American Drama

A scholarly journal publishing original studies of American dramatic literature from colonial to contemporary times, with greater emphasis given to the period of the twentieth century to the present. Coverage includes critical examination of trends and di

Articles

Vol. 16, No. 2, Summer

"Quite a Moon!": The Archetypal Feminine in Our Town
Near the end of Act I in Our Town, Wilder enumerates different characters' casual reactions to the moon or moonlight, (1) establishing "a mood or feeling which the audience is nearly powerless to resist" (Haberman 71). The same irresistibility characterizes...
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Real Women Have Curves: A Feminist Narrative of Upward Mobility
The film Real Women Have Curves, directed by Patricia Cardoso and starring America Ferrera, was generally well-reviewed and achieved modest box-office success for HBO Films in 2002. What many may not know is that the film is based on Mexican-American...
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Arthur Miller's Sojourn in the Heartland
The history of midwestern drama is one of identity masking and regional cross-fertilization. Quintessentially midwestern playwrights like Susan Glaspell and William Inge made their way East to pursue theatrical opportunities. In Glaspell's case, despite...
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"Moments" the Fade, Love That Abides in Tina Howe's Painting Churches
Just as much as other Tina Howe plays, Painting Churches, from beginning to end, echoes the themes of a novelist Virginia Woolf, of whom Howe has long declared herself an admirer (Barlow 171). In fact, in Painting Churches, Howe expands Woolfian themes...
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Rationalizing the "Decentered" White Male in Neil Simon's the Prisoner of Second Avenue
First presented at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in November 1971, Neil Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue articulates the rage felt by white men as a result of the liberation movements that took place in the sixties. Through Mel Edison, Simon laments...
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Vol. 16, No. 1, Winter

At War with John Wayne: Masculinity, Violence, and the Vietnam War in Emily Mann's Still Life
What, a man? Where's the model? (Matin 70) The United States has gone through more than one war since the 1970s and is currently involved in a confused "postwar" in Iraq that will undoubtedly call forth its own discussion and literature. Yet, Vietnam...
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Making It "Real": Money and Mimesis in Suzan-Lori Parks's Topdog/Underdog
In an essay entitled "Possession," American playwright Suzan-Lori Parks quotes from John S. Mbiti's African Religions and Philosophy, concerning the "living dead": these beings who "belong to the time period of the Zamani [past]," enter into the "Sasa...
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Nurturing and Murderous Mothers in Suzan-Lori Parks's in the Blood and Fucking A
Suzan-Lori Parks has created two Hesters. Hester La Negrita in In the Blood and Hester Smith in Fucking A draw on and reimagine Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, a character who cherishes her child. However, the plays also...
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Frustrated & Frustrating Lives: Women in O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet
The Roundabout Theatre Company's 2005 revival of A Touch of the Poet was compelling for considerably more reasons than Gabriel Byrne's much ballyhooed return to Eugene O'Neill's plays. (1) The most compelling moment of the revival, in fact, involved...
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On the Road to Tragedy: Mice, Candy, and Land in of Mice and Men
It has often been suggested that the Candy-and-his-dog subplot in Of Mice and Men (1937) is too much, that it is a typical example of Steinbeck's heavyhandedness or overfondness for parallels. (1) In fact, some student and workshop productions of the...
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Vol. 15, No. 2, Summer

