Welcome Tables East and West
When you’re writing, you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know . . .
what you don’t want to find out. But something forces you to anyway.
—James Baldwin, interview with Jordan Elgrably and George Plimpton, 1984
Baldwin’s Turkish experience enabled him to frame the antiracist and anti-
homophobic message of No Name in the Street, but it is little known that this
book and the specific circumstances of its writing followed him to the south
of France, where, between travels and visits to the United States, he spent
the last sixteen years of his life. His third play and last completed work,
The Welcome Table (1987), originally designed and begun in Istanbul around
1967, was set and written two decades later in his ancient sprawling house
in Saint-Paul de Vence. Baldwin drafted the early parts of The Welcome Table
soon after the staging of Fortune and Men’s Eyes/Düşenin Dostu and the comple-
tion of No Name in the Street. Both the play he directed and the book of essays
he wrote in Istanbul, as well as his letters to Cezzar in which he rehearsed
many ideas and phrases that later appeared in his works, echo in the char-
acters and dialogues of The Welcome Table. The play was later resurrected and
finished in collaboration with the African American theater director Wal-
ter Dallas, who now heads the Freedom Repertory Theater in Philadelphia.
Dallas dates the beginning of their working relationship to 1983, when they
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