Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Philip Blackwell, A Forgotten Playwright

The following is the introduction to a Q & A interview with the black gay playwright Philip Blackwell (now deceased) that appeared in the New York Native in 1985. Unfortunately, Blackwell has become a forgotten playwright. Perhaps one day his name will become as familiar as that of fellow black literary figures Assotto Saint, Melvin Dixon, and Joseph Beam.

Philip Blackwell, a 32-year-old openly gay black playwright, has had three plays produced since his arrival to New York in 1980 (Silk and Silver, The Lover's Play, and Twoheads.) He is a native of Minneapolis where he began his involvement in the theatre at the age of five in a city-sponsored theatre project. While still in high school, he studied acting at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, a city Blackwell describes as having "some of the best theatre in the country."

Later he went on to earn a B.A. (summa) in theatre from the University of Minnesota and a M.A. in playwriting and theatre history from Tufts University in Boston.

"I got my Equity card when I was 22. I was an actor for ten years. That's how I made my living." He has also directed plays. Blackwell's interest in playwriting came about after he, still living in Minneapolis, "started a theatre company of my own. We did a lot of comedy, satire, and children's folk tales. I started writing more and more things. From song lyrics to scenes. When I finally went away to graduate school," he continues, "I had a chance to take some playwriting seminars. I took two years of it. I had a chance to work with actors and I began to like it."

Blackwell also wrote a long short story called "Left-footed." It appeared in the black gay literary magazine Blackheart 1: Yemonja.


  1. Dear Mr Smith - do you know who currently handles the performance rights to Philip Blackwell's plays - specifically "Night Full of Talk Only" a play that has stayed with me ever since I first encountered it 30 years ago. I am working with the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center to do a celebration of voices lost to us in conjunction with Natl Aids Awareness DAy, and I very much want to be able to introduce this great play by Philip Blackwell with a new audience. I am grateful for any information you might be able to provide me - including where I might be able to find more of his work in print. If you can help me, please email me at kmarlowe1@gmail - even if it is just to commiserate with me on the loss to our communities, and the world, of this wonderful voice. Thank you,
    Peter Mortensen