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Oral history interview with Robert Townsend, 21 August 1987

Author: Robert Townsend; James Briggs Murray; Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Oral History Video Documentation Program.
Edition/Format:   VHS video : VHS tape : U-matic   Visual material : English
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
The oral history interview with Robert Townsend briefly documents his childhood in Chicago.
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Genre/Form: Interviews
Named Person: Robert Townsend; Keenan Ivory Wayans; Ruby Dee; Ozzie Davis
Material Type: Videorecording
Document Type: Visual material
All Authors / Contributors: Robert Townsend; James Briggs Murray; Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Oral History Video Documentation Program.
OCLC Number: 34031144
Event notes: Recorded on August 21, 1987, at Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Oral History Video Documentation Program, New York, N.Y.
Description: 1 videocassette of 1 (21 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.
Details: VHS.
Responsibility: interviewed by James Briggs Murray.

Abstract:

The oral history interview with Robert Townsend briefly documents his childhood in Chicago.

Townsend began as the "class clown" and, later, encouraged by his mother, he began to study acting first with Chicago's Second City and then in NYC with the Negro Ensemble Company. His theatre work led to collaboration with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee in the 1978 production of "Take it from the top". Not being a "song-and-dance man" excluded Townsend from Broadway and triggered his move to LA where be began a career in film. Film earnings and a charge tab of $40,000.00 funded "Hollywood shuffle" (produced in 1987 with partner, Keenen Ivory Wayans). "Hollywood shuffle" is based on their experiences as aspiring African American actors in Hollywood; its philosophical tenet is that the portrayal of African American characters in film is neither balanced nor authentic; rather, it is one-sided and stereotypical. Townsend challenges others to break this trend and, rebutting comparisons to other African American filmmakers, claims that there is no competition, just a "starving market". He wants to encourage others to eliminate racial stereotypes through portrayal of integrity and wide range.

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