Trouble in Mind makes its Broadway debut presented by Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre. Alice Childress’s powerful and prescient drama, starring Tony Award winner LaChanze, finally reaches Broadway 64 years after an expected transfer was canceled. Trouble In Mind has now closed on Broadway.
When Wiletta, a stalwart Black actress of the stage, is cast as the lead in a new Broadway production, she’s thrilled just to be getting work. While other Black cast members struggle with painful stereotypes in the play, a Southern melodrama written and directed by white men, she encourages them to grin and bear it. Yet as rehearsals grow tense and the cast faces worsening mistreatment, Wiletta hits her limit with the white-run industry to which she’s devoted her life.
Alice Childress’s wry and witty examination of racism, identity, and ego in the world of New York theatre receives its long overdue Broadway debut. Childress’s drama debuted off Broadway in 1955 at Stella Holt's Greenwich Mews Theatre, where it ran for 91 performances to critical acclaim. In a startling turn of life echoing art, producers refused to transfer Trouble in Mind to Broadway unless the ending was changed to something more upbeat. Childress refused, and the transfer, which would have made her the first African-American woman playwright in Broadway’s history, never came to fruition.
Trouble in Mind has received a resurgence of interest and regional revivals in recent years, including a celebrated production at Two River Theater, New Jersey in 2014. In an appreciation entitled “Alice Childress Didn’t Defang Her Plays, and Producers Said No,” New York Magazine theater critic Helen Shaw wrote: “Any list of great American playwrights is incomplete without Alice Childress …. Everyone should be reviving Childress’s work.” Roundabout Theatre now heeds the call, giving Trouble in Mind its Broadway debut.
Reviewing the revival at Two River Theater in The New York Times, critic Michael Sommers declared it a “rich, unsettling play that lives up to its title ... Trouble in Mind lingers in one’s memory long after its conclusion.”
A founding member of the American Negro Theatre, Childress was the first Black female playwright to be produced professionally in New York with her play Gold Through the Trees in 1952.