Group Theatre

Definition

Theater

  • (1) A private society founded in 1933 to produce experimentalplays on a noncommercial basis at the Westminster Theatre, London. RupertDoone (1904 - 66) directed the productions, which in 1935 includeda double bill of T. S. Eliot's Sweeney Agonistes and W. H.Auden's The Dance of Death. Stephen Spender's Trial of aJudge was presented in 1938. Benjamin Britten wrote incidentalmusic for some works. The Group Theatre closed during World War IIbut was revived for a while in the early 1950s, when performancesincluded Sartre's The Flies.

    (2) A New York theater company founded in 1931, originally as anoffshoot of the Theatre Guild. The cofounders were Lee Strasberg(1901 - 82), Harold Clurman (1901 - 80), and Cheryl Crawford (1902 - 86).They sought to present serious plays that would not otherwise be seen onBroadway, while remaining commercially viable. The company was committedto ensemble acting and social realism and helped to popularize thetheories of Stanislavsky.

    The Group Theatre's first independent production was in 1932with Maxwell Anderson's Night Over Taos; the following yearit enjoyed its greatest hit with Sidney Kingsley's Men in White,which ran for 351 performances. The playwright Clifford Odetsbegan his career with the company, who mounted the first productionsof his Awake and Sing! (1935), Waiting for Lefty (1935),and Golden Boy (1937). Other writers whose works were performedby the Group Theatre included William Saroyan, Irwin Shaw, Paul Green,and Robert Ardrey. Actors in the company included John Garfield, EliaKazan, J. Edward Bromberg, Stella Adler, and Luther Adler.

    The Group Theatre disbanded in 1941, much of its talent havingdefected to the commercial theater.

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