First Acts

A Black Playwright Comes of Age


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About the Book

Playwright and television writer Kermit Frazier began life as a precocious Negro boy growing up in southeast Washington, D.C., during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 1960s. As a student at an all–Black elementary school, Kermit was selected for a newly formed honors track at a predominantly white secondary school. Traveling a complex path, Kermit tore down segregation barriers, balanced on an academic pedestal, and battled an internal war of denial against his same-sex attractions. This memoir is not a story about a young man rising from “the hood” but rather a young Black man struggling with stereotypes, identity, and mild dyslexia while straddling two middle-class worlds, Black and white, and striving not to be everyone’s “other.”

About the Author(s)

Kermit Frazier has been a writer as well as a teacher of writing, literature, and theater for nearly 40 years. His plays have been produced in New York and around the country at such theaters as the New Federal Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, and the First Stage Children’s Theatre. He has written for such television series as Ghostwriter (which he helped to create), Gullah Gullah Island, Married People and The Wonder Pets. His articles, reviews, and short stories have appeared in several magazines and journals, including Callaloo, The Missouri Review, Green Mountains Review, The Chicago Review, American Theatre, Black World, Essence and The New York Times Book Review. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Bibliographic Details

Kermit Frazier

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 183
Bibliographic Info: 18 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8842-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4741-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  ix
Prologue  1
Drive  5
Snow  34
Pee  52
Reading Apprehension  68
How I Danced  82
Fire  99
Of Crickets and Boys  108
Ironing  141
Geometry  150
Flux: An Afterword  167

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Succeeds in its deft accumulation of small, quiet epiphanies…a probing, engaging account of the indelible moments that formed a writer.”—Kirkus Reviews

• “Black boys who become writers have much to tell. Kermit Frazier’s First Acts: A Black Playwright Comes of Age is America’s story, a coming of age story. Frazier’s world is one of shyness, loneliness, and depression. Such a world creates the puzzle he must navigate into manhood. The center piece of this memoir finds Frazier writing about dyslexia and his reading problems, as well as discovering his true sexual identity. This book is a portrait of a black boy as a young man. A journey through sports, parties, and Boy Scout camps. As the country moves away from segregation, Frazier finds himself moving into a better understanding of himself. He exhibits tough love when it comes to loving the man he has become. Filled with honesty and confession, Frazier’s book should be of comfort to beautiful black boys waiting to be born.”—E. Ethelbert Miller, writer and literary activist, host of On The Margin (WPFW 89. 3FM)

• “Kermit Frazier’s talents as a dramatist translate seamlessly to memoir writing in First Acts: A Black Playwright Comes of Age. From the opening pages, we are drawn into a richly remembered life story as we watch the driven, intellectually gifted young Black boy who was Frazier then navigate the shaky territory of Washington, DC’s newly desegregated schools. In rhythmic and evocative language, Frazier recreates the highs and lows, achievements and embarrassments, the neighborhood (Anacostia) and people of his youth. And then he takes us beyond. Secrets are laid bare, and we see him wrestle with racism, identity, vocation, and his emerging sexual orientation. What a marvelous, revealing book this is about growing up Black and talented and gay in America of the mid-twentieth century.”—Evelyn Somers Rogers, associate editor, the Missouri Review

• “Kermit Frazier goes down memory lane without nostalgia but with a gentle recollection of the Anacostia of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. He is preserving a history of Anacostia as proof against the inevitable changes of gentrification…. It’s a delight to know Anacostia more intimately through Kermit’s eyes. He’s done a difficult job well—juxtaposing personal history with the larger narrative of a neighborhood within a city. He’s drawn his mother and father, figures not often celebrated, lauded. Here are complex, loving portraits. Kermit Frazier’s parents are thoughtful, steady, and aspirational people I instantly recognize. This memoir adds a much-needed more to the stories of Washington, D.C., and Anacostia.”—Breena Clarke, author of Angels Make Their Hope Here, River Cross My Heart and Stand the Storm