Racing toward history: Utopia and progress in John Guare’s a free man of color
University of Toronto Press
413 - 436
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This article examines the way John Guare’s A Free Man of Color (2010) mobilizes a metatheatrical aesthetic to question the methods we use to organize our understandings of the past and formulate our projections of the future. Looking specifically at George C. Wolfe’s production at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre and drawing on the work of Reinhart Koselleck and Ernst Bloch, the article shows how Guare’s densely textured epic stages a metatheatrical duel between two competing forces of history: one grounded in Enlightenment notions of progress (rational, linear, forward movement), the other in utopia (an imagined future always on the horizon). As progress and utopia jostle for the authority to define the history – and so also the future – that the play re-enacts, it becomes clear to the audience that what is at stake, in our present, is the meanings and practices of citizenship, race, sexuality, and class that history defines.