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Little Theater Movement

The Provincetown Players and Eugene O’Neill

The Little Theater Movement began in Europe in 1887 when Andre Antoine established an experimental theater company in Paris. The movement began in America around 1911-1912. Its central premise was a shift away from commercialism and a profit-centered approach to theater and away from melodramas and towards artistic creativity and experimentation to reach a more diverse audience.

From one of the most well-known “Little Theaters,” The Provincetown Players in Massachusetts emerged the first significant American playwright, Eugene O’Neill. The Provincetown Players were just one of many “Little Theaters” that existed all over the country.  In 1915, the Provincetown Players was formed by a group of writers, notably Neith Boyce, George Cram Cook and Susan Glaspell, who experimented heavily with Realism, which was not mainstream at the time.  O’Neill joined the small company in the summer 1916. The first O’Neill play performed was the one-act Bound East for Cardiff. The Provincetown Players summer season was a great success and the company moved their theater to New York. The Provincetown Playhouse in New York continues to be dedicated to showcasing new playwrights and new plays that are independently produced.

In 1920, Beyond the Horizon, O’Neill’s first full-length play, premiered at the Provincetown Player’s Theater in New York. The play was such a success it was moved uptown to a Broadway theater and O’Neill won a Pulitzer Prize.

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