America’s Lost Playwright: Edith Wharton’s Writing for the Stage

June 12, 2014 @ 10:00 pm – 11:30 pm
The Mount
2 Plunkett Street
Lenox, MA 01240
$10 general; free for members

“Wouldn’t it be fun knocking about the theatres together!”

-Walter Berry

Theatre played an important role in Edith Wharton’s life and she remained interested in writing for the stage throughout her entire professional life.  Her plays include translations and adaptations but, perhaps most importantly, a series of original dramas. These range in form from comedies of manners to a verse play to a gritty realist drama, in setting from a Catholic Church to a drawing room, and in quality from vintage to pedestrian.  All offer a fascinating insight into Wharton’s work within the dramatic medium.

Edith Wharton’s first memory of reading was of reading a play.
Edith Wharton’s first memory of reading was of reading a play.

Drawing on papers from the writer’s archives, this talk by Laura Rattray explores Edith Wharton’s largely forgotten work for the theatre and its impact on her career.  Plays discussed include a sensationalist melodrama, a finely tuned comedy, the most socially conscious piece of writing of her entire career, and a dramatic dress rehearsal for her 1913 tour de force, The Custom of the Country.

Laura Rattray is Reader in American Literature at the University of Glasgow in the UK. She has taught and researched widely on the life and work of Edith Wharton, serving on the executive board of the Wharton Society and the editorial board of The Edith Wharton Review.  In 2013, she co-directed an international symposium marking the centenary of The Custom of the Country. She is the editor of Cambridge University Press’ Edith Wharton in Context (2012), The Unpublished Writings of Edith Wharton (Pickering and Chatto, 2009), and Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country: A Reassessment (Pickering and Chatto, 2010).