- This term generally refers to noncommercial plays depicting rural life or local history. Little definable folk drama was seen in the United States prior to the late the 19th century, when several playwrights and scholars identified plays, particularly in the American South and West, as folk plays. Percy MacKaye, among others, promoted folk drama and saw it as analogous to pageants and experimental plays, all encouraged by the little theatre movement. After Frederick H. Koch founded the Carolina Playmakers at the University of North Carolina in 1918, a number of folk plays by North Carolina writers began to capture the slowly vanishing lives of mountain people. Paul Green extended such plays into historical pageants inspiring the birth of symphonic dramas, often called outdoor dramas,* and Lula Vollmer, also a North Carolinian, wrote Sun-Up (1923), The Shame Woman (1923), and Trigger (1927), all with flavorful portraits of women living hardscrabble lives in the North Carolina mountains. English playwright Louis N. Parker and French actor-manager Maurice Pottecher were also outspoken enthusiasts of folk drama. Various immigrant groups brought a taste for folk plays to the United States, and all sorts of street festivals, carnivals, and community celebrations are often related to the tradition of folk drama. In the next generation, Josefina Niggli* would write many one-acts of Mexican folk life.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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