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Street Scene

Street Scene
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Elmer Rice
Publisher: Samuel French
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 136
Pub. Date: 1970
ISBN-10: 0573615896
ISBN-13: 9780573615894
Cast Size: 11 women, 16 men

About the Play:

Winner of the 1929 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

Street Scene is a full-length drama by Elmer L. Rice. The story follows the lives of four characters in a tenement house. It concerns two plot lines: the romance between Rose and her neighbour, Sam, and the extramarital affair of Rose's mother, Ana, which is eventually discovered by her irritable husband, Frank. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Street Scene portrays the romances, squabbles and gossip of daily life that ultimately build into a tragedy of epic proportions.

Street Scene depicts first generation immigrant families struggling in a New York tenement rife with domestic quarrels, racial and ethnic tensions and economic anxiety. Frank Maurrant is a hard man, tough with his family. His wife, Anna, desperate for affection, has sought it elsewhere, and their daughter Rose dreams of escaping with the boy from the second floor. Though this remarkable play is primarily a slice of life in a poor neighbourhood, it is held together by a strikingly dramatic plot which depicts two scorching hot days in June 1929, when the pot finally boils over for Frank. The rumours about his wife having an affair have become too loud and too persistent for him to ignore. The claustrophobic reality of living in a six-storey walk-up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan with the neighbours all knowing everyone's business, and constantly passing judgment on everyone's behaviour, leads to dire consequences. The incident serves chiefly to crystallize the viewpoint and very human reactions of the entire neighbourhood. Surprisingly relevant for today, Street Scene is modern classic that catches the varying moods of daily life as it is lived by millions in a large metropolis.

Street Scene premiered in 1929 at The Playhouse in New York City. After over 600 performances on Broadway, the production toured the United States and ran for six months in London. While this large-cast masterpiece is rarely performed professionally, it is a popular choice for college theatre productions because it explores the comedy and tragedy of daily life through the experiences of several working class families, many of them new immigrants.

Cast: 11 women, 16 men

What people say:

"You can almost feel that mysterious grit that sifts all over Manhattan, sifting into the theatre, and hear its crunch as it eddies into the tattle and fuss of these people. It is like spying upon the neighbors with earphones and binoculars, and out of all the casual talk and incident Mr. Rice snatches with gusto and compassion the tawdry little items which stack up into an unusual and memorable evening." — New York Journal American

"Still unwilling to write a conventional play according to the safe, stereotyped forms, Elmer Rice contents himself with writing an honest one… He has observed and transcribed his material perfectly. It manages to be generally interesting, frequently amusing, and extraordinarily authentic." — New York Times

"Rice has produced a remarkable body of work – large, varied, experimental and honest … As a consistently experimental playwright he is rivaled in our theater only by O'Neill." — Robert Hogan, from The Independence of Elmer Rice

About the Playwright:

Elmer L. Rice (1892-1967) was an American playwright, screenwriter, and novelist whose major contribution to American literature was an innovative approach to dramatic art and use of the flashback technique from the movies on the stage. A native of New York City, he studied law and passed his bar exams. However, he immediately began writing, and, from 1914 until the mid-1940s, he was one of the most prominent playwrights and theatrical directors in America, and made important contributions to motion pictures, both as an author and screenwriter. During his 45 years in the theatre, Rice wrote 50 full-length plays, 4 novels, and several film and television scripts, as well as his autobiography. His most famous play The Adding Machine, satirized the dehumanizing effects of machines, but Street Scene a realistic drama that focused on the tenement life in New York City slums won him the greatest acclaim, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Dream Girl, a psychoanalytical fantasy, was his final popular success.

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