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Patricia Joann Gibson


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(b. ?), playwright, teacher, and lecturer.

P. J. Gibson has demonstrated her talent in writing ranging from poems and short stories to public service announcements and media publications. However, she is best known for her plays, three of which have been anthologized.

Gibson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Trenton, New Jersey. While in her early teens, she studied under J. P. Miller (The Days of Wine and Roses, 1973). In the early 1970s, she earned a BA in drama, religion, and English from Keuka College in New York. She was then awarded a Shubert Fellowship to study playwriting at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, where she completed her MFA in 1975. Aside from J. P. Miller, Gibson's mentors include Don Peterson (Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?, 1969) and Israel Horovitz (Indian Wants the Bronx, 1968).

Although Gibson has had several mentors, Lorraine Hansberry is one of her primary influences. In fact, in the late 1960s, after seeing a play based on Hansberry's life and writing, To Be Young, Gifted and Black (1969), Gibson was inspired to start writing plays. Since that time, she has written twenty-six, a number of which have been produced in various countries. She is quite prolific and explains that “If I live to be 150, I still won’t have enough time to write about all the black women inside of me” (Margaret B. Wilkerson, Nine Plays by Black Women, 1986).

Gibson's commitment to creating substantial roles for African American women is evident in her first play, The Black Woman, which debuted in a one-act version in 1971 and was later produced in a three-act version in 1972. The play consists of a chronological sequence of monologues spoken by twenty African American women characters who live during different periods of history.

The Black Woman was followed by Void Passage and Konvergence, two one-acts produced as companion pieces in 1973 by Players Company of Trenton, New Jersey. Void Passage focuses on the conflicts of two women who have been labeled “strong Black women” while Konvergence, published in Woodie King, Jr.'s New Plays for the Black Theatre (1989), depicts the turbulent reunion of a married couple after a year's separation. This upwardly mobile couple struggles with whether or not to assimilate into middle-class society and “become another chocolate-covered android of the system,” yet another statistic of the vacuous, materialistic American dream.

The failure of the American dream returns as a theme in Miss Ann Don’t Cry No More (1980), the play that earned an NEA grant for Gibson. In this, Gibson reveals the failed dreams of the inhabitants of an apartment house and again presents the challenges and struggles urban America presents to African Americans. Miss Ann was first performed as a reading at the Frank Silvera Writer's Workshop in 1977 and later mounted as a full production at the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center in 1980.

The next year, the Arts Center also staged a reading of one of Gibson's most compelling plays, Brown Silk and Magenta Sunsets. Later published in Margaret Wilkerson's Nine Plays by Black Women (1986), this play details the tragic results of obsessive love. The plot revolves around Lena Larson Salvinoli, the attractive and affluent widow of an Italian man she did not love. As a teenager Lena was fascinated by a much older musician who lived in the same apartment building and she desperately tries to recover the passionate intensity of this first and only true love. Her obsession for him led to his death and the death of their daughter, and finally leads to Lena's own suicide in the play.

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Subjects: Literature.


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