Playwrights’ Theater

By | Nov 3, 2009

The Playwrights’ Theater opened their first season in Greenwich Village, New York on November 3, 1916. On the bill that night were three plays by three barely known writers. It would seem to have been just an ordinary opening night for an experimental theater group. The plays performed that night were The Game, by journalist and social activist Louise Bryant; King Arthur’s Socks, a comedy by Floyd Dell; and Bound East for Cardiff, by Eugene O’Neill.

Eugene O’Neill would become an major American playwright of the early 20th century. Some would say he was America’s greatest playwright. But in 1916 he was simply one of a group of young artists and writers who got together during the summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts and created the Playwright’s Theater.

O’Neill was the youngest son of the popular touring actor James O’Neill. James O’Neill toured America in the later part of the 19th Century usually performing the lead role in the play the Count of Monte Cristo.

For the next 4 years the Playwright’s Theater produced a number of O’Neill one act plays. Finally on February 2, 1920 his first full length play Beyond the Horizon, opened on Broadway.

Floyd Dell had been a literary critic before finding himself at Provincetown. Afterwards he turned his attention to writing and had a number of novels as well as poetry published during his long life.

Louise Bryant was a socialist and activist. While she had a short affair with O’Neill, it was with journalist John Reed that she is best known. She was married to him when they moved to Russia. Reed entered into Communist party activities writing articles about revolution.


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