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WITH the turn of the century the American stage came into its own. Broadway stood on an equal footing with London and Paris. And outstanding among the dramatists of the first decade of complete independence was Percy Mackaye whose Scarecrow would still furnish an excellent evening's entertainment. Then there was Charles Rann Kennedy, an Englishman living in New York, whose two dramas on religious themes, Servant in the House (1908) and The Terrible Meek (1911), were among the most discussed plays of their respective seasons. There was Israel Zangwill whose Melting Pot struck an entirely new note and created something of a furore in its day. There was the English success by Jerome K. Jerome, also religious in theme . . . that Passing of the Third Floor Back which probably owes its success more to the compelling personality of the actor, the late Sir Charles Forbes-Robertson, than to its dramatic excellence. And speaking of plays on religious themes, there was at a much later date Channing Pollock's excellent and entertaining drama, The Fool.

In the first quarter of the century there were also two outstanding biographical plays: the Abraham Lincoln created by the English playwright John Drinkwater, and Disraeli by the English, Louis Parker.

In the matter of novelties two young playwrights, Hazelton and Benrimo, collaborated on a play, Chinese in theme, character, and manner of production, which they called The Yellow Jacket and which enjoyed production on innumerable foreign stages. In this classification, too, should be included Louis Parker's altogether charming Pomander Walk.

In England John Masefield wrote The Tragedy of Nan; Granville Barker produced the somewhat heavy social comedy, Madras House, the drama, Waste, and, in collaboration with Louis Housman, the poetic drama, Prunella; the novelist, Arnold Bennett, achieved in the collaboration, Milestones, his one dramatic success; and the dramatic critic, William Archer, refuted for all time the statement that dramatic critics are gentlemen who cannot write playable plays with his successful melodrama, The Green Goddess.

The first quarter century likewise brought success to several women playwrights: Lulu Vollmer with Sun-up; Susan Glaspell with her satire, Suppressed Desires, and whose drama, Alison's House, won the coveted Pulitzer Prize in 1930-31; Rachel Crothers with a long lis of successful plays of which Nice People and Expressing Willie are perhaps the best; Zoë Akins with Declassée and Maurine Watkins with the first of the gangster plays, Chicago.

Then, too, there was Eugene O'Neill, perhaps the first truly great American dramatist, whose early works include Beyond the Horizon (1920), Anna Christie (1921), The Hairy Ape (1922), and Desire Under the Elms (1924).

This article was originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 142.


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