Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Subway tunnels. Subterranean passageways for the subway trains that symbolize places in which social and psychological realities are exposed in their true terms through interactions between characters moving underneath the surface of American culture. Below ground, violent truths of American history erupt into stark view, with profound consequences for particular human beings who cannot escape to the surface and its delusions of safety. The tunnels also function as metaphorical space: the interior consciousness of “the black artist,” who struggles to create (and literally, to survive) in a world controlled by the norms of white Western culture and aesthetics. At this symbolic level, the subterranean tunnel setting of the play is itself the action of the mind of an artist, struggling to freedom.
Subway car. Train car on which Clay and Lula encounter each other. With its passengers literally pressed into close proximity with one another, the car becomes the site of a compressed narrative of American racial history as it passes through the dark subway tunnels. Within this car, explosive conflicts are framed in harsh light and within sharply delineated space. Clay and Lula are trapped within historical roles and identities, on a stage that is speeding forward into time. The intensely philosophical and politicized violence that unfolds between the two characters is also a social violence shared by other riders when they eventually toss Clay’s body off the train. On this level, the car is America, exposed to light. Within the other symbolic space of the play, the mind of the “black artist,” the subway car serves as an illuminated moment of sharp insight into the threats posed to black artistic consciousness in America.