Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 30. Independent Theatres; The New Theatre

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XVIII. The Drama, 1860–1918

§ 30. Independent Theatres; The New Theatre

The drama activity is constant, but uneven and fitful in quality. There is a depression somewhere, as there always has been in the theatre, and that depression has resulted, at times, in impetuous rebellion against the manner in which the theatre is run. While the democratic mass still supports musical comedy, which is as much our national art as goldenrod is our national flower; while the moving picture has deflected many pens into channels of scenario writing,—as it has deflected actors from the legitimate stage,—there still seems to be a public clamouring for a theatre of art and ideas. The spirit of secession, upon which the Shaw-Galsworthy-Barker school of playwrights flourished in England, seems at times to have flared up in America. We have had our Independent Theatres, our National Art Theatre Societies, our New Theatres, our Leagues for the support of the better drama. But these, whilehaving some permanent effects, have not as yet changed the face of theatrical conditions. Even the New Theatre (which opened 6 November, 1909, and lasted nearly three years)—an institution begun on a money guarantee rather than on a body of ideas and a public that believed in them—was able to get from the drama market but one original American play for its repertory (Sheldon’s The Nigger), unless we include Mary Austin’s The Arrow Maker (27 February, 1911)—a thoughtful, accurate study of Indian life.