A Free Man of Color

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A Free Man of Color
Written by John Guare
Date premiered November 18, 2010 (2010-11-18)
Place premiered Vivian Beaumont Theater
New York City
Original language English
Genre Drama
Setting New Orleans

A Free Man of Color is a play by John Guare. It is set in New Orleans in 1801 before the Louisiana Purchase (as well as in Haiti and France), and follows the story of Jacques Cornet, "a new world Don Juan" and the wealthiest colored man in New Orleans.[1] His world changes as racism enters the city.

Production history

The show was originally expected to be produced by the Public Theater to open in early 2009, but the engagement was postponed due to "lack of necessary funding".[2]

A Free Man of Color premiered on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.[3] Previews were originally scheduled to begin on October 21, 2010, but were delayed until October 23, 2010.[4] The show officially opened on November 18, 2010, in a limited engagement until January 9, 2011.[5][6]

The creative team includes direction by George C. Wolfe, set design by David Rockwell, costume design by Ann Hould-Ward, lighting design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, and instrumental music by Jeanine Tesori.[7]

The original cast featured Jeffrey Wright in the lead role, Mos Def as Cupidon Murmur, Reg Rogers as Princepousse/Tallyrand, Joseph Marcell as Dr. Toubib, Arnie Burton as James Monroe, Robert Stanton as Georges Feydeau, Paul Dano as Meriwether Lewis, John McMartin as Thomas Jefferson, Veanne Cox as Mme. Mandragola, and Sara Gettelfinger as Doña Athene/Calliope.[8]

Awards and nominations

On April 18, 2011, the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama was announced. A Free Man of Color was a finalist along with the play Detroit, with the winner being Clybourne Park.[9]


The Wall Street Journal's Terry Teachout wrote in his review, "If neatness is what you expect from John Guare's "A Free Man of Color," you'll be doomed to disappointment. Mr. Guare's ambitious new play, which tells the fantastic tale of Jacques Cornet (Jeffrey Wright), a 19th-century millionaire playboy from New Orleans who happens to be black, has a cast of 33 and runs for 2½ crowded hours. Yes, it sprawls, but for all its hectic messiness, "A Free Man of Color" is one of the three or four most stirring new plays I've seen since I started writing this column seven years ago.".[10]

Newsday's reviewer wrote, "Somewhere very far away - as far, say, as the final 15 minutes - "A Free Man of Color" becomes an important play. Finally, after 2 ½ hours of brain-blurring historical asides, strenuously costumed artifice and luxuriously overpopulated incoherence, the point and resonance of this crazy-ambitious collaboration between playwright John Guare and directorGeorge C. Wolfe fall deeply into place."[10]

Michael Sommers praised the sets and costumes as "lavish", and said of the cast, "Wright furiously tears around as the flamboyant Jacques. Subtly depicting the fop's long-suffering servant Murmur, Mos also blazes for a bit as the fiery Toussaint. John McMartin wryly portrays a pragmatic Jefferson. Reg Rogers is very funny whether as Jacques' vengeful half-brother or the oily French diplomat Talleyrand. Veanne Cox and Peter Bartlett comically contrast as aristocratic refugees upset by New Orleans' raffish society while Nicole Beharie is winsome as a spunky country girl who soon comes to love it. Paul Dano, Nick Mennelland Arnie Burton brightly materialize as various personages."[11]

The NY Daily News reporter also praised the cast, but added that it "doesn't add up to a satisfying evening".[12] Elysa Gardener of USA Today gave a more positive review, calling the show "exhilarating. By abandoning subtlety throughout, Guare and Wolfe keep the tone consistent, and ensure that some scenes that might have seemed pedantic in another context make sense dramatically."[13]


  1. "A Free Man of Color" broadway.com
  2. Hetrick, Adam. "Public Postpones 2009 Production of Guare's Free Man of Color" playbill.com, November 25, 2008.
  3. LCT Shows. "A Free Man of Color - A New Play by John Guare". Lincoln Center Theater
  4. BW Staff. "A Free Man of Color Delays Start of Previews by Two Days". Broadway.com, October 20, 2010.
  5. Fullerton, Krissie. "A Free Man of Color at The Vivian Beaumont Theater". Playbill. November 18, 2010
  6. Brantley, Ben. "A Gaudy Swashbuckle Through History". The New York Times. November 18, 2010
  7. Hetrick, Adam. "John Guare's Epic A Free Man of Color Opens on Broadway Nov. 18" playbill.com, November 18, 2010
  8. Hetrick, Adam. "Jeffrey Wright Will Be John Guare's Free Man of Color on Broadway; Cast Announced". Playbill.com, August 16, 2010
  9. Gans, Andrew. "Clybourne Park Wins 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama", playbill.com, April 18, 2011
  10. 10.0 10.1 Diamond, Robert. "Review Roundup: A Free Man Of Color".broadwayworld.com, November 19, 2010.
  11. Sommers, Michael. "REVIEW: ‘A Free Man of Color’ challenges audiences". Newsroom New Jersey, November 18, 2010.
  12. Dzemanowitz, Joe. "A Free Man of Color". NY Daily News. November 18, 2010.
  13. Gardener, Elysa. "'A Free Man of Color,' 'Elling' explore identity, history". USA Today. November 18, 2010.

External links

A Free Man of Color