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CONTENTS Litrodu^ion: The Happy Years, thb Advancing Theatre “The lij URY Ape” ... Skies were certainly not unclouded for the artists who found incentives for flight and scorn in the contentment of Main Street, which they were temperamentally incapable of sharing. Desire I^nder the Elms John Gassncr Eugene O’Neill Eugene O’Neill Laurence Stallings and Maxwell Anderson Sidney Jloward George S. And the one acknowl- edged genius of our theatre, O’Neill, glared balefully down on the scene of American pros- perity with tragic perturbation and refused to be comforted. Therf r Rr^-iuctioris in Nevb York Citiv o present book and then turn to i twen Best Plays of the Modern American Thee tre (1929-1939) and Best Play l of the Modern American Theatre: Secoik Series (1939-1946).

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will be charged for each day the book is kept overtime Ac. £ \ TWENTY-FIVE BEST PLAYS OF THE MODERN AMERICAN THEATRE EARLY SERIES EDITED WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JOHN GASSNER NEW YORK CROWN PUBLISHERS Copyright, 1949, by Crown Publishers Note: All plays contained in this volume are fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, the British Empire, including the Dominion of Canada, and all other countries of the Copyright Union. Behrman Maxwell Anderson Dorothy and Du Bose Heyward Ben Hecht and Charles Mac Arthur Sophie Treadwell Maxwell Anderson and Harold Hickerson . PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA • Introduction THE HAPPY YEARS, THE ADVANCING THEATRE By John Gassner In the brief chronicle of the modern American theatre, only one of its decades, that which ended ignominiously one late October day in 1929, was free from national anguish.

Permission to reproduce, wholly or in part, must be obtained from the copy- right owners. One decade of unclouded skies is about as much as the children of the century have enjoyed any- where, and we tend to look back upon it with a nostalgia that does not always seem quite so justified when a Broadway producer revives one of its plays.

Combining with the panache of youth and with messianic intentions for the public in some psycho-chemical mixture, the “push” of the period gave birth to adventurous enterprises long enough to introduce new ideas and forms in staging and dramatic composition, to shake Broadway out of old ways and make it adopt new ones, and to set standards which stamped modernity upon our theatre.

The story, which may be captioned “Genesis” in the annals of our stage, is a lusty one of playwrights and production groups springing up with rude strength or with bright-as-day cleverness, of battles fought in the name of self-liberation and art and frequently won on the fairy-tale field of commercial theatre.

Human relations, too, were undoubtedly beginning to be viewed with frankness rather than with the sentimentality usual in Victorian America.

By 1919 Eugene Walters could dramatize the fluctuations of an immoral heroine in The Easiest Way and refrain frorrf reforming her at the end.

Folk I ^acknowledged through Porgy ^Jfcacters, and social protest through he Lightning .

Balderston Lewis Beach Susan Glaspell Eugene O’Neill V Edna St. , and Street Scene, nk fantasy by Berkeley Square, poetic iism by Aria da Capo, and expres- li variously by u The Hairy Ape,” r on Horsehac\, and Machinal.

Our perilously contracted Broadway theatre midway in the century can look back upon the period before 1917 with undisguised envy as one of expansion, of numerous playhouses later to be surrendered to motion picture exhibitors,* of many more plays per season than we have today, of productions costing a fraction of what they must cost today.

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