FLORENCE, S.C. – The University of South Carolina will bring its production of the play “The White Problem” to Francis Marion University on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
The play was written by FMU English professor Jon Tuttle and was commissioned as part of USC’s 2001 bicentennial celebration. The performance will begin at 8 p.m. in the Hyman Fine Arts Center theatre and admission is free and open to the public.
“The White Problem” explores the fascinating, painful, tragic, ironic life of Richard Greener. Born in 1844, he grew up in Boston and became the first African American to graduate from Harvard University and the first African American faculty member of South Carolina College, during the short Reconstruction period of the 1870s, when the institution was one of the first to be fully integrated.
When the Reconstruction college was closed and then re-opened as a segregated college, Greener left the state, becoming by turns a lawyer, politician, civil servant, and the first African American to represent the U.S. abroad, as a consul in Vladivostok.
While the outline of his life seems to suggest an early African American success story, the full story is painful, ironic, and ultimately tragic. Educated as an “experiment” by a group of wealthy Bostonians, Greener spent most of his life caught between factions in America’s seemingly endless racial conflict. Exploited and manipulated by many of his white supporters, he found himself the object of suspicion within the African American community.
“The White Problem” made its world premiere at Longstreet Theatre in Columbia in April, as part of USC’s bicentennial celebration. The play was selected for the 2001 Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, where it was performed May 26-June 10. In addition to the FMU performance, the play will travel to South Carolina State University and USC Spartanburg.
Tuttle’s plays have won numerous regional awards and have been produced by a variety of companies across the United States. His most recent play, “Drift,” was the winner of the South Carolina Playwrights Festival. He is also literary manager of Columbia’s Trustus Theatre. Tuttle earned a Ph.D. degree in English from the University of New Mexico in 1989 and joined the FMU faculty in 1990.
For more information about the production, check out USC’s website at www.sc.edu/bicentennial/Pages/greenerscrapbook.html.
#54 / 11-01-01