Dr. Shandell Publishes Two Articles on History of African American Theater in Philadelphia

By Daniel DiPrinzio | January 20, 2022
Dr. Jonathan D. Shandell smiling in portrait

Dr. Jonathan D. Shandell, associate professor of Theater Arts at Arcadia University, recently had two articles published related to the history of African American theater and performance in the Philadelphia region.

The first essay, “Caricatured, Marginalized, and Erased: African American Artists and Philadelphia’s Negro Unit of the Federal Theatre Project, 1935-1939,” was published in Volume 40 of the peer-reviewed journal Theatre History Studies. The article tells the stories of three productions with African American performers staged at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia during the Great Depression, under the Federal Theatre Project (part of the New Deal program the Works Progress Administration).

Another essay “Before Rudd Was Russian: The Hidden History of a Trailblazing African American Actor” was published in the new book The Wayland Rudd Collection by Yevgeniy Fiks (Ugly Duckling Press). 

Wayland Rudd was an actor who got his start at the Hedgerow Theatre in Rose Valley, Pa., in the 1920s. Rudd received critical acclaim for his acting at Hedgerow, then moved to New York. He became disillusioned with racism in the United States and soon emigrated to Russia—one of a group of Black artists of the era attracted by the prospect of racial justice in that country. Rudd continued his acclaimed acting career in film and theater in the Soviet Union. 
As a theater historian, Dr. Shandell focuses his scholarship on issues of race and integration on the American stage of the mid-20th century. He is the author of the book The American Negro Theatre and the Long Civil Rights Era (University of Iowa Press) and co-editor of the anthology Experiments in Democracy: Interracial and Cross-Cultural Exchange in American Theatre, 1912-1945 (Southern Illinois University Press). He also has authored a number of other book chapters and articles.

Dr. Shandell teaches courses in theater history, script analysis, dramaturgy and dramatic literature.