Editor's Note: Moving On
As many of you know, I began American Drama sixteen years ago. This has been a glorious run and a great learning experience. However, now I would like to turn my energy and time to focus on my own writing, research and editorial projects. As I prepare...
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Grounded Perceptions: Land and Value in Two Plays of the New England Decline
In an 1896 piece for Harper's entitled "Among the Trees," Anna C. Brackett wrote of the effect of increasing urbanization and industrialization upon the human perception of nature. As her title indicates, the primary objectification of her sense of...
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Black Women on Broadway: The Duality of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun and Ntozake Shange's for Colored Girls
In her discussion of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, Margaret Wilkerson poses some pertinent questions about the 1959 Broadway hit: "What accounts for the extraordinary appeal of A Raisin in the Sun? How has it transcended the racial parochialism...
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Ragged Edges: The Curious Case of F. Scott Fitzgerald's the Vegetable
F. Scott Fitzgerald's only full-length play The Vegetable, written and revised between 1921 and 1923, depicts the comic adventures of unhappily-married clerk Jerry Frost. The play garnered some accolades for its April 1923 published version but few...
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'A Word by Which You Will Be Revealed': The Problem of Language in Will Eno's Monologues
In Will Eno's monologue Lady Grey (in ever-lower light), .the eponymous narrator asks, "Does this ever happen to you? (Brief pause.) You're looking for something, a word ... by which you will be revealed, expressed. Wondering what the story of yourself...
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Vol. 15, No. 1, Winter

Arthur Miller's Outtakes
In September 1998 I sent Arthur Miller a 24-page chapter about him that I planned to include in Privileged Moments: Encounters with Writers, published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2000. This chapter was based on letters he'd written to me...
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Wilder's Dramatic Landscape: Alientation Effect Meets the Midwest
By what right could Thornton Wilder be considered a midwestern playwright? Born in Madison, Wisconsin, Wilder spent his first nine years there, went to China briefly with his parents, then continued his schooling in Berkeley, California. After graduating...
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Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer

Tom Cruise and the Seven Dwarves: Cinematic Postmodernisms in Abre Los Ojos and Vanilla Sky
Scholarly discussions of cinematic postmodernism frequently posit an implicit opposition between two categories of film-making: big-budget, profit-oriented motion pictures and the so-called "art house" cinema of European auteur productions and independent...
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Mamet's Divided Magics: Communion and Duplicity in the Shawl, the Cryptogram, and Other Works
David Mamet's 1985 play The Shawl was recognized by one critic to be written in the playwright's trademark "terse, elliptical style" while adding a "new element ... the suggestion of the supernatural and the mystical, all the more haunting for its...
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Remediation in David Mamet's the Water Engine
The work of David Mamet is marked by many "remediations" of sorts--from his early drama's refashionings of Beckett and Pinter (Price, 1993) or the conversion into film scenarios of his own plays (American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, Oleanna), to...
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A Collage Reality (Re)made: The Postmodern Dramaturgy of Charles L. Mee
Charles L. Mee's theater of history embodies a postmodern dramaturgy that asserts that "culture speaks through us, grabs us, throws us to the ground, cries out, silences us," and enacts a collage reality. Like a "pottery fragment" unearthed by archaeology,...
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The Postmodern Author on Stage: Fair Use and Wallace Stegner
Of course artists borrow--and (at times unknowingly) collaborate--all the time, and it's important if not vital we be allowed to do so.... So many ideas come from those who came before, and culture will stop dead if we don't get to borrow ... and stir...
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Profile: The "Queerest" Conclusions: The Theater of Stuart Sherman
I. OVERVIEW Stuart Sherman, who died 14 September 2001 at the age of 55, was most often called a miniaturist because he appeared on stage, particularly in his "Spectacles," in ordinary clothing, with only a rickety stand (like those waiters use...
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Vol. 14, No. 1, Winter

