Category: Bad Play Friday

Bad Play Friday 3, Inauguration Edition: Thomas Dixon, Jr.’s The Clansman

There might not be a more (terrifyingly) apt moment to talk about Dixon’s 1905 play, which provided the basis for D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation.  1 There’s a legend surrounding a presidential endorsement of the film: after the viewing of the movie, President Wilson supposedly declared that it was “like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” 2 And, of course, the Ku Klux Klan endorsed the person being sworn into the office of the presidency today. There has been a lot of talk about how we cannot – must not – normalize white supremacy: but the KKK has been normalized – even romanticized – in popular culture since its founding in the Reconstruction period – and Dixon’s play is certainly an instance of this.… Read more

Notes:

  1. I remember a time when I said I was going to try and do a Bad Play Friday once a week. That was hysterical.
  2. Melvyn Stokes, D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation”: A History of “The Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 111. The film was screened for Wilson on February 18, 1915.

Bad Play Friday 2: William Haworth’s The Ensign

Hello again, intrepid fans of bad plays! This week, I’m looking at a professional melodrama set during the war: William Haworth’s The Ensign (1892).

To my knowledge, the copy I got from the Sherman Collection at Southern Illinois University might  be the only extant copy of the play. But it seems that a lot of unpublished typescripts are squirreled away in odd places/papers, or haven’t been catalogued, or the finding aids aren’t digital/online, so I could be wrong on this front (please contact me if you know of any other copies out there!). 

Anyways, actor/playwright/director William Haworth chose a rather unexpected location for the start of his play (at least, unexpected compared to many other popular Civil War melodramas).Read more

Bad Play Friday 1: A. R. Calhoun’s The Color Guard

Welcome to the Bad Play Friday series!

Each week, I will share some quick thoughts on a late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century US play. 1 This series is really a way of keeping me honest as I work through my monograph on Civil War memories; because it is monograph-related, the play will somehow touch upon the war, slavery, or Reconstruction. I’ll be revisiting some plays I’ve already read/written about, but many will be texts I just recently acquired, thanks to a generous PSC-CUNY grant. The grant sent me to the Sherman Theatre archive, part of the Morris Library Special Collections at Southern Illinois University this past February.… Read more

Notes:

  1. My commentary will most likely be rife with sarcasm because it’s my second language, although my doctoral program would not accept it as one of the language requirements.