The ReGroup Theatre, in conjunction with the playwrights' families, proudly announces the publication of The "Lost" Group Theatre Plays: Volume One, featuring 1931- by Claire and Paul Sifton and Success Story and Gentlewoman both by John Howard Lawson. The book features a foreword by the legendary Estelle Parsons and essays by George Bartenieff and Allie Mulholland.
The Group Theatre set the precedent as to what an artistic Theatre company could achieve. Though they are studied in universities around the country, very few of their plays have been widely available. The ReGroup Theatre Co., who was formed in the image of the original Group, has formed alliances with the playwrights' estates to bring these plays back into publication for the first time in nearly eight decades. They are destined to become the subject of much analysis and production, as due to the economy, they are once again extremely timely.
1931- was The Group Theatres's second production, and though tremendously received by the balcony crowd, it was dismissed by critics and soon closed. It would become one of the Group biggest commercial failures, though after a public reading in 2010, the ReGroup believes it is more topical now than it was 80 yrs ago. 1931- is the story of a young man, Adam, who loses his job early in the play and is confident that a man of his ability can quickly find a new job. As adept as he may be, there is no guarantee of employment, and we watch as Adam slowly succumbs to his environment until he is left with one choice... revolution.
John Howard Lawson, who would be known as one of the top 10 American Playwrights if not for the McCarthy Hearings, was the first playwright to contribute two plays for The Group Theatre. He was a role model for Clifford Odets, and his writing style is clearly evident when reading the great works of Odets. The first of Lawson's Group play was Success Story in 1932. It is a tale of an up-and-coming advertising associate Solomon Ginsberg, during and after the stock market crash. A clear predecessor to Odets's Golden Boy and even the television series Mad Men, the play questions exactly what qualifies who is a 'success'. It would run 121 performances and be turned into a filmed titled Success at Any Price starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Lawson's second Group play, Gentlewoman opened on Broadway only two days after his play The Pure in Heart. Though it would only last a few weeks, it became an important play in American Theatre History. Gentlewoman is concerned with socialite, Mrs. Gwyn Ballantine, who falls for the "inspired Bohemian" Rudy Flannigan. When Mrs. Ballantine finds out that her husband is guilty of Bernie Madoff type business deals, she is tempted to pursue her desires for the younger poet. Though she finally has met her ideal mate, can she give up her sophisticated lifestyle in exchange for love? The play has historical significance as Stella Adler, who originated the role of Gwyn, became so disillusioned with acting due to her frustration with the role; she sought out the help of legendary teacher Konstantin Stanislavsky. Through her studies with him, Ms. Adler brought her own interpretation of his method back to the United States, and would eventually lead to her forming her own very successful school, though it deeply divided The Group Theatre.
The ReGroup Theatre, formed under many of the same circumstances as The Group Theatre, strives to bring the Art of Theatre to its highest form. Believing Theatre should transport the audience into the world of the play, instead of bringing the play into the world of the audience, the ReGroup started its existence by presenting a series of extremely popular readings of the "lost" Group Theatre plays. After just a year, they have produced 5 readings of these rare but relevant plays, and they have plans for 3 more readings in the summer of 2011. In the fall, they will present their first full production, the 80th anniversary run of The Group's 1931-.