Orlandersmith, Dael 1960-

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Born 1960. Education: Attended Hunter College.


Agent—Judy Boals, 208 West 30th Street, Suite 401, New York, NY 10001.


Playwright, poet, actress.


Obie Award, 1995, for Beauty's Daughter; Susan Blackburn Award finalist, 1999; Pulitzer Prize in Drama finalist, 2002, for Yellowman; fellowship, York Foundation for the Arts; Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights.


Liar, Liar (play), produced in New York, NY, at Manhattan Class Company, 1994.

Beauty's Daughter; Monster; The Gimmick: Three Plays, Vintage (New York, NY), 2000.

Yellowman; My Red Hand, My Black Hand: Two Plays, Vintage (New York, NY), 2002.


A novel and another play.


Dael Orlandersmith grew up in the rough neighborhood of New York's East Harlem. To escape the drugs and violence in the area, she went to concerts, read books, and wrote. After a short stint of acting, she turned to writing, with Harlem featured in some of her plays.

Beauty's Daughter; Monster; The Gimmick: Three Plays, all take place in Harlem. Beauty's Daughter follows a young girl growing up, and her relationship to everyone around her, including her alcoholic mother, lovers, junkies, and friends. In Monster a black teenage girl growing up in Harlem is told by her grandmother not to marry a black man, and is raped by a black teenage boy. The Gimmick is the story of Alexis and Jimmy, two young friends who live in Harlem, each escaping their reality in different ways.

In Yellowman; My Red Hand, My Black Hand: Two Plays, Orlandersmith presents two of her popular plays about racial issues. Set in South Carolina, Yellowman is the story of Alma, a dark-skinned black woman, and Eugene, a light-skinned black man, who have been friends since they were young children. As they become adults the two friends also become lovers. In their relationship they deal with racism and also their own separate family problems. Alma comes from a family who struggles with alcoholism and poverty. Eugene's father treats him poorly because of his son's light skin. In My Red Hand, My Black Hand a young woman explores her mixed heritage. She is the daughter of a black mother and a Native American father. Library Journal contributor Larry Schwartz noted, "Here are two breathtaking, small-cast plays by a vibrant new voice in American theater." Alibi Arts contributor Steven Robert Allen commented, "Taken together, Yellowman and My Red Hand, My Black Hand offer convincing proof that Orlandersmith is one of the most talented playwrights currently at work in America."



American Theatre, September, 1999, Chris Coleman, "On Beating the Odds: An Interview with the Playwright," p. 32; July-August, 2002, Stuart Miller, "The Education of Dael Orlandersmith: At a Turning Point in Her Career, a Poet-Turned-Playwright Is Still Learning from Her Past," p. 26.

Back Stage, March 8, 2002, Gretchen C. Van Benthuysen, "McCarter Theatre," p. 23; J. Cooper Robb, "Wilma Theater," p. 23.

Library Journal, November 1, 2000, Ming-mind Shen Kuo, review of Beauty's Daughter; Monster; The Gimmick: Three Plays, p. 80; November 1, 2002, Larry Schwartz, review of Yellowman; My Red Hand, My Black Hand: Two Plays, p. 89.

New York Times, May 11, 1994, D. J. R. Bruckner, review of Liar, Liar, p. C14; February 7, 1995, Wilborn Hampton, "Growing Up Talented in Harlem: Poet's Tour," p. C14; December 18, 1996, Peter Marks, "Her Crime? Daring to be Different," p. C19; May 19, 1999, Robin Pogrebin, "After Acting Out the Inner City, a Writer Radiates Inner Peace," pp. E1, E3.

Theatre Journal, May, 2003, Nicole R. Fleetwood, review of Yellowman, pp. 331-332.

Variety, November 23, 1998, Markland Taylor, review of The Gimmick, p. 57; May 10, 1999, Charles Isherwood, review of The Gimmick, p. 147; January 28, 2002, Robert L. Daniels, review of Yellow-man, p. 43.


Alibi Arts,http://www.alibi.com/ (January 28, 2003), Steven Robert Allen, "The Color of Your Skin."

Baltimore City Paper,http://www.citypaper.com/ (January 28, 2003), Patrick Sullivan, review of Yellowman; My Red Hand, My Black Hand: Two Plays.

Stranger,http://www.thestranger.com/ (January 28, 2003), Rebecca Brown, "Disquieting Monster. "*