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Elliot Norton Reviews; Charles Gordone: No Place to Be Somebody


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Elliot Norton Reviews
Charles Gordone: No Place to Be Somebody
Series Description

Boston theatre critic Elliot Norton interviews prominent actors, directors and producers on their craft. (Aired from October, 1958 to 1982. Winner of both Peabody and Tony Awards.) Series release date: 1958

Program Description

Elliot Norton interviews actor and playwright Charles Gordone about his Pulitzer Prize winning play, No Place to Be Somebody, which made him the first black man to win a Pulitzer Prize for drama. Gordone talks about how he got into show business at a young age and started tap dancing at the age of four. When his parents “found religion,” they made Gordone give up dance and performance. He talks about being one of only three black actors in his drama program at California State, which was made up of about 400 students. He says that there was a deficit of black acting students, because there was no opportunity for them to act professionally after graduating. Black people were not given “roles of substance” in professional theater and film, because playwrights and screenwriters were not writing for black actors outside of the roles of butlers and maids and the musical genre. He speaks of his experience breaking into the New York theater scene and the unsuccessful run of The Climate of Eden. He and Norton discuss his first success: Jean Genet’s 1958 French play, The Blacks, (Les Nègres), which he was in and out of for about five years and in which he played several roles. Norton refers to these productions as “the first concentration of fine black actors.” The play inspired many black playwrights to write productions about the black experience and cast black actors. They discuss the breakthrough production, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, which brought the first successful black production to Broadway in 1959. Gordone talks about the process of writing No Place to Be Somebody and the struggle to find a producer before Joe Papp at the Public Theater picked it up. He and Norton discuss the play, which centers on the variety of attitudes of black people at the time, including defeatism, different ways of fighting injustice, ‘straddling the fence,’ and entitlement. One of the major lessons of the play is that there is not one mode of thought among black people.

Director: Russell Tillman. Taped 7/14/1971.

Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Talk Show
Performing Arts
Chicago: “Elliot Norton Reviews; Charles Gordone: No Place to Be Somebody,” 04/14/1971, GBH Archives, accessed June 19, 2024,
MLA: “Elliot Norton Reviews; Charles Gordone: No Place to Be Somebody.” 04/14/1971. GBH Archives. Web. June 19, 2024. <>.
APA: Elliot Norton Reviews; Charles Gordone: No Place to Be Somebody. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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