The America Play

by

Suzan-Lori Parks

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Themes and Colors
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Race and American Identity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
Family, Trauma, and Personal Identity Theme Icon
Death, Mourning, and Resurrection Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The America Play, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

History, Narrative, and Multiplicity

In Suzan-Lori Parks’s nonlinear, deeply allegorical The America Play, a black man named the Foundling Father impersonates Abraham Lincoln for a living and charges people a penny to play-assassinate him. After he dies, his wife Lucy and son Brazil go looking for traces of him. The Foundling Father organizes his life around the impulse to embody and retell history, and then his past becomes history worth uncovering for Lucy and Brazil. Yet, while he…

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Race and American Identity

In The America Play, a black man known only as the Foundling Father makes a career out of impersonating Abraham Lincoln and charging people to pretend to assassinate him. By portraying black suffering in the context of a white narrative, Parks reveals how white people have capitalized on this suffering throughout history and emphasizes that black identity is an inalienable part of American identity. Ultimately, she argues that separating white and black narratives in…

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Theater and Reality

The America Play, which centers on both a black Abraham Lincoln impersonator and his estranged family’s search for him after his death, actually consists of several (often overlapping) plays-within-a-play. From the Foundling Father’s “Lincoln Act” to the Great Hole of History and the reenactments of Our American Cousin (the play Lincoln was watching when he died), it is often difficult for audiences to tell whether they are watching the play’s real “figures” (a…

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Family, Trauma, and Personal Identity

The first act of The America Play follows a black man named the Foundling Father, who leaves his gravedigging career to instead make a living reenacting his idol Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Throughout this first act, the Foundling Father only mentions his family in passing. But in Act Two, his wife Lucy and son Brazil move from the shadows to the center of the narrative: they reveal that he abandoned them three decades prior…

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Death, Mourning, and Resurrection

The America Play’s plot revolves around death: specifically, those of Abraham Lincoln and the Foundling Father, a black man who is Lincoln’s “dead ringer” and who makes charges customers to watch him reenact Lincoln’s assassination. These deaths are constantly reenacted onstage, and the protagonists’ lives revolve around death, too: the Foundling Father, his wife Lucy, and their son Brazil make a living by digging graves, listening to dying people’s secrets, and mourning…

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