American Communist Idealism in George Cram Cook’s The Athenian Women (1918)
The Athenian Women, written by the American George Cram Cook with input from Susan Glaspell, is a serious, substantial play drawing chiefly on Lysistrata and Thesmophoriazusae. It premiered on March 1st 1918 with the Provincetown Players. Cook was convinced of parallels between the Peloponnesian War and World War I. He believed there had been communists in Periclean Athens comparable to those who were making strides in Russia (in 1922 to become the USSR) and the socialists in America, amongst whom he and Glaspell counted themselves. The paper examines the text and production contexts of The Athenian Women, traces its relationships with several different ancient Greek authors including Thucydides as well as Aristophanes, and identifies the emphatically stated socialist and feminist politics articulated by the two main ‘proto-communist’ characters, Lysicles and Aspasia. Although the play was not particularly successful, its production had a considerable indirect impact on the future directions taken by left-wing theatre in the USA, through the subsequent dramas of Glaspell and Eugene O’Neill for the Provincetown Players.
Copyright (c) 2018 Edith Hall
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