Collected Plays and Writings on Theater, the most comprehensive one-volume edition of Thornton Wilder’s work ever published, takes the measure of his extraordinary career as a dramatist by presenting the complete span of his achievement, beginning with his early expressionist experiments and daring one-act plays, such as “The Long Christmas Dinner” and “The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden” (one of Wilder’s personal favorites), ranging through the full flowering of Our Town, The Skin of Our Teeth, and The Matchmaker, and encompassing the intriguing dramatic projects of his later years, such as his adaptation of the ancient story of Alcestis (The Alcestiad) and plays written for dramatic cycles based on the Seven Deadly Sins and the varied ages of an individual’s life. Complementing the selection of plays is an illuminating group of essays that captures Wilder’s reflections on his plays and contains a revealing epistolary account of the film adaptation of Our Town, as well as evaluations of dramatists such as Sophocles, George Bernard Shaw, and the Austrian satirist Johann Nestroy (whose farce Einen Jux will er sich machen Wilder brilliantly transformed into The Matchmaker).
This volume also includes material never before published: scenes from The Emporium, an ambitious unfinished play that, emerging out of Wilder’s intense engagement with existentialist philosophy in the postwar years, imagines a Kafkaesque department store whose enigmatic activities are as inscrutable as the mysteries of life itself; and the complete screenplay Wilder wrote for Alfred Hitchcock’s film Shadow of a Doubt just before reporting for military service in 1942. Although faithful to the spirit of the film, the screenplay presented here restores Wilder’s original dialogue, some of which (to Wilder’s dismay) was altered for the movie. A study of family life, youthful illusions, and the desperation of a criminal on the run, the Shadow of a Doubt screenplay is a masterful exhibition of the art of suspense and taut dramatic storytelling, and is an essential part of Wilder’s oeuvre.
“While all of Wilder’s work is intelligent, non-synthetic and often moving, as well as funny, it is Our Town that makes the difference. It is probably the finest play ever written by an American.”—Edward Albee
About the Author
J. D. McClatchy is the author of numerous collections of poems, prose, and libretti. He has edited editions of the poetry of James Merrill and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He teaches at Yale University, where he was the longtime editor of the Yale Review.
What People are Saying About This
While all of Wilder's work is intelligent, non-synthetic and often moving, as well as funny, it is Our Town that makes the difference. It probably the finest play ever written by an American.
The Library of America earns a standing ovation from grateful theater lovers for its triumphant assemblage of all of Thornton Wilder's dramatic writings into one magnificent, indispensable volume. Seeing the totality of this great American playwright's dizzyingly, dazzlingly wide range of work will be especially revelatory for a new generation of playwrights.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Thornton Wilder is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Every reader who is seriously interested in literature should have this book in his or her library.
The working title of "The Skin of Our Teeth" was "The Ends of the Worlds." But, the end of Wilder's world is the threat of an ice age coming down from the chilly Canadian north (in act I). In fact, the entire play takes on a chronological time warp through Biblical, prehistoric and postwar environments. George and Maggie Antrobus, their children and house maid are the central characters of this play within a play. While the Antrobus characters remain constant, the house maid, Sabina does not. It is interesting to note that for the first and third acts she remains their maid and yet in the second act she is a femme fatale of sorts. Another inconsistent is the time line. Periods in history are jumbled together and stretched apart. Characters like Homer and Moses come to visit. A mammoth and dinosaur are the family pets. In the end the punchline is Mr. Antrobus, turning the fate of life over to us, the audience of this play within a play.