Inessential Anti-Blackness: Re-Imagining a Post-Lockdown Tempest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As professional and academic theatres re-opened their doors to the public for the 2021/2022 season, the first following the Covid-19 lockdowns, they decided upon plays to welcome back artists and audiences. Curiously, more than 35 American theatres chose Shakespeare’s The Tempest as their inaugural post-lockdown production. This paper examines the reasons for the continued presence of The Tempest on American stages, reading the anti-Black rhetoric inherent in the text–particularly around Caliban–against the increased national attention to racial equity and justice that resulted from the 2020 murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. I interrogate how the play came to be seen as an ‘essential’ Shakespearean text in a post-lockdown America, ultimately concluding that what is essential about The Tempest is not found within Shakespeare’s text, but in the social demand that producing the play places on theatres who wish to reframe the play as anti-racist. In other words, the conditions of the post-lockdown Tempest enable us to see the changing face of American theatre-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • anti-racist
  • blackness
  • COVID-19
  • production
  • Tempest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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