Ted Shine

(b. 1931)

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(b. 1931), dramatist, television scriptwriter, educator,

and contributor to the Black Arts movement and regional theater. Soon after Ted (Theodis) Shine's birth in Baton Rouge, he and his parents, Theodis and Bessie, moved to Dallas where he grew up. At Howard University he was encouraged to pursue satiric playwriting by Owen Dodson, who tactfully indicated Shine's limits as a tragic writer. His play Sho Is Hot in the Cotton Patch was produced at Howard in 1951. Graduating in 1953, Shine studied at the Karamu Theatre in Cleveland on a Rockefeller grant through 1955 and then served two years in the army. Earning his MA at the University of lowa in 1958, he began his career as a teacher of drama at Dillard University in 1960, moving to Howard University from 1961to 1967, and then settling at Prairie View A & M University where he became a professor and head of the drama department.

In 1964 Shine wrote Morning, Noon and Night, first produced at Howard University, which awarded it the Brooks-Hines Award for Playwriting in 1970 upon its publication in The Black Teacher and the Dramatic Arts. Combining humor and horror, Shine's play focuses on Gussie Black, who is manipulating her eleven-year-old grandson into becoming a traveling preacher and poisoning anyone who obstructs her project. Identifying himself as a Baptist, Shine often skewers those who cloak vicious ends in religiosity.

In 1970 Shine's 1969 plays, Shoes and Contribution, were produced and published together along with Plantation under the title Contributions. Strikingly different in theme, setting, and characterization, they collectively demonstrate Shine's skill in creating realistic, seemingly meandering, artfully constructed dialog, stunning, appropriate, meaningful plot twists, and thought-filled commentary on the black/human condition. Shoes points to the values that lead Smokey, a young waiter, to attempt shooting his benefactor, symbolically named Wisely, for withholding his summer earnings so he can reflect on his decision to blow them on fancy clothes. While warning about dehumanizing, community-undermining materialism, Shine remains sympathetic toward the poverty striken childhood that drives Smokey to this extremity. Contribution, the most popular of Shine's many works, portrays Mrs. Grace Love, a spiritual-singing Christian who is chided by her activist grandson for loving the bigots she works for, but in reality she is contributing to the movement by poisoning them all. The farcical Plantation exposes a segregationist who discovers after his black son's birth that he is a mulatto. Following his suicide, a star rises in the east and three wise men appear in El Dorado, hilariously and hopefully hailing a new era.

From 1969 to 1973 Shine wrote over sixty scripts for the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting's Our Street series while earning his doctorate from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1971. The 1974 seminal anthology Black Theater USA, with Shine as consultant to editor James V. Hatch, includes his play Herbert III, a humorously insightful study of a couple with contrasting attitudes toward how to raise children amid racism. This play, like those preceding and following it, displays his shining contribution to contemporary black theater.


Subjects: Literature.

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