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Native Son, Famously Adapted by NC Playwright, Receives New Treatment

Richard Wright’s 1939 novel Native Son sold 250,000 copies in hardcover within three weeks of being published. Not without controversy for its unflinching portrayal of the racial divide in America that existed at the time, Native Son has remained in print despite being frequently banned and challenged.

North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Paul Green adapted the novel for Broadway. Directed by Orson Welles, it ran for 114 performances in 1941. Wright also adapted his novel for the stage.

(North Carolina Writers’ Network members, of course, will be familiar with the play Native, written by North Carolina’s Ian Finley, which tells the story of the fateful collaboration between Paul Green and Richard Wright during the adaptation of Wrights’ Native Son. An excerpt from this play was performed at the NCWN 2018 Fall Conference.)

Now, Native Son will be introduced to a new generation of citizens through an adaptation by Nambi E. Kelley, running September 11-29 at PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill. The production will be directed by Colette Robert.

The Chicago Tribune called this show “gutsy, powerful, relentless.” The show runs ninety minutes with no intermission. Playmakers offers this warning:

Due to rough language, adult situations, and racially-charged scenarios in pre-Civil Rights Era Chicago, we encourage all patrons to use their own discretion in determining the appropriateness of the material.

For tickets, click here.

Other venues around the Triangle will offer opportunities for community engagement.

On Monday, August 26, the Stanford L. Warren Branch of Durham County Public Libraries will host a discussion of Native Son with PlayMakers’ cast and directors.

Through August 8, the Chapel Hill Public Library has issued a call for artists. Anyone who submits an original poster-size work based on the novel or its adaptations will receive four tickets to the show. One grand-prize winner will win $500.

For more on Richard Wright’s Native Son, click here.