This is the third volume in a series that began as an attempt to provide a description of every legitimate production--play, musical, revue, revival--given in the New York professional theatre for each decade from the 1920s on. There are several methods of computing the beginning and end of a New York theatre season; the previous volumes in this series followed that used by Burns Mantle in his annual Best Plays of the Year series, by which a season ended on June 15 and began on June 16. In the 1945-1946 volume of Best Plays, that system was revised; Mantle began his 1945-1946 season on June 16 but ended it on May 31. Thereafter, he (or his successors) counted June 1 as the beginning of a season and May 31 as the end. To keep the present series relatively consistent, and because the 1930s volume of this series ends on June 15, 1940, I have decided to begin coverage with June 16, 1940, and to end all seasons on May 31. Only works produced in Manhattan are given, and these works are restricted to the theatres of Broadway and Off Broadway. There was minimal activity in the other boroughs, none of it in any way exceptional.
The listings are not restricted to English-language productions; every known foreign-language production visiting the city and reviewed in the English-language press has been chronicled. Non-English-language offerings were not as extensive in the 1940s as previously, being restricted chiefly to the Yiddish theatre, which was itself in a decline. Almost all such activity described in the English-language press is included, provided there was sufficient information available to warrant inclusion. Small numbers of titles of Yiddish plays not covered here because of a lack of information are available in the pertinent sections of the Burns Mantle series.
Often it was difficult to determine whether a given production was amateur or professional. A number of works that might be called "semiprofessional" are included. These sometimes were included because a participant went on to become a major theatrical (or other media) figure. The fact that a company was occupying a Broadway playhouse is no guarantee of its professional status, as the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research, a group made up in its later years mostly of student actors, played regularly at Broadway's small President Theatre. Because of the ambivalent nature of the company, press coverage of its activities was sporadic, and a number of productions went unreviewed. Again, only those that were reviewed are included here. On the other hand, as its name implies, the Equity Library Theatre, which was founded in the decade, used professional actors belonging to the actors' union, but offered so many productions (in strictly limited runs of several performances each) that the great bulk of its work was uncriticized, and even the dates and theatres (usually unconventional spaces, such as library auditoriums) of these performances are sometimes problematical. The titles (and little else) of many of these works are mentioned in the Burns Mantle series and in the Theatre World series begun by