The Neighborhood Playhouse: Leaves from a Theatre Scrapbook

The Neighborhood Playhouse: Leaves from a Theatre Scrapbook

The Neighborhood Playhouse: Leaves from a Theatre Scrapbook

The Neighborhood Playhouse: Leaves from a Theatre Scrapbook

Excerpt

The renaissance of the American theatre dawned in the years just before World War I and came into full flower during the twenties. This renaissance involved a sharp break with the rather shabby tradition of its past and there has been no such break since. Whatever in our theatre is admirable today has grown out of the achievements of the teens and the twenties. Until then there had been no major American playwright and very few who so much as aspired to anything which could be called serious writing. Neither was there any art of the theatre which was more than an imitation of the rather elementary pseudo-realistic methods of the nineteenth century English and French stages.

The American ambition to produce plays which might challenge comparison with the best contemporary literature in other forms and a determination to explore the possibilities of stage craft as an independent art were born so short a time ago that not a few of those who first inspired them are still living and active. The designs and costumes of Aline Bernstein exercised a profound influence on subsequent leaders in these fields. Moreover there would be no Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams today if there had not been an O'Neill then and no such directors as, to take a single example, Kazan, if there had not been in the "little theatres" of the teens and twenties half a dozen adventurous spirits who sensed possibili-

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