American Women Playwrights, 1900-1950

American Women Playwrights, 1900-1950

American Women Playwrights, 1900-1950

American Women Playwrights, 1900-1950


"This book presents an analysis of the many plays written by women in the American theatre in the first half of the century. Such playwrights as Rachel Crothers, Zona Gale, Susan Glaspell, Edna Ferber, and Lillian Hellman were popular and successful contributors to the stage. Many of their plays won such awards as the Pulitzer Prize, the Drama Critics Circle Award, and Tony Awards. The plays are discussed in terms of their popular and critical value and placed within the historical and social background of the period. In this time of intense change for women in American society, the plays reflect the new demands for freedom, careers, the right to vote, equality with men, and the right to intellectual development. Shafer calls attention to many fine plays which deserve production today." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


December 3, 1993 was the high point of my playwriting career to date. While I was off having dinner with a friend, a policeman from Albany won Double Jeopardy by answering the following question: Name one of three women who won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in the 1980's.

The three possible answers were Marsha Norman, Beth Henley, and me. Of course as I was told of the events (you wouldn't believe how many of one's best friends and relatives watch Jeopardy on a Friday night), the two losing contestants answered "Heidi Abamavitz", the name of a comic character created by Joan Rivers and Lillian Hell. man". But the grand prize winner answered me.

I am not telling this story because I am hoping to make it on The Price is Right or The Wheel of Fortune. I suspect my last name is far too long for The Wheel anyway--Vanna can only turn so many letters. Nor do I think the ultimate theatrical accolade is becoming a Jeopardy clue. Rather, after reading these extraordinary accounts of the lives of American women dramatists of the early twentieth century, my hope was someday we wouldn't only be the obscure category Double Jeopardy super prize, but finally recognized as a mainstream of modern American drama.

I remember when I was a student at the Yale School of Drama in the 1970's, the only woman dramatist ever mentioned was Hrosvita of Gandersheim, a tenth-century canoness whose plays were never produced. In other words, she was a "closet dramatist," not a role model. How I wish that at the time this book, with the theatrical lives of diverse writers such as Clare Boothe Luce, Rose Franken, and Gertrude Stein existed. I would have turned to it for comfort and guidance nightly. I didn't want to be a tenth-century canoness, I wanted to be a working woman playwright.

I am touched and astonished by these stories. They are so different from mine and yet so similar. In drama school, I studied plays by men. I encountered Jacobean tragedies in which men would drop dead instantaneously after kissing the poisonous skulls of women. Of course I had trouble identifying with that. I wrote my first play, Uncommon Women and Others, in the hopes of seeing an all-female curtain call in the basement of the Yale School of Drama. A man in the audience stood up during a post-show discussion and announced, "I can't get into this. It's about girls." I thought to myself, "Well, I've been getting . . .

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