Antebellum Charleston Dramatists

Antebellum Charleston Dramatists

Antebellum Charleston Dramatists

Antebellum Charleston Dramatists

Excerpt

As the United States devises plans to observe fittingly the bicentennial year, 1976, it is clear that much still needs to be done in understanding the early development of our nation. In the field of early American drama much remains to be done. One subject long recognized as significant is the theatre of Charleston, South Carolina. It has drawn the attention of numerous scholars. Books, articles, and dissertations have dealt with this subject sufficiently to show the vital position held by the Charleston theatre in the South and the United States from the colonial period to the Civil War. The dramatic writing for its stage, nevertheless, has not received commensurate attention. Strong appeals have been made to rectify this omission.

My purpose is, first, to fill a clearly recognized need in regard to dramatic writing for the Charleston theatre and, second, to further the general understanding of early American drama. The group of plays composed for the Charleston theatre forms the largest and most cohesive body of dramatic writing for any theatre in the South before the Civil War. Like much early American drama, however, its meaning for contemporary audiences, and hence its true significance, has been lost. My principal conclusion in regard to methodology for early American drama is that it is imperative to know the historical events of the particular time in which a play was composed in order to comprehend its meaning for a contemporary audience. Sometimes a precise knowledge of local history and of the relations of theatre manager and dramatist is indispensable. With all this information at hand, the full significance of the play reveals itself, but not before. My approach in . . .

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