Afrofuturism on Stage and Screen
For decades, Afrofuturism has influenced what is seen on stage and screen. Through its futuristic and fantastical worlds, it provides a creative platform for themes of Black liberation and social equality and offers a futuristic, utopian vision of an inclusive and diverse society.
Billed as a “Super Soul Musical,” The Wiz is an African American-led and performed adaptation of The Wizard of Oz that debuted on Broadway in 1975. The play explores Afrofuturist themes, incorporates mysticism and time-traveling, and reimagines Black characters in white roles. Director Geoffrey Holder also designed the costumes, which display a futuristic aesthetic.
While The Wiz rewrote The Wizard of Oz, other theater groups that perform traditional material have also been influenced by Afrofuturism to reimagine other well-known texts. In 2022, London’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre staged the classic play “Much Ado About Nothing” with Afrofuturist costume design and a largely Black cast. Though the original Shakespearian text remained, the context was completely changed.
Afrofuturist novels, like those of Octavia E. Butler and George Schulyer, have provided inspiration for contemporary operas and musicals. In July 2023, the Lincoln Center staged Parable of the Sower, a genre-blending opera written by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon. Inspired by Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, the opera fuses centuries of African-diasporic music with Butler’s prescient storytelling and has been performed across the globe. In 2022, Black No More, a musical inspired by Schulyer’s Harlem Renaissance novel of the same name, made its New York debut. With choreography from Bill T. Jones, a book from Academy Award-winning writer John Ridley, and lyrics from Tariq Trotter of the Roots, the musical updates the classic novel with a thoroughly modern spin.