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Best Plays of the Year Volumes

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Best Plays of the Year

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Titles to Look Out For:
[in alphabetical order. Each entry includes later editions]
1943. The Best Plays of 1942-1943; edited by Burns Mantle
1936. Famous Plays of 1935



Mantle, Burns.'The Best Plays of 1942-43 and the Year Book of the Drama In America. With Illustrations', published in 1943 by Dodd, Mead & Company, 543pp, in black cloth hardback. No ISBN. Condition: Wholly intact & readable, but dusty and vintage with some minor wear and tear to the cloth edges on the exterior and tanning to internal pages. Price: £5.25, not including p&p, which is Amazon's standard charge (currently £2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers)
1943, Dodd, Mead and Company, hbk
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About the book/synopsis: This review of American theatre and drama was published during the second year of war for the United States, which naturally affected what was put on for audiences and what they wanted to see, e.g. the comedies were gayer and there were more of them; and theatre-goers would not patronise nor countenance plays about the war. In 1941-1942, eleven war plays were created, of which only two were successful (the quieter plays, more emotionally appealing): Robert Sherwood's 'There Shall be No Night' and Lillian Hellman's 'Watch on the Rhine'.

It reviews the theatre in general, the seasons in particular cities (see chapters below) and what was and wasn't successful. The texts of a selection of plays are given, along with production notes (e.g. what was happening on stage, emotions, expressions, scene changes, movements of actors on stage: "He picks up his letter. There is general silence as the curtain falls")

Sidney Kingsley's "The Patriots", a historical and biographical drama based on the early days of the foundation of liberty in the United States at a time when it was being rocked by President George Washington and two members of his cabinet, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Washington appears as an unhappy, disturbed referee in the middle of the Hamilton-Jefferson antagonisms and rivalries.

Maxwell Anderson's "The Eve of St. Mark" was written upon a suggestion made by The National Theatre Conference and was meant for their use. The National Theatre Conference was an association of civic and college theatre groups. The play was produced over 100 times by the constituent groups before the Playwrights' Company took it over (a company of which Mr. Anderson was a founder) It is described in the book as the one war play concerned with America's participation in WW2 that adequately and effectively serves the purpose of stage presentation.

Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth" is an amusing and, at the time, controversial satirical fling at the "nobility" and indestructability of the human race. The author was accused of plagiarising concepts voiced by other literary authorities such as James Joyce ("Finnegan's Wake"). Commercially, the play was a success and ran through the whole season, despite some comments that it was the silliest thing the theatre had been afflicted with.

"Tomorrow The World" by James Gow and Arnaud D'Usseau deals dramatically with the -at that time-potential future problem postwar of dealing with rehabilitating enemy nationals - adjusting them socially to an acceptable way of life and behavioural code. The chief character in the play is a Nazi 12-year old, who undergoes an attempt at moral and physical reclaiming in New York, but disaster may loom...

"Harriet" by Florence Ryerson and Colin Clements is a biographical drama of the life and times of Harriet Beecher Stowe. It is an interesting dramatization of how Mrs. Stowe came to write the story "Uncle Tom's Cabin", showing the home environment that it was written under. Helen Hayes headed the cast in 1943 and is thought to be one reason is was popular.

"The Doughgirls" by Joseph Fields is a brazen war cartoon making fun of the stuffed hotels and stuffed tunics of wartime Washington.

"The Damask Cheek" by John Van Druten and Lloyd Morris tells the story of social conventions in an older New York.

F. Hugh Herbert's "Kiss and Tell" is a bright representative of domestic US comedy at that time; expanding an adolescent them bringing American family life into happy relief.

The editor of the book acknowledges that "Oklahoma" (Rodgers & Hammerstein) and Dan James' "Winter Soldiers" are departures of routine for this yearly roundup of the best of American theatre: Oklahoma because it's a musical comedy and Winter Soldiers because it was produced in an experimental theatre much removed from the Broadway scene.

Oklahoma won its way into the book as a prime example of high quality folk opera. Winter Soldiers was first shown at the Studio Theatre of the New School for Social Research in West Twelfth Street, New York. Dan James, who authored it, was a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and this selection was made by the Playwrights' Company of whom Mr. Howard was a co-founder. The play tells the story of the delaying actions of the ordinary people of Russia and their fellows in the occupied countries that helped to keep the Germans out of Moscow on their first attempt to take the city. It embodies the wil to win of freedom-loving peoples the world over.

Contents:
Introduction
The Season in New York
The Season in Chicago
The Season in San Francisco
The Season in Southern California
The Patriots, By Sidney Kingsley
The Eve of St. Mark, By Maxwell Anderson
The Skin of Our Teeth, by Thornton Wilder
Winter Soldiers, By Dan James
Tomorrow The World, By James Gow and Arnaud D'Usseau
Harriet, By Florence Ryerson and Colin Clements
The Doughgirls, By Joseph Fields
The Damask Cheek, By John Van Druten and Lloyd Morris
Kiss and Tell, By F. Hugh Herbert
Oklahoma, By Oscar Hammerstein 2D and Richard Rodgers
The Plays and Their Authors
Plays Produced in New York, 1942-1943 - gives information on where the play is presented, when it started, who has prepared the dances, who wrote it, staged it and directed it, number of performances, a brief description of what the play is about, when it closed and who the principal actors were (including any main actors who were in it, but left)
Major Cast Substitutions
Dance Drama
Off Broadway
Statistical Summary

Long Runs on Broadway
New York Drama Critics' Circle Award
Pulitzer Prize Winners
Previous Volumes of Best Plays
Where and When They Were Born (e.g. Irving Berlin, Russia, 1888)
Necrology
The Decades' Toll
Index of Authors
Index of Plays and Casts
Index of Producers, Directors and Designers

Illustrations:
The Patriots
The Eve of St. Mark
The Skin of Our Teeth
Winter Soldiers
Tomorrow The World
Harriet
The Doughgirls
The Damask Cheek
Kiss and Tell
Oklahoma

 

American Theatre:

American Plays:

Best Plays Of:

Various, 'Famous Plays of 1935', published in 1936 in Great Britain in hardback by Victor Gollancz, 622pp. Condition: Good, internally clean & readable. DJ good for age, but dirtyish. Price: £5.99, not including p&p, which is Amazon's standard charge (currently £2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers)
1936, Victor Gollancz, hbk

  • Famous Plays of 1935 [top]
    First published in 1936 in Great Britain by Victor Gollancz in hardback with dustjacket, 622pp, no ISBN

Contains six plays:
Night Must Fall by Emlyn Williams
Accent on Youth by Samson Raphaelsono
Close Quarters by W. O. Somin
Grief Goes Over by Merton Hodge
The Mask of Virtue by Carl Sternheim
Youth at the Helm by Paul Vulpius.

 



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