wars in American drama


wars in American drama
   War has been a frequent source for American playwrights, and their attention has usually been focused on those conflicts in which America participated directly. Between 1880 and 1930, the wars most often represented on the stage were the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Great War (World War I). The Revolution was dramatized in James A. Herne's The Minute Men of 1774-75 (1886) as well as Clyde Fitch's Nathan Hale (1898) and Major André (1903). Herbert Fields, Richard Rodgers, and Lorenz Hart's musical comedy Dearest Enemy (1925) was praised for its colorful Revolutionary War background. However, it was not until the 1930s that this period received its most worthy stage depiction in Maxwell Anderson's Valley Forge* (1934).
   The War of 1812 inspired a few plays in the early 19th century, but it was the tragic conflicts of the Civil War that produced numerous plays on various aspects of the conflict. Dion Boucicault's Belle Lamar (1874) was the first of many melodramas using the Civil War as its backdrop during the late 19th century. Some of these include David Belasco's May Blossom (1884) and The Heart of Maryland (1895), William Gillette's Held by the Enemy (1886) and Secret Service (1895), Bronson Howard's Shenandoah (1889), Herne's The Reverend Griffith Davenport (1899), Fitch's Barbara Frietchie (1899; and the 1927 Sigmund Romberg operetta, My Maryland, based on it), the Julian Edwards and Stanislaus Stange musical When Johnny Comes Marching Home (1902), William C. deMille's The Warrens of Virginia (1907), and Augustus Thomas's The Copperhead (1918). Some plays focused on the Reconstruction era following the war, including Thomas's Alabama (1891) and Joseph R. Grismer and Clay Greene's The New South (1893) also appeared.
   As America's involvement in World War I loomed, playwrights shifted attention to that conflict, first in wartime musicals including Irving Berlin's all-soldier revue Yip Yip Yaphank (1918). Samuel Shipman and Aaron Hoffman's The Friendly Enemies (1918) dealt with the effect of the war at home, while the 1920s found playwrights depicting the cruelty and hardship of war in such plays as Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings's darkly comic What Price Glory (1924). Antiwar pleas included Channing Pollock's The Enemy (1925). In the 1930s, Robert E. Sherwood's The Petrified Forest (1935) reflected disenchantments resulting from the war and the Great Depression, while his Pulitzer PRizE-winning Idiot's Delight* (1936) marked a transition from dramas dealing with World War I to those anticipating World War II.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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