The Way Theater Worked in 1955

In 1955, playwright Arthur Miller, author of Death of a Salesman, published the essay “The American Theater” in the American travel magazine HolidayHoliday ran from 1946 and 1977. Joan Didion’s “Notes from a Native Daughter” first appeared in Holiday. Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, Paul