Suppressed Desires and Tickless Time: An Intertextual Critique of Modernity
On or about December, 1910, human character changed. --V. Woolf Within the context of her essay, "Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown," Virginia Woolf's frequently quoted observation refers to a change in interpersonal relations, but for us it also evokes...
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Expressing "The Misery and Confusion Truthfully": An Interview with Beth Henley
Beth Henley's first professionally produced play, Crimes of the Heart, won the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award in 1981 after a successful New York production (prior to New York, it had been done in Louisville, Baltimore,...
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From Ethnic to Mainstream Theater: Negotiating 'Asian American' in the Plays of Philip Kan Gotanda
It can be difficult to escape the false metonymics in which one's race comes to stand for one's whole person. For Asian American writers, this presents a serious dilemma: can one's work be granted a certain degree of universality (reflexively offered...
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Melodrama, Convention, and Rape
Royall Tyler's The Contrast (1787), Fanny Wright's Altorf (1819), John Augustus Stone's Metamora; of, The Last of the Wampanoags (1829), and Anna Cora Mowatt's Fashion: or, Life in New York (1845) are all examples of early American dramas that, despite...
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David Mamet's Old Neighborhood: Journey and Geography
A Journey requires a geography: for a process to occur, there must be a site. The journey is both a physical act and an idea of it, as journey; and its geography is not nowhere but involves city, country, ocean, planets, Eden, heaven, hell, paradise--any...
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Arthur Miller and the Art of the Possible
While commenting on the difference between playwriting and screenwriting in his Preface to Everybody Wim, Arthur Miller used the following illustration to illuminate his point about the subtextual dimension of the theater: If a telephone is photographed,...
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Profile: Adam Rapp
Adam Rapp and I are sitting on a porch veranda overlooking the ocean view campus of the O'Neill Playwrights' Conference in Waterford Connecticut. This is the same landscape that Eugene might have idled on in his youth when the events that inspired...
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Vol. 13, No. 1, Winter

Threats without and Within: The "Americanization" Front and the "Big Problem Plays" of James Gow and Arnaud d'Usseau
After the final destruction of Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live...
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The Dramatic Art of Uncle Sam: The Government, Drama, and World War II
On 14 June 1943, the reigning glitterati of the day--Eleanor Roosevelt, Mayor LaGuardia, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor--were at the 46'h Street Theatre in New York to witness the Broadway Production of five one-act plays written and enacted by enlisted...
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Telling It like It Isn't: The Importance of the Non-Dit in Green's Sud
Julien Green is perhaps one of the most successful, but least known American writers. He wrote mostly in French, even though he was born an American, and considered himself to be an American throughout his life. Celebrated in France for his novels,...
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Mourning, Masculinity and the Drama of the American Revolution
In 1798, only twenty years after the Revolutionary War, a play that sought to depict one of the most controversial events of the war was performed in the Park Theater in New York City. It was, by most accounts, a complete failure. (1) Performed only...
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Language of Assent: Republican Rhetoric and Metaphors of National Redemption in American Revolutionary Drama
More than two hundred years ago, the French immigrant Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, in an attempt to define the essence of the new nation at the time of the American revolution, posed the classic question of American nationality in his most widely...
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Remembering Albert Wertheim (1941-2003)
This special issue on "American Drama and American Wars" owes its existence to the inspiration and example of Albert Wertheim. Two years ago Al, who had been a friend of this journal since its inception, told me of an archival research project he was...
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Summer

