Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, a classic of American theater, is the poignant story of a family in 1950s Harlem. In timeless prose, Lonne Elder explores the discontent of a generation that has grown old before its time, and the determination of the next generation to avoid such a fate. In the play, Russel B. Parker is a prodigal father and failed barber who exists on memories and "ceremonies" for survival. He spends his time recounting atmospheric tales of his life in vaudeville and tells, in darkly comic detail, about his days on the chain gang. Just beneath the surface of Elder's work lie the terrors of day-to-day life in a racist society--never directly mentioned, but always simmering unforgettably.
Ceremonies in Dark Old Men had its debut Off-Broadway in 1969. It received enthusiastic reviews and moved into an extended run. Since its first performance, the play has been produced numerous times both on television and on the stage, with the leads being played by an honor roll of actors, including Laurence Fishburne, Denzel Washington, and Billy Dee Williams.