Freud on Broadway: A History of Psychoanalysis and the American Drama

By W. David Sievers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
First Freudian Plays

ARTHUR HOPKINS IN THE ROLE OF PROPHET

By 1912 the American drama was ready to take a new direction. True, it lagged behind the European theatre, which had already seen the major works of Wedekind, Schnitzler, and Strindberg. But the seed of psychological honesty was not as new in Europe as it was in the Puritan soil of this country, and the germination took longer. The influence of Wedekind, Schnitzler, and Strindberg was, curiously enough, not as pronounced as the direction set by Augustus Thomas, Belasco, and Klein in defining the new drama.

Credit for the first application of a psychoanalytic -- as contrasted with a pre-Freudian -- concept of psychiatry in American drama rightly belongs to Arthur Hopkins, whose play The Fatted Calf opened on February 19, 1912. Lacking a published text, we can only assume from available reviews that it dealt with the use of psychotherapy in the actual cure of paranoid symptoms; although it ran only eight performances, one critic prophetically called Mr. Hopkins "the latest -- undoubtedly not the last -- to conduct a tour through the country that Augustus Thomas rediscovered."

The Fatted Calf concerns Helen Pemberton, a young girl whose parents have, with the best of intentions, unwittingly cultivated the impression that she is insane until they -- and she -- are thoroughly convinced of it. A Dr. Winter tells the parents that the trouble with

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