Editor's Note
With great pride and pleasure I introduce this very Special Double Issue of American Drama dedicated to celebrating and exploring the life and works of Arthur Laurents. This project was brought to me by Gabriel Miller, who had completed lengthy interviews...
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Arthur Laurents Chronology
1917 - Born on July 14th in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Irving Laurents and Ada (Robbins) Laurents. 1933 - Graduates from Erasmus Hall High School. 1993-37 - Attends Cornell University. Graduates with a major in English. 1937 - Takes a...
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The Meaning of the Moon: The Plays of Arthur Laurents
Arthur Laurents is one of the most versatile, talented, and socially committed of the playwrights who came of age in the aftermath of World War II. If he lacks the luminary stature of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, he more than holds his own...
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Arthur Laurents Bibliography
PUBLISHED PLAYS "Now Playing Tomorrow," in Short Plays for Stage and Radio, ed Carless Jones. Albuquerque: U. of New Mexico P., 1939. "Western Electric Communicade," Best One-Act Plays of 1944. Ed. Margaret Mayorga. New York: Dodd Mead, 1944....
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An Interview with Arthur Laurents
GABRIEL MILLER: Let me start with the same question I asked you last time: Which playwrights influenced you when you were younger? ARTHUR LAURENTS: Thornton Wilder, Lillian Hellman, and Philip Barry, I think that's about it. GM: I'll ask you...
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An Excerpt from Jolson Sings Again
Act One. Scene Seven: Julian's--The next day Light bangs up on Andreas, Robbie, and Julian. ANDREAS: Who told you? ROBBIE: It doesn't matter. ANDREAS: I'm not the Un-American Committee, for Chrissake! Who told you? ROBBIE: Georgia. ...
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An Excerpt from My Good Name
Act Two. Scene One: A little later that Monday RACHEL and HARRY are dancing to a different tune. The music stops. HE goes to change the tape. SHE stands there for a moment. RACHEL: But wasn't what you did the same as what they did? HARRY:...
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A Toast to the Champion of High Comedy, Arthur Laurents
I have a lot to say about Arthur and his work, so sit back for a bit. It won't be half as much as I want to say, but it's going to take a few minutes. Once upon a time, in the first half of the twentieth century, when theater was the biggest game...
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"Hubbell, People ARE Their Principles"
Arthur Laurents may be the most principled man I have ever known. One of his best known creations, Katie Morosky, the heroine of The Way We Were, admonishes her husband during a debate over the costs of standing one s ground with the simple passionate...
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Nicholas Martin on Directing Arthur Laurents
GABRIEL MILLER: Did you first meet Arthur Laurents when you were doing Time of the Cuckoo or do you go a little further back than that? NICHOLAS MARTIN: No, we lived near each other and Andre Bishop arranged for us to have lunch to see if we liked...
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Andre Bishop on the Intelligent Craft of Arthur Laurents
GABRIEL MILLER: How far back do you go with Arthur Laurents? ANDRE BISHOP: You mean in terms of me knowing him? Not really that far back. I met him around the New York theater, but had never worked with him. I was involved in a reading or two of...
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Bernadette Peters on Gypsy
GABRIEL MILLER: Is the production of Gypsy still going forward? BERNADETTE PETERS: Oh yeah, definitely. GM: When is it scheduled to open? BP: It opens in April. GM: And you go into rehearsal in January or February? BP: January. GM:...
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Vol. 11, No. 2, Summer

Editor's Note
In an attempt to summarize the process of the first ten years of founding and editing this journal, we published an essay, "Ten Years of American Drama" (Vol 10, No. 1). In that same essay I asked readers to comment on my history of the journal and...
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Letters
I write in response to your thoughtful essay that appears at the beginning of the Winter 2001 issue. In this essay you state that you would welcome comments from subscribers regarding the issues you discuss in the essay, directions that American Drama...
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The Instability of Meaning in Suzan-Lori Parks's the America Play
Suzan-Lori Parks's The America Play (1990-1993) is a complex, multilayered play about history. Both the history and the play itself refuse to be pinned down; and appropriately, the play is devoid of clear linear plot movement, and thus hard to follow....
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Deconstructing (A Streetcar Named) Desire: Gender Re-Citation in Belle Reprieve
This essay begins with three intertextual moments of citing/"sighting" Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. The first, which closes the main narrative portion of Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel A Handmaid's Tale, has Offred, the handmaid, speaking...
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Cherrie Moraga's Radical Revision of Death of a Salesman
Two generations after Death of a Salesman played to sell-out crowds on Broadway in 1949, Cherrie Moraga's Shadow of a Man (1990) takes the subtext of Miller's play for its subject. (1) Salesman uses dishonesty as a metaphor for the dark side of the...
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The Maiden's Prayer: Nicky Silver's Chekhovian Play
When Nicky Silver's The Maiden's Prayer premiered in 1998, it received tepid reviews from two reviewers who usually enjoy the playwright's work. For Ben Brantley, the play is not fully developed: "But the evening often feels like an ectoplasmic version...
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Quenching the Flames of History: Joan Schenkar's Burning Desires
More than five hundred years after her death, the story of Joan of Arc continues to capture the public imagination. In the introduction to her recent biography of Joan of Arc, Mary Gordon notes that "[t]here are over twenty thousand books about Joan...
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