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Bury the Dead

Bury the Dead
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Irwin Shaw
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service (cover may change)
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 47
Pub. Date: 1963
ISBN-10: 0822201658
ISBN-13: 9780822201656
Cast Size: 20 female, 8 male (may be reduced by doubling)

About the Play:

Bury the Dead is a full-length drama by Irwin Shaw. As chaplains arrive to say prayers for a group of fallen soldiers during an unspecified war, six young soldiers rise up from their newly dug graves to tell the world about cruelty of war in Bury the Dead. A modern classic, this stirring and eloquent play employs brilliantly, imaginative theatricality to convey its timeless message. Especially recommended for school and contest use.

Bury the Dead is set on an unnamed battlefield in "the second year of the war that is to begin tomorrow night," and a military burial detail goes about its sad duties. The chaplains arrive to say prayers for the dead – but then a groan is heard from the newly dug graves, and then another. Slowly six young soldiers killed in the line of duty rise up in their graves, refusing to be buried, asking to be allowed to rejoin the living. They reject the pleas of the burial squad, their captain, and three generals, to be good soldiers and go into their graves. Proclaiming that "Wars can be fought and won only when the dead are buried and forgotten", the military brass turns to the women in their lives – wives, girlfriends, mothers – and they are brought to the battle scene to persuade the men to allow themselves to be buried. But must the dead yield so easily? In a series of touching scenes each dead man describes how he died and talks with his loved ones of what he hoped to experience in the days of living, now lost forever. As the play ends, the corpses rise and move away to tell the world of the waste of life brought about by war, while a shaken general stands by helpless to stop them. Bury The Dead remains as relevant today as when it was originally written in the mid-1930s when the rise of Hitler and the Nazis in Germany brought rumblings of war.

Bury the Dead premiered in 1936 to great acclaim at Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway in New York City, shortly after the 22-year old Irwin Shaw graduated from Brooklyn College. It was an immediate success and was produced around the world in the 1930s. It's still performed professionally and is regularly performed in high school and college theatre productions as a showcase of student talent. It is an ideal choice for high school drama contests.

Cast: 20 female, 8 male (frequently reduced with doubling)

What people say:

"...burrows under the skin of argument into the raw flesh of sensation." — New York Times

"Bury The Dead ... works as a monumental metaphor to stand up for the truth." — Broadway World

"Hard to believe Irwin Shaw wrote Bury the Dead in 1936, between the War to End All Wars and all the wars to come. The angry, searing pacifist drama feels as up-to-date and urgent as an incoming text message." — Variety

About the Playwright:

Irwin Shaw (1913-1984) was a prolific and successful American writer of short stories, plays, screenplays and novels whose written works have sold more than 14 million copies. He began his career as a scriptwriter for popular radio programs of the 1930s, and his talent for dialogue paved the way to Hollywood and highly paid work as a screenwriter. His novel The Young Lions, about the fate of three soldiers during World War II, was made into a film of the same name. Three of his other novels, including the bestseller Rich Man, Poor Man, were made into immensely successful television mini-series.