“The Theater of Engagement: The Provincetown Players and the Great War”
Chaired and organized by Sharon Friedman, Gallatin School, NYU
In their interdisciplinary study 1915: The Cultural Moment, Adele Heller and Lois Rudnick observe that progressive groups in New York’s Greenwich Village devoted to creating “a millennium of social peace and justice on American shores, faced the paralyzing horror of the Great War, now entering its second of four years.” Many involved in the Provincetown Players, one of the most important cultural institutions of the Village during this period, along with the radical faction of the Liberal Club, the revolutionary publication The Masses, and the discussion group Heterodoxy, were haunted by the war in Europe and the growing involvement of the United States, the imposition of the draft law, the persecution of dissenters, the Espionage and Sedition Acts, and ultimately the “Red Scare.” Among the diverse stylistically and thematically avante garde works produced by the Players are plays that give dramatic voice to the war issues debated among these and other groups during this period.
This panel includes papers that bring a historical, cultural, and textual analysis to, for example, Eugene O’Neill’s The Sniper (1915), Rita Leo’s (Wellman) The Horrors of War (1915), Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Aria de Capo (1918), or Susan Glaspell’s Inheritors (1921). The papers discern a dialogue between the drama and essays, magazine articles, treatises, manifestos, political rally documents, autobiographical writing or fiction generated by such groups and figures.
Papers presented include:
1. “‘The War Bill’: War on the Stage of the Provincetown Players,” Jeffery Kennedy, Arizona State
2. “WWI, Gender Politics, and the Stage as Pulpit: (Anti)War Plays by Women of the Provincetown and
Commercial Theatre,” Pam Cobrin, Barnard College
3. “‘The Gesture’ of Protest: Susan Glaspell and American Idealism in 1917,” Martha C. Carpentier,
Seton Hall University
4. “‘The Play is the Thing’: Feminist (Meta)theatre of Engagement” in Edna St. Vincent Millay’s War Play
Aria da Capo,” Noelia Hernando-Real, Universidad Complutense de Madrid