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THE PEOPLE
A Play in One-Act.



ThePeopleCoverSARA: We are living now. We shall not be living long.
No one can tell us we shall live again.
This is our little while. This is our chance.


 
Glaspell

Susan Glaspell and The People

When she wasn't writing about the mid-western life she grew up in and covered as a journalist, playwright Susan Glaspell wrote liberally about the colorful characters and the passions of the Provincetown Players, where she began writing plays, and their circles of friends in Greenwich Village.

Suppressed Desires, read earlier this "virtual season" at the Metropolitan Playhouse, looked satirically at the Greenwich Village popularity of Freudian theory and "free love".  Glaspell included references, direct and veiled, to the Liberal Club, the Washington Square Book Shop and the literary salons of Mabel Dodge.  It was one of the first plays presented by the Players
group, in 1916. 

Her play The People uses another symbol of the pre-war Bohemians, the magazine The Masses, as a metaphor for the Provincetown Players itself.  The People was developed and produced in 1917, the year the United States entered
WWI.   1917 was also significantly the final year of  The Masses publication, when federal prosecutors brought charges against it for conspiring to obstruct conscription.

Susan Glaspell  (1876 - 1948)

Susan Glaspell is the owner of a legacy that casts a long shadow over American theater.  In her own lifetime, she was a well-known and best-selling author, and her one-act play Trifles is a staple of American anthologies.  But after her death her work fell into relative obscurity.  In the 1970s her work received new attention and now she is recognized as an important feminist voice from the early century, though it is still rarely seen and heard.
TheCouple
The daughter of a hay farmer and school-teacher in rural Iowa, earned her BA at Drake University in 1899 and began work as a journalist for the Des Moines Daily News.  By 1901 she was working as a freelance writer and participating actively in Davenport's literary and political circles. 

Glaspell's first novel, The Glory of the Conquered, was published in 1909. It received a series of impressive reviews. The New York Times critic argued:

Unless Susan Glaspell is an assumed name covering that of some already well-known author - and the book has qualities so out of the ordinary in American fiction and so individual that this does not seem likely - 'The Glory of the Conquered' brings forward a new author of fine and notable gifts.

She met two other writers from Davenport, Iowa:  Floyd Dell and George Cram "Jig" Cook
, as part of  The Davenport Group group of early modernist writers.  In the early 20th century, they migrated east to New York City to assume leading roles in several important artistic and cultural developments in the 1910s and 1920s.   Dell later wrote:

Susan was a slight, gentle, sweet, whimsically humorous girl, a little ethereal in appearance, but evidently a person of great energy, and brimful of talent; but, we agreed, too medieval-romantic in her views of life.

She published a novel, the Visioning (1911) and the following year had a collection of short-stories, Lifted Masks, published. 
In 1913, she married George Cram "Jig" Cook (1873 – 1924), who was a well-born former English and Classics professor.  To escape the gossip of their Mid Western community -- he was already twice divorced, and a socialist who had given up a university career to truck farm -- the two resettled among like-minded political and artistic spirits in Greenwich Village. And spent their summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  The group of left-wing writers included John Reed, Mary Heaton Vorse, Mabel Dodge, Hutchins Hapgood, Neith Boyce and Louise Bryant.

MacDougall Store Front As Barbara Gelb, the author of So Short a Time (1973), has pointed out:

Cook and Susan Glaspell had participated, along with Reed, in the birth of the Washington Square Players in Greenwich Village and had written a one-act play to help launch a summer theater in Provincetown in 1915. Cook dreamed of creating a theater that would express fresh, new American talent, and after his modest beginning in the summer of 1915, began urging his friends to provide scripts for an expanded program for the summer of 1916. None of his friends were professional playwrights, but several, like Reed, were journalists and short-story writers. Their unfamiliarity with the dramatic form was, in Cook's opinion, precisely what suited them to be pioneers in his new theater and to break up some of the old theater molds; Cook wanted them to disregard the rules and precepts of the commercial Broadway theater, and to stumble and blunder and grope their way toward a native dramatic art.

