Richard Wright (playwright), Louis Sapin (source) DADDY GOODNESS A Comedy in Three Acts (1985) Theatre script – 1


New York, 1985. Vintage original theatre script. Quarto, stenciled titled wrappers, cloth tape at spine, 145 pp., just about fine. Laid in is a photocopy of a letter from Ellen Wright to the previous owner of the script. This copy of the script is bound in with what was the original printed wrapper for the 1962 printing.

A significant find: a 1962 draft of this play, which Wright was working on at the time of his death. His widow had this draft typed up in 1962. No 1962 printings of that draft appear to have ever surfaced. This is one of two photocopies printed at Wright’s suggestion by a writer with whom she was working on another project. A photocopy from Wright to him is laid in.

Richard Wright‘s final creation, a play which was very much a work-in-progress at the time of his death (this copy of the play bears a date of August 18, 1961, which was several months after his death on November 28, 1960).

In 1956, Wright saw and enjoyed a performance of the Louis Sapin play entitled Papa Bon Dieu. Roles were played by actors from the Théâtre Populaire Africain. Sapin asked Wright to adapt the play for a US audience, which Wright readily agreed to do. He rewrote the script, moving the setting to the American South.

In 1957 there was interest in staging an off-Broadway production. But Wright did not agree with the changes the financers wanted him to make in the plot, so he declined the offer. He subsequently found a woman in London who was willing to underwrite the production of Daddy Goodness as a musical comedy, but this did not come to fruition, either.

An English-language reading of the play was organized for February 19, 1959, at the USIS Theater on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Among the performers reading parts were American restaurant owner and professional actor Leroy Haynes, artist Larry Potter, and singer and restaurant/night club owner Inez Cavanaugh. Fred Hare, who was the director of the American Theatre Association of Paris, liked the play and decided to have the association produce it. He selected Leroy Haynes to play the lead role in the production.

Rehearsals with a cast of professional actors began on April 12 but finding adequate funding was problematic. A bare bones performance without sets or costumes held at the American Embassy Theater on May 4 did not raise significant interest in the project and several cast members left the play for better paying roles elsewhere. Fred Hare intended to raise funds by selling stock in the play but his efforts failed. 

Wright decided to abandon the project out of fear that the remaining actors would not be able to be paid. On May 27, 1959, a reading at the Récamier Theater–with sets and costumes–was the last time Daddy Goodness was performed in Paris. Wright gave the script to Langston Hughes during Hughes’ visit to Paris in November 1960, just days before Wright died.

The Negro Ensemble Company in New York finally staged Daddy Goodness during its first repertory season in 1967-68. 

Of the different drafts which once existed of this play, very few have survived. CLC lists one copy at the Morgan Library of a 1956 typescript, which is a five-act version and 155 pp. This script is a photocopy done with Ellen Wright’s permission of a 1962 typescript, which is thought to still exist in Wright’s archive in Paris. The New York Public Library has a typescript of the 1968 version, as adapted for the American stage for the Negro Ensemble Company.

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