Lee Papa (Ed.)

Publication Date



[Excerpt] This collection is an attempt to restore and revitalize interest in a largely forgotten American theatrical genre, the workers' theatre movement. "Workers' theatre" is a term that is used broadly to define theatre from the working class or theatre about working-class people. Here it refers to a unique and specific movement in the American theatre of the 1920s and 1930s to employ the stage to address issues concerning the worker and the workers' movement. A simple definition was given by Hollace Ransdell of the Affiliated Schools for Workers in 1936: a workers' theatre play "deals truthfully with the lives and problems of the masses of the people, directly or suggestively, in a way that workers can understand and appreciate". These plays need not be written by workers themselves, and, in fact, many were written by figures sympathetic to the labor movement. The plays themselves are a series of fascinating, moving, occasionally frustrating dramas that often passionately explore the possibilities of the workers' movement. Even during the Great Depression, these plays never displayed the pessimistic images of the future as reflected in the contemporary fiction of Steinbeck and Dos Passos. Instead, the plays of the American workers' theatre clung tightly to stirring, Utopian visions, as was hoped for in the early writings that formed a basis for the movement.


The abstract, table of contents, and first twenty-five pages are published with permission from the Cornell University Press. For ordering information, please visit the Cornell University Press.