Glaspell's early published work took the form of short stories and three novels, but in 1915 she and Cook co-wrote Suppressed Desires, which they unsuccessfully proposed to the Washington Square Players.  In the summer of 1915, after passionate conversations with friends about the state of American theater, they staged this and two other plays on Mary Heaton Vorse's wharf, and the Provincetown Players was born.

Over the next few years Glaspell directed and acted in Provincetown Players pro
ductions after the group began its New York productions, while gaining critical acclaim for her own one-act plays, which were distinguished for their formal experimentation and representations of women's liberation from social and psychological oppression.   Amongst these works are Trifles, her best known one-act, based on the John Hossock murder she covered when a newspaper reporter in Iowa.  (Pictured right, the 1916 Provincetown Players production.)

Trifles
Other plays by Glaspell written during this period included The People (1917), The Outside (1917), Woman's Honour (1918), Inheritors (1921) and The Verge (1921). Glaspell acted in some of these plays.

The Provincetown Theatre Group came to an end when its star writer, Eugene O'Neill, decided to deal directly with Broadway. As Floyd Dell pointed out:

George Cook had come to a crisis in his life; he was spiritually centered in the plays of Eugene O'Neill, and now the young playwright had decided to deal directly with Broadway, refusing to allow the Provincetown Players to put on his plays before they went uptown. This was an entirely reasonable decisions on his part, but it broke George Cook's heart.

CookGlaspell and Cook grew disenchanted with the Broadway aspirations and infighting of fellow Provincetown Players, and left to live a simple, rustic life in Greece in 1922. She returned to settle in Provincetown following Cook's death in 1924, and she continued writing.

Glaspell's plays became very popular in Britain. Edith Craig, the daughter of Ellen Terry, had established a feminist theatre group, the Pioneer Players. They had initially performed Trifles and this was followed in March 1925, with a production of The Verge.  James Agate, the famous drama critic argued: "Nobody whose genius was less than Ibsen's could have hoped to tackle such a theme. I stand my ground. The Verge is a great play."

Glaspell returned to Provincetown and a book of short-stories, A Jury of Her Peers was published in 1927. The title story was again based on the John Hossack case she had covered as a journalist at the beginnning of career. This was followed by two novels, Brook Evans (1928) and The Fugitive's Return (1929).

She also wrote the play, Alison's House, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Eugene O'Neill sent her a message that said: "An honor long overdue!!"

She worked in Chicago as director of the Midwest Play Bureau for the WPA's Federal Theater Project in 1936, but resigned after two years.  Returning again to Provincetown, she devoted her remaining years to writing fiction.

Since the late 20th century, critical reassessment of women's contributions has led to renewed interest in her career and a revival of her reputation.  In the early 21st century Glaspell is today recognized as a pioneering feminist writer and America's first important modern female playwright.

The Metropolitan Playhouse has produced two of  Glaspell's full-lenth works.  Inheritors was first performed at Provincetown Playhouse on April 27 1921.  The Metropolitan Playhouse production, 2005.

In 2015, Metropolitan produced Alison's House (with Amanda Jones, right, Photo: Debby Goldman)  It was considered her major dramatic achievement, in 1931, produced at Eva Le Gallienne's Civic Repertory Theatre on 14th Street, New York, on 1 December 1930. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1931. Inspired by the life and work of the American poet Emily Dickinson, Glaspell set the play in her native Iowa.

Alison's House
The Masses and The People

MassesCover
The People is Glaspell’s homage to The Masses, the radical magazine that was central to Greenwich Village culture as well as to the Provincetown Players, envisioned as having the reach and impact of print journalism. According to historian William O’Neill, The Masses was not only a national magazine for the radical intelligentsia but also a local institution reflecting some of the idiosyncrasies of the pre-war Village”.  As such, it became, along with the Players and such other events as the Armory Show and the Paterson Strike Pageant of 1913, “a leading expression and symbol of the ‘little renaissance’ of the prewar years”. Glaspell’s decision to depict theatrically a periodical engaged with issues of national culture allowed her to make these concerns lively. Moreover, her dramatization facilitated debate on nationalism and culture on two levels (or in two media) simultaneously.

