The Experimental Playwrights' Theater Opens Its First New York Season

The experimental Playwrights' Theater opened its first New York season on November 3, 1916, at 139 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village.

The premiere featured three short plays: The Game, by journalist and social activist Louise Bryant; King Arthur's Socks, a comedy by Floyd Dell; and Bound East for Cardiff, a one-act play by then unknown playwright Eugene O'Neill.

The November 3 production marked the New York debut of one the most influential American artists of the twentieth century. O'Neill, who wrote more than twenty full-length plays over the course of the next two decades, is credited with transforming American theater into a literary medium which, in its artistry, rivaled the best in American fiction and painting. He won four Pulitzer Prizes for his plays and remains the only American playwright to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

During the summer of 1916, a group of young artists and writers vacationing at the seaside resort of Provincetown, Massachusetts had organized the Playwrights' Theater, adapting a building on a wharf as a stage. The Provincetown players wrote and performed their own plays and designed and constructed all stage sets and costumes themselves.

The Boston Post headlined its September 16, 1916 review of the new experimental theater "Many Literary Lights Among Provincetown Players." These "lights" included Mary Heaton Vorse, William Daniel Steele, Susan Glaspell, Louise Bryant, Neith Boyce, and Hutchins Hapgood.

It's just Beauty that's calling me, the beauty of the far off and unknown, the need of the freedom of great wide spaces, the joy of wandering on and on—in quest of the secret which is hidden over there, beyond the horizon.”

— Eugene O'Neill Beyond the Horizon

Eugene Gladstone O'Neill (16 October 1888 – 27 November 1953) was an American playwright, and Nobel laureate in Literature. His plays are among the first to introduce into American drama the techniques of realism, associated with Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Swedish playwright August Strindberg. His plays were among the first to include speeches in American vernacular and involve characters on the fringes of society, engaging in depraved behavior, where they struggle to maintain their hopes and aspirations, but ultimately slide into disillusionment and despair. O'Neill wrote only one well-known comedy (Ah, Wilderness!). Nearly all of his other plays involve some degree of tragedy and personal pessimism.