Davy Crockett and Other Plays

Davy Crockett and Other Plays

Davy Crockett and Other Plays

Davy Crockett and Other Plays

Excerpt

The five plays which go to make up this volume--Rosedale, or the Rifle Ball; Across the Continent, or Scenes from New York Life and the Pacific Railroad; Davy Crockett, or Be Sure You're Right, Then Go Ahead; Our Boarding House; and Sam'l of Posen, the Commercial Drummer--are representative of certain popular types of plays that were being written by American playwrights for the American stage during the period that falls roughly between 1850 and 1890. The first of these had its original performance on the stage in 1863, and the last in 1881. Each was a decided popular success when it was first performed in New York City and each continued to be performed season after season. I believe it can be said without contradiction that each of these plays is utterly without literary value or literary pretension. They were each written as stage pieces and conceived entirely in terms of their immediate theatric values. Thus they are excellent examples of that cleavage between literature and theatre that had arisen in the eighteenth century and continued down through the nineteenth to the renascence of the modern drama.

In technique these plays definitely follow the pattern established by refined or "gentlemanly" melodrama. The primary objective of each of the authors is to tell a thrilling and effective theatrical story that will elicit from the audience the most immediate emotional responses; hence in each play the author places his chief reliance upon suspense, continued or enhanced, and upon pathos. The characterizations are very slightly and roughly sketched. They are usually mere examples of the types to be found in all melodrama: the hero, the heroine, the villain, and the comic. Again, as is usual in melodrama, these authors employ a form of immediate surface realism in their compositions which undoubtedly served to give these works verisimilitude to their contemporary audiences. The use of music and the employment of elaborate pantomimic scenes are characteristic of this type of drama and of the technique of the period.

Though the plays are not and make no pretense of being either high comedy or great tragedy, they do have a definite significance for the student of American drama. That significance is in the first place historical. In these popular plays are to be found a record of the theatrical interests and taste of an age, a record of the progress and development of dramatic structure, and . . .

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