The Masses was a graphically innovative magazine of socialist politics published monthly in the United States from 1911 until 1917, when federal prosecutors brought charges against its editors for conspiring to obstruct conscription. It was succeeded by The Liberator and then later The New Masses. It published reportage, fiction, poetry and art by the leading radicals of the time such as Max Eastman, John Reed, Dorothy Day, and Floyd Dell - Glaspell's writer-friend from the Davenport Group, in Iowa.

The magazine reported on most of the major labor struggles of its day: from the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912 in West Virginia to the Paterson Silk Strike of 1913 and the Ludlow massacre in Colorado. It strongly sympathized with Big Bill Haywood and his IWW, the political campaigns of Eugene V. Debs, and a variety of other socialist and anarchist figures.

Early_cover
The magazine vigorously argued for birth control (supporting activists like Margaret Sanger) and women's suffrage. Several of its Greenwich Village contributors, like Reed and Dell, practiced free love in their spare time and promoted it (sometimes in veiled terms) in their pieces. Support for these social reforms was sometimes controversial within Marxist circles at the time; some argued that they were distractions from a more proper political goal, class revolution. Emma Goldman once tutted: "It is rather disappointing to find THE MASSES devoting an entire edition to 'Votes for Women.' Perhaps Mother Earth alone has any faith in women […] that women are capable and are ready to fight for freedom and revolution."

Literature and criticism: American realism was a vital, pioneering current in the writing of the time, and several leading lights were willing to contribute work to the magazine without pay. The name most associated with the magazine is Sherwood Anderson. Anderson was "discovered" by The Masses' fiction editor, Floyd Dell, and his pieces there formed the foundation for his Winesburg, Ohio stories. In the November 1916 The Masses, Dell described his surprise years before while reading Anderson's unsolicited manuscript: "there Sherwood Anderson was writing like—I had no other phrase to express it—like a great novelist." Anderson would later be cited by the Partisan Review circle as one of the first homegrown American talents.

The magazine's criticism, edited by Floyd Dell, was cheekily titled (at least for a time) "Books that Are Interesting." Dell's perceptive reviews gave accolades to many of the most notable books of the time: An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution, Spoon River Anthology, Theodore Dreiser's novels, Carl Jung's Psychology of the Unconscious, G. K. Chesterton's works, Jack London's memoirs, and many other prominent creations.

Although the magazi
ne's birth coincided with the explosion of modernism, and its contributor Arthur B. Davies was an organizer of the Armory Show, The Masses published for the most part realist artwork that would later be classified in the Ashcan school. Art Young, who served on the editorial board for the full run of the magazine, is credited with first using the term "ash can art" in 1916. These artists were attempting to record real life and create honest pictures, and they would often use the crayon technique to do so. This technique resulted in "capturing the feeling of a rapid sketch made on the spot and permitting a direct, unmediated response to what they saw" and is commonly found on the pages of The Masses from 1912 to 1916.

Masses1913
This type of illustration became less common after the artists' strike in 1916, which ended with many a
rtists leaving the magazine. The strike occurred when Max Eastman began to assert more influence over what was published and began printing material without first submitting it to the editorial board for a vote. While the majority of the editorial board backed up Eastman, some of the staff questioned "what they saw as Eastman's attempts to turn The Masses into a 'one-man magazine instead of a cooperative sheet.'

John Sloan who saw the magazine as moving away from its original purpose, stated, "The Masses is no longer the resultant of the ideas and art of a number of personalities. The Masses ha
s developed a 'policy.'"  Not agreeing with this idea of a policy, which became more and more serious with the escalation of World War I, Sloan and other artists (including Maurice Becker, Alice Beach Winter, and Charles Winter) resigned from the magazine in 1916.

