begins to fade, he returns to the streets to try to regain his credibility. Haunted by a greedy record label constantly pushing for more product, Kain resorts to stealing younger brother Gabe's notebook of rhymes in a desperate attempt to come up with fresh material (Drumming). The common good-brother-vs.-evil-brother motif here is couched in specific hip-hop terms. Gabe's journey reflects that of unsigned rap artists worldwide, and Kain's flamboyant similarity to Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs is none too subtle. Some common themes throughout this play include defining “hip-hop theatre”, energy, performance, homophobia, generational hip-hop, and fashion (Drumming). All of these themes contributes to Forbes goal to direct a play to reflects the new generation of hip hop as well as educate individuals on the progress that needs to be made with the hip hop culture (Drumming pg. 4). Robert Alexander is a playwright, dramatice, and author of 29 plays, including A Preface to the Alien Garden. This dramatic and cut-throat play takes place in a crack house in Kansas city in which a group of young gangsters tell a story. This gangsta rap agitprop has a strong impact and is expressed through lots of provocative, profane language and rapping. Alexander incorporates Shakespearean, Western, and gangster ideas into one play. Some common themes throughout this play are aliens, hip-hop culture, gangsta rap, and the Book of Ezekiel (Outlaw Blues). There are many similarities and differences between Forbes’ and Alexander’s plays and they both have a common goal to transform hip-hop through theatre. In Rhyme Deferred, hip hop is defined as movement and an engaging expression of the personal struggles African Americans who are apart of the new generation hip hop era; in the play this is presented through music, rhythm, beats, and rhymes. Because Forbes defines this hip-hop generation as engaging she makes the play come alive. She initially does this by having live deejays on stage throughout the play. These deejays provide music and beats throughout the play to help tell the story between the brothers. They also encourage audience participation. Forbes also has true music artists and poets play the main characters, Kain and Gabe. Kain and Gabe freestyle throughout the play, not only does this make the play come alive as a performance but it...
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Elam, Harry Justin and Robert Alexander. "Rhyme Deferred." The Fire This Time: African-American Plays for the 21st Century. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2004. N. Page. Print.
Elam, Harry Justin., and Robert Alexander. "A Preface to the Alien Garden." The Fire This Time: African-American Plays for the 21st Century. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2004. N. page. Print.
"Outlaw Blues." Robert Alexander. N.p., 05 Apr. 1998. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.
Drumming, Neil. "Character Issues Rhyme Deferred Nails down the Fledgling Concept of Hip-hop Theater but Still Has to Figure out What Exactly It 's Talking About." Washington City Paper. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.
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