Born October 25, 1928, in Oelwein, IA; son of MacKenzie (a boilermaker) and Eunice (Smith) Hatch; married Evelyn Marcussen, 1949 (divorced, 1965); married Camille Billops (an artist), September 13, 1987; children: (first marriage) Susan, Dion. Education: State University of Northern Iowa, B.A., 1949; State University of Iowa, M.A., 1955, Ph.D., 1958.
Writer and professor. High school English and drama teacher, 1949–58; University of California, Los Angeles, assistant professor of theatre arts, 1958–62; High Cinema Institute, Cairo, Egypt, Fulbright lecturer, 1962–65; City College of the City University of New York, New York, NY, assistant professor, 1965–72, associate professor, beginning 1973, became professor of English and theater, professor emeritus, 1996–. New York University, New York, NY, visiting professor, 1973, 1981, and 1989; University of Hamburg, Hamburg, West Germany, visiting professor in English, 1976 and 1980; National Teachers College, Taiwan, Fulbright lecturer, 1982–83; University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, guest professor at Governor's School of Humanities, 1986–90. Hatch/Billops Collection, New York, NY, co-founder and director, 1968–; Idylwild Arts Foundation, Idylwild, CA, resident playwright, 1960; Huntington Hartford Foundation, resident playwright, 1962; U.S. Department of State, theatre specialist in India, Pakistan, and Ceylon, 1968; Chautauqua Institute, Chautauqua, NY, lecturer in creative writing, 1969 and 1970; consultant to Institute of Dramatic Arts, University of California at Santa Barbara, 1967, New York City Board of Education, New York, NY, 1969, Asian Theatre, JDR III, 1969–70, Drama Books Specialist, New York, NY, 1970–73, Institute in Dramatic Arts, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, 1970, and Afro-American Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY, 1970.
Awards & Honors: Thomas Wood Stevens Award, Stanford University, and Festival of Arts Award, Birmingham, AL, 1957, both for Easter Song; George Washington Honor Medal Award, Freedoms Foundation, 1958, for This Is Worth Remembering; Obie Award, Village Voice, best Off-Broadway musical, 1961–62, for Fly Blackbird; Unity Award, Better Race Relations Bureau of Hollywood, 1962; first prize at Atlanta Film Festival, and Golden Eagle Cine award, 1972, both for Denmark 43; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1973–74; MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH, writing fellowship, 1976; National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, 1985–86 and 1996; City University of New York, New York, NY, faculty research awards, 1985, 1986, and 1996; Best Documentary award (with wife, Camille Billops), Black Filmmakers Consortium, 1991, Grand Jury Award for documentary (with wife, Camille Billops), Sundance Film Festival, Best Documentary award, Atlanta Festival, 1992, all for Finding Christa; named Faculty of Distinction, City University of New York, New York, NY, 1992; Bernard Hewitt Award for outstanding theatre history, American Society for Theatre Research, 1994, for Sorrow Is the Only Faithful One: The Life of Owen Dodson; Best Documentary award, Black Filmmakers Consortium, 1994, for KKK Boutique Ain't Just for Rednecks; Life Achievement Award, American Theatre in Higher Education, 1997; Obie Award, Village Voice, 1997, for contributions to Off-Broadway theatre; Winona Fletcher Award, Black Theatre Network, 1998, for outstanding achievement; Skowhegan Award (with wife, Camille Billops), Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture, 2000, for contributions to the arts.
Writings and Publications:
Dagzil, produced at University of Iowa, 1956.
Easter Song, produced at University of Iowa, 1956.
Tallest Baby, produced at University of California, Los Angeles, 1958.
Fly Blackbird, produced in Los Angeles, CA, at Theatre Vanguard, 1960, produced Off-Broadway, 1962, published in The Black Teacher and the Dramatic Arts, edited by William Reardon and Thomas Pawley, Negro University Press, 1970.
Liar, Liar (musical for children), produced in Los Angeles, CA, at ANTA's Children's Theatre 1962, General Music Corp. (Bensonville, IL), 1972.
(Coauthor) Conspiracy, produced in New York, NY, at Washington Square Methodist Church, 1970.
(Coauthor) If It Do Not Die, It Do Not Die, produced in New York, NY, at Last Chance Theatre, 1970.
(Coauthor) Safe at Last, produced in New York, NY, at East Village Theatre, 1973.
(Coauthor) The Divided Bed, produced in New York, NY, at Actors Equity Showcase, 1977.
Klub Ka, The Blues Legend, produced at the University of Iowa, 2002.
This Is Worth Remembering, 1957.
The Sole Survivor, 1960.
Modern Arabic Women, 1964.
Three Days of Suez, 1964.
Paper Pulp from Sugar Cane, 1965.
Denmark 43, 1972.
Oelwein Centennial, 1973.
Finding Christa, 1991.
KKK Boutique Ain't Just Rednecks, 1994.
The Black Image on the American Stage: A Bibliography, Drama Book Specialist (New York, NY), 1970.
(Editor, with Victoria Sullivan) By and about Women, Random House (New York, NY), 1973.
Black Theatre USA: 1847–1972, Free Press (New York, NY), 1974.
(With Omanii Abdullah) Black Playwrights, 1823–1977, Bowker (New York, NY), 1977.
Sorrow Is the Only Faithful One: The Life of Owen Dodson (biography), foreword by Arnold Rampersad, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1993.
(Editor, with Annemarie Bean and Brooks McNamara) Inside the Minstrel Mask: Readings in Nineteenth-Century Blackface Minstrelsy, foreword by Mel Watkins, Wesleyan University Press (Hanover, NH), 1996.
(With Errol G. Hill) A History of African American Theatre, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2003.
(With Ibrahim Ibn Ismail) Poems for Niggers and Crackers, Schindler Press, 1965.
(Contributor) The Black Teacher and the Dramatic Arts, edited by William Reardon and Thomas Pawley, Negro University Press, 1970.
(Coeditor) Artist and Influence, 20 volumes, Hatch-Billops Collection (New York, NY), 1981–2001.
(Editor, with Leo Hamalian) The Roots of African American Drama: An Anthology of Early Plays, 1958–1938, foreword by George C. Wolfe, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1991.
(Editor, with Leo Hamalian) Lost Plays of the Harlem Renaissance, 1920–1940, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
(With Suzanne Noguere and Camille Billops) The Stone House, a Blues Legend, Hatch-Billops Collection (New York, NY), 2000.
Writer of educational films for the State University of Iowa, 1956–58. Contributor to periodicals, including Drama Review, Nation, Village Voice, College English, Changing Education, Black Scholar, Ararat, Black Perspective in Music, and Black Art.
An English and theater professor, James V. Hatch has written and edited a number of books about the African-American theatrical experience. Sorrow Is the Only Faithful One: The Life of Owen Dodson is a biography of Dodson, a leading figure in African American theater. Hatch was chosen to be Dodson's biographer and as such had his assistance, including interviews with him before his death. A trailblazer, Dodson was a long-time professor of drama at Howard University, wrote or served as director on several hundred stage productions, and knew many leading writers and artists, both white and black, during his lifetime. Margaret B. Wilkerson of MELUS wrote: "Hatch's extended access to Dodson pays off in the rich details of anecdotes that never over-whelm…. At the same time, the author's familiarity with his subject breeds … a straightforward, sensitive portrait and analysis of one of this century's most talented artists."
Among the books on which Hatch has served as coeditor is Lost Plays of the Harlem Renaissance, 1920–1940. The volume includes a number of plays from that important period of black theater history. The text includes sixteen plays by thirteen different playwrights, both well-known (Langston Hughes) and obscure or forgotten. In addition to the plays, Hatch wrote the introduction and essays about African American life in the 1920s. Referring to the plays included, Cary D. Wintz of African American Review wrote: "Despite the unevenness of the selections, the editors have done a good job of bringing an interesting collection of African American plays back to our attention."
Hatch has also written about the scope of the black theater in the United States. With Errol G. Hill, Hatch wrote A History of African American Theatre. As Henry Miller acknowledged in African American Review, "Black theatre, as Hill and Hatch reveal the length and breadth of its American story, seems not fabulous but almost miraculous in its ability to survive the well-documented slings and arrows of American race relations." Hatch and Hill deal with their subject comprehensively, from the early 1400s, when the African slave trade began, to the early twenty-first century. Topics touched upon include nineteenth century black theaters in various American cities, minstrels, antilynching plays, and cultural diversity among the various influences within black theater. Reviewing the book in Theatre History Studies, Felicia Hardison Londre claimed: "A History of African American Theatre surely takes its place as our definitive work on the subject."
African American Review, summer, 1999, Cary D. Wintz, review of Lost Plays of the Harlem Renaissance, 1920–1940, p. 361; summer, 2004, Henry Miller, review of A History of African American Theatre, p. 335.
MELUS, spring, 1996, Margaret B. Wilkerson, review of Sorrow Is the Only Faithful One: The Life of Owen Dodson, p. 152.
Theatre History Studies, June, 2004, Felicia Hardison Londre, review of A History of African American Theatre, p. 152.