Originally produced by Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago in January of 2000, Knock Me a Kiss is a fictional account inspired by the actual events surrounding the 1928 marriage of W.E.B. Du Bois’s daughter Yolande to one of Harlem’s great poets, Countee Cullen. The marriage marked the height of the Harlem Renaissance and was viewed as the perfect union of Negro talent and beauty. It united the daughter of America’s foremost black intellectual, cofounder of the NAACP and publisher of Crisis Magazine, with a young poet whose work was considered to be one of the flagships for the New Negro movement.
The play opens as jazz bandleader, Jimmy Lunceford, pursues a willing but apprehensive Yolande. She demurs, insisting that she and Jimmy be married in a manner consistent with her stature. Meanwhile, Du Bois tries to convince Countee Cullen to take a wife of great breeding, stature and education. When Countee realizes that Yolande appears to possess all of the attributes outlined by the elder Du Bois, he sets out to win her affection. When Yolande is forced to choose between her passion for Jimmy and marrying Countee, her overwhelming devotion to her father overpowers her heart.
The marriage is a triumph of pomp and pageantry, but fails to be a union of man and woman. Finally, Yolande and Countee go their separate ways: Countee travels to Paris with his close friend Harold Jackman and Yolande goes back to Jimmy only to find that she is no longer wanted.
Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times said of Knock Me a Kiss, “In one blistering scene after another – with dialogue that is alternately highly poetic, down-and-dirty, eerily disturbing and fiercely authoritarian – Smith exposes the lies and the blazing truths that animate his characters.”
Knock Me a Kiss is available through Dramatic Publishing and is included in Best New Plays of 2000, published by Smith & Kraus.
Cast requirements: 3 men, 3 women.
Set requirements: Unit Set, various locations.
Approximate running time: 2 hours