In addition to the realistic and modernist artwork, the magazine was also well known for its many political cartoons. Art Young is perhaps most famous for these; but other artists, such as Robert Minor, also contributed to this aspect of the magazine. The cartoons, especially those by Young and Minor, were at times quite controversial and, after the United States entered World War I, considered treasonous for their anti-war sentiments.

The Masses and the Provincetown Players

The Masses had been founded in 1911 by Piet Vlag but did not find its voice until Max Eastman took over as editor in December 1912. He appointed Floyd Dell as his associate editor in 1913, and contributors to the magazine included Glaspell, Cook, Dell, Mary Heaton Vorse, John Reed, Harry Kemp, Wilbur Daniel Steele, Djuna Barnes, and William Carlos Williams, among others, many of whom also wrote for the Players.

Glaspell highlighted the overlap in the two organizations’ memberships by establishing numerous parallels between the world and characters depicted in the play and that of the Provincetown group; years later, when she wrote about the genesis of the theater, she revealed her wish that “the Provincetown Players had been a magazine”. She does not explain whether the motive for this desire was personal, professional, political, or some combination thereof; she may have been alluding to the ephemerality of theatrical, as opposed to journalistic, endeavor. The theater’s penchant for self-dramatization seems partially to have motivated some of Glaspell’s thematic, dialogic, and production choices for The People. The play reveals the connections Glaspell saw between these two distinct but related enterprises.

MAX EASTMAN (EDWARD WILLS in the PLAY)
Max Eastman

There are numerous similarities in the institutional structure of both The Masses and the Provincetown Players. The Provincetown’s script selection process by committee mirrors the format for evaluating contributions used by The Masses. Moreover, a struggle for balance between authoritarian leadership and the need for a semblance of democracy haunted both Jig Cook and Max Eastman. Cook appears to have been, however, a much more forceful figure than Eastman. Each organization also had two salaried workers with volunteer contributions by the rest of the membership.

Eastman’s statement about the journal, printed on each issue’s masthead, expresses its spirit and energy:

THIS MAGAZINE IS OWNED AND PUBLISHED COOPERATIVELY BY ITS EDITORS. IT HAS NO DIVIDENDS TO PAY, AND NOBODY IS TRYING TO MAKE MONEY OUT OF IT. A REVOLUTIONARY AND NOT A REFORM MAGAZINE; A MAGAZINE WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR AND NO RESPECT FOR THE RESPECTABLE, FRANK, ARROGANT, IMPERTINENT, SEARCHING FOR THE TRUE CAUSES; A MAGAZINE DIRECTED AGAINST RIGIDITY AND DOGMA WHEREVER IT IS FOUND; PRINTING WHAT IS TOO NAKED OR TRUE FOR A MONEYMAKING PRESS; A MAGAZINE WHOSE FINAL POLICY IS TO DO AS IT PLEASES AND CONCILIATE NOBODY, NOT EVEN ITS READERS

—There is a field for this publication in America.

This proclamation also reveals similarities in both tone and content to the annual subscription announcements drafted by Cook for the Provincetown that combined a sense of their artistic mission with a call for the audience to participate in their theatrical experiments. The financial independence and nationalistic sense of the organizations’ places in American political and cultural life are but two key elements of both tracts.

Glaspell set her play in the office of the People, subtitled “A Journal of the Social Revolution”. The phrase pays homage to both the subheading for The Masses, “A Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Interests of the Working People,” and to the title of Eastman’s monthly editorial column, “Knowledge and Revolution.” The scene evokes the feisty spirit of the journal: “On the wall are revolutionary posters .. . [This is] the office of a publication which is radical and poor” (33). The time is the present, March 1917.' With Aristotelian economy of time and place Glaspell depicts a day in the life of the People, a day fraught with financial, personal, and social conflict but also highly representative of the chaotic world that Eastman and Dell inhabited until the end of 1917.

FLOYD DELL (OSCAR TRIPP in the PLAY)
FlloydDell

The plot of The People pulls together three areas of controversy: fund-raising and subscription problems; internal disputes over content and editorial philosophy; and legal complications stemming from the journal’s radical focus.

On the day in question Glaspell depicts the editor, Edward Wills, having just returned from a fund-raising trip. Depressed about whether he can continue to publish amid all these competing pressures, he is buoyed by the belief of three loyal readers, who have traveled to New York from across the country to show their support. Despite the carping of contributors, each of whom insists that the publication move in another direction, these unwitting ambassadors of the people whom Wills is trying to reach reinvigorate him, and he vows to go on with the magazine once again.

Glaspell seems to have modeled Wills fairly closely on Max Eastman. In his biography of Eastman, The Last Romantic, William O’Neill explains the kinds of financial difficulties the editor confronted. While he built up the subscriber base from five thousand to a peak of twenty-five thousand, “the magazine was expensive to print and always lost money. To be self-supporting, it needed a wide audience that it never got, despite, and possibly even because of, considerable notoriety”. Yet Eastman had “a gift for raising money”, an activity he himself wittily described as his “career in high finance” . In The People Glaspell depicts the magazine at a financially precarious point. The printer, Tom Howe, is threatening to take a job on the Evening World, and the associate editor, Oscar Tripp (the Floyd Dell character), informs the others that Wills has not been financially successful this time, a fictional departure from Eastman’s record of comparative success on such trips. In fact, soon before the premier of the play Eastman had returned from a “two-months’ lecture and money-raising tour across the country to San Diego”. Glaspell’s plot, however, facilitates the somewhat melodramatic denouement as well as neater narrative closure in Wills’s vow to continue publishing despite setbacks.

Work by JOHN SLOAN (THE ARTIST In the PLAY)
CoverJohnSloan
Glaspell closely captures the atmosphere of struggle Eastman faced in confronting the ranks of the contributors to The Masses. While she does not slavishly duplicate the battles Eastman endured between his artists and his writers, she conveys the fraught environment surrounding the publication. Dell saw the journal as embracing elements of all these individuals’ perspectives: “It stood for fun, truth, beauty, realism, freedom, peace, feminism, revolution”. But the artists and writers seem consistently to have disagreed over its form and content. The conflict peaked in March 1916 and became “a war of th
e Bohemian art-rebels against the socialists who loved art”. While The Masses gained much respectful attention for its balance of artwork, literary content, and nonfictional essays and reports, some of the artists “pressed for greater aesthetic freedom and a purer devotion to art”. A group led by the socialist artist John Sloan confronted Eastman about his editorial policies; Eastman in turn offered his resignation, although a vote by the full membership strongly endorsed him as editor. A significant difference, however, between Eastman’s career and that of Wills in the play lies in the link that Glaspell establishes between editor and magazine. While Eastman clearly put his mark on the Masses, he never projected a life-or-death hold over its survival. More than once he expressed a resolve “to bring out one more number and quit”, but this threat never meant the simultaneous demise of the journal. The editor of the People, however, holds its fate in the balance, so that much of the dramatic tension—as well as some humor—derives from Wills’s diatribe on the forces working against the publication.

HIPPOLYTE HAVEL (The Firebrand in the Play)
TheFirebrand
It is not, perhaps, a great coincidence that Cook played the role of Wills in the first production nor that the part conveys at least as much of Cook’s personality as Eastman’s, if not more so. The impassioned rhetoric Glaspell gives Wills indeed sounds more like Cook:

We are living now. We shall not be living long. No one can tell us we shall live again. This is our little while. This is our chance... . Move! Move from the things that hold you. If you move, others will move. Come! Now. Before the sun goes down. (49)?

For the 1917-18 season circular, for example, Cook had written:

This season too shall be an adventure. We will let this theatre die before we let it become another voice of mediocrity. If any writers in this country—already of our group or still to be attracted to it—are capable of bringing down fire from heaven to the stage, we are here to receive and help.

Eastman’s voice was equally intense but far less spiritual:

“Passin’ pretty am’ helpless, She that he loved th’ most, God knows what he told th’ neighbors, But he knew it warn’t no Ghost.”

Publication of this verse, which went on for five additional stanzas and a coda, led to a ban on the sale of the Masses in New York’s subway newsstands. Glaspell incorporates this outcome into her dialogue in The People. A boy from Georgia arrives to announce that he has left school for “something different and bigger,” which he believes the magazine represents. He cries, “I heard about your not being able to sell your paper on the newsstands just because lots of people don’t want anything different and bigger, and I said to myself, ‘Tll sell the paper! Pll go and sell it on the streets!", even though he will probably risk arrest for doing so.

THE WOMAN from IDAHO (played by Susan Glaspell in the premiere)
GlaspellProtrating
The unwavering commitment of the readership to the magazine and the ideals it represents come through most strongly in the character of The Woman from Idaho, played by Glaspell in the first production. The Woman tells Wills that his words are “like a spring breaking through the dry country of my mind,” and how those “great words carried me to other great words.” Invoking Lincoln for his dedication to the philosophy of freedom for all, she speaks of the wonders of riding “across the county and see[ing] all the people. ... and I said to myself—This is the Social Revolution! . . . Seeing—that’s the Social Revolution”. One is tempted to associate Glaspell with this character through her performance, as if the playwright had created a role that would allow her to give voice to the fervent views she could not speak in her own persona. Veronica Makowsky maintains that, through this character and Glaspell’s performance in it, she was claiming that “life is an art, so that women who work in this medium, rather than paint or pen, may be those who most fully express themselves and inspire others”.

The critic Heywood Broun viewed Glaspell’s performance as having “depth and spirit” and claimed she “has done more for American drama than any playwright of the year,” as Trifles, Suppressed Desires, and The People were all produced in New York during the 1916-17 season (Suppressed Desires and The People by the Provincetown; Trifles by the Washington Square Players). Broun felt The Peopleneeds condensation and simplification, but ... it is built upon a gorgeous plan and developed with humor and telling eloquence, despite a trace of an intrusive literary quality”. While Broun said nothing about the real-life parallel to The Masses, he conveyed in detail the social spirit of the drama and the importance of the titular publication to the readership characterized in the play. He even expressed the hope that he could print the lengthy impassioned speech of the editor’s  as a “capital piece of writing.”

 MARY HEATON VORSE (SARA in the PLAY)
MaryHEatonVorce
But then, was the magazine really for the masses? It was not. It was by the radical petit bourgeois for the liberal petit bourgeois. Yet, though the working classes almost never read The Masses, the magazine did, in the long run, help the working classes.

Glaspell’s most strategic divergence from her model, then, comes in her characterization of a range of individuals touched by the publication, some of whom were le ft out of the Masses’ orbit. The Woman from Idaho, wearing “plain clothes not in fashion” (34), the Boy from Georgia “dressed like a freshman with a good allowance” (43), and the Man from the Cape [Cod], “a mute, ponderous figure” who cultivates oysters by trade (45), represent a spectrum of America by age, sex, geography, and class. All are equally affected by the rhetoric of the journal, however, and feel drawn irresistibly to its home. Glaspell created a magazine whose title truly reflected its mission; the Masses in some ways did not. While capturing the general feel and structure of her model, Glaspell was able to make her fictional journal the publication she may have wished the Masses genuinely to be.
 
Especially through the character of The Woman from Idaho, we sense that Glaspell had a vision of journalism and theater that will not only reach across America but that will help realize social change. While deeply appreciating the work of her colleagues and the closeness of her bohemian world, she depicts a moment when their talent, idealism, and energy can transcend their immediate confines; The People conveys hope for their achieving the impact that seemed perpetually to elude them in
real life, despite their dedication to advanced political and social principles. It would appear that for Glaspell the key lay in a kind of egalitarianism and nationalism that in some ways was antithetical to the concept of the “beloved community” that typified her milieu and fostered its productivity. The People only revealed that irony, however; no group ever fulfilled those goals.

The People as Presented by the Provincetown Players


CastListCoverPageThe third play on the eighth bill of the Players first season in New York City (1916-1917) was most likely the play that Glaspell wrote in response to Cook’s request to her in December while she was away in Davenport on her yearly holiday trip to her hometown.  The Players were still desperate for plays in December and The People was read to the group January 17, 1917.  It’s a highly ambitious play, asking for twelve characters on stage, the most ever for the Players thus far (one more than O'Neill's well-received Bound East for Cardiff had asked for).  Edna Kenton, public relations and chronicler for the Players, called it a “native play” because it is a thinly veiled depiction of the revolutionary magazine The Masses, which so many in the Players, including herself, had either written or worked for.  A satire without being too wicked, Glaspell uses the title to represent both the name of the publication and the group who come to convince the staff of the magazine that it must continue.  Many commentators strongly believe that, because the Players and the Masses had similar governing structures and shared the goal to be revolutionary in their respective fields, Glaspell is also reflecting the inner workings of the Players here and, ultimately, speaking to them as well.

The People was directed by Nina Moise, perhaps the only company member capable of moving around twelve actors on the Players’ small stage.  Kenton wrote that they had “hardly more than a square yard between them to play on,” and that “more than any other play on the bill [it] showed the goodly effect of competent direction.” Moise also played the role of Sara and recalled later in an interview with Sarlos her anxiety of memorizing the editorial she reads to Wells, so the text was placed inside the prop magazine.  Toward the end of the run, however, the magazine didn’t get placed on stage one night and she was forced to improvise the speech. The set for the play, the office of The People, was most likely designed by Don Corley as new head of the scenic committee, but he is not credited in the program.

The Provincetown Player's Eighth Bill opened on March 9, 1917 and ran for six days.  Kenton felt that “from the beginning to end this was an extraordinary good bill” and, as proof, they added an extra night and “could have sold out the house for another two or three performances.”(22)  Broun’s reaction to The People appeared the Sunday after the bill and began by saying that “Miss Glaspell has done more for American drama than any playwright of the year.”  Here he refers to the sum of her works: Trifles given by the Washington Square Players that past November, the Players’ productions of Suppressed Desires, and now The People.  This is no small accolade for a critic from a major New York newspaper to make in his first critical review of the Players; such a statement was an early fulfillment of one of the Players goals to affect American theatre.  About The People specifically, he compared it to King’s Cocaine as “much less showy . . . but infinitely sounder and more worthwhile,” then wrote that he felt it was in “need of condensation and simplification, but . . . it is built upon a gorgeous plan and developed with humor and telling eloquence, despite a trace of intrusive literary quality.”  He even hoped that he could reprint for himself the editor’s passionate editorial because it was “capital piece of writing.”  He mentioned specifically four of the actors: he felt Cook was “good as the editor,” that Kemp was amusing as the anarchist (most likely he was imitating Hippolyte Havel, though Broun would probably not have known that), that Moise’s reading of the editorial was “a telling bit,” and that Glaspell played The Woman from Idaho “with depth and spirit.”(24)  Broun commented in his review that “the setting and the lighting of the plays in the tiny theatre is interesting and attractive,” but he also hated the seating (he’d seen the bill twice), prompting him to write “After one more bill, which will be made up of the season’s successes, the Players will seek another theatre.  It is to be hoped that they find it.”(25)

References and Resources

Gainor_Cover
Susan Glaspell - Spartacus.com By John Simkin (john@spartacus-educational.com) © September 1997 (updated January 2020).

https://spartacus-educational.com/Jglaspell.htm

The Masses - Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Masses

The Masses and The People
Excerpted from J. Ellen Gainor's "Susan Glaspell in Context," American Theater, Culture and Politics, 1915-48; University of Michigan Press, 2001.

https://www.press.umich.edu/2721596/susan_glaspell_in_context

As Presented by - Provincetown
Provincetown Playhouse.Com, dedicated to the history of one of the most significant theatres in the development of modern drama in America: the Provincetown Playhouse, created by Dr. Jeffery Kennedy, currently an Assistant Professor at Arizona State University in the Program in Interdisciplinary Arts and Performance.
 
http://www.provincetownplayhouse.com/
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