“Today, we colored men and women, everywhere – are up against it… In the South, they make it as impossible as they can for us to get educated. In the North, they make a pretence of liberality; they give us the ballot and a good education, and then snuff us out. Each year, the problem just to live, gets more difficult to solve.”
Rediscovered by Finborough Theatre Artistic Director Neil McPherson, Rachel is a genuinely lost landmark of American theatre – the first play by an African American woman ever produced professionally. The European premiere – and the world’s first production for nearly 100 years – of Rachel is directed by exciting young director Ola Ince, as part of Black History Month.
Rachel is a young, educated, middle-class woman.
But she is born into an African-American family in the early 20th century – a world in which ignorance and violence prevail.
While her family and neighbours find different ways to survive, Rachel’s dreams of getting married and becoming a mother collide with the tragic events of her family’s past as she confronts the harsh reality of a racist world.
“Our hands are clean; theirs are red with blood. We are destined to failure – they, to success. Their children shall grow up in hope; ours, in despair.”
Written exactly midway between the American Civil War and the end of slavery, and the explosion of Civil Rights in the 1960s, this hauntingly beautiful and profoundly shocking play still asks urgent questions for today.
Rachel was first produced by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1916 in Washington, D.C., and subsequently at the Neighborhood Theater, New York City, and in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with an all-black cast.
Leading African-American historian Alain Leroy Locke said of Rachel that it was “the first successful drama written by a Negro and interpreted by Negro actors.”