Theatre Guild

Definition

Theater

  • The New York production company founded in 1918 by LawrenceLangner (1890 - 1962) to provide theatregoers with the best ofEuropean and US drama. It was based at the Garrick Theatre until 1925,when a string of successes prompted a move to its own Guild Theatre.In the 1920s the Guild helped to establish the international reputationof George Bernard Shaw. After staging the world premiereof Shaw's Heartbreak House (1920), the Guild acted as his USagent and went on to produce 15 more of his plays, including worldpremieres of Back to Methuselah (1922), Saint Joan (1923),The Apple Cart (1929), and Too True To Be Good (1932).

    Other European plays produced during the early years includedFerenc Molnár's Liliom (1921), Leonid Andreyev's HeWho Gets Slapped (1922), and Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt (1923).The Guild also presented work by Tolstoy, Strindberg, Chekhov, andMarlowe.

    The company was equally important in developing the careersof contemporary US playwrights. In 1928 it produced Marco Millions(1928) by Eugene O'Neill, who maintained a long associationwith the company after his rise to fame. It also gave crucial earlyencouragement to the Pulitzer Prize-winners Maxwell Anderson, RobertSherwood, and William Saroyan.

    Amongst the famous actors the Guild nurtured were Helen Hayes,the Russian actress Alla Nazimova, and Lynn Fontanne andher husband Alfred Lunt (see the Lunts),who appeared together (for only the second time) in the Guild's 1924production of Molnár's The Guardsman.

    In musical theater, the Guild made an outstanding contributionby producing Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1935) and by bringing togetherRichard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to create the innovative Oklahoma! (1943).

    In 1950 financial pressures obliged the Guild to sell its theater tothe American National Theatre and Academy (ANTA). It then went intoa long slow decline: although effectively moribund from the mid 1970s, it was not officially wound up until 1996.

    The company's 'Theatre Guild on the Air' presented the nation with distinguished radio and television play productions from 1945 to 1963.

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