Stage Society



  • A British theater organization that was founded in London in1899 to present plays with artistic merit that were unlikely to beproduced as commercial ventures. The private Society was also ableto perform works that had been refused a licence by the Lord Chamberlain.The plays were usually presented in West End theaters on Sunday nights.Many plays introduced by the Society later transferred successfullyto the commercial theater.

    The first Stage Society production was George Bernard Shaw'sYou Never Can Tell, presented at the Royalty Theatre in 1899.Later Shaw productions included Captain Brassbound's Conversion(1900), Mrs Warren's Profession (1902), and Man and Superman(1905). Other dramatists whose works were performed included CliffordOdets, Frank Wedekind, Maxim Gorki, Luigi Pirandello, and Jean Cocteau.

    In 1919 the Stage Society sponsored the foundation of thePhoenix Society to perform early English drama. During thesix years of its existence, the Phoenix produced 26 works, all butsix of which were directed by Allan Wade. Its successes included Fletcher'sThe Faithful Shepherdess in 1923, for which Sir Thomas Beechamarranged the music.

    In 1926 the Stage Society merged with the Three Hundred Club,an organization with similar aims and methods. During the 1930s, however,it was largely superseded as a patron of new experimental drama bythe Gate Theatre and other London venues; it was disbandedduring World War II, the last production being GarcĂ­a Lorca'sBlood Wedding, given at the Savoy Theatre in 1939.

    During its 40-year lifespan, the Stage Society attracted someof the theater's finest talent, including Laurence Olivier, EdithEvans, and Peggy Ashcroft. Theodore Komisarjevsky, married for a timeto Ashcroft, created innovative scenery for the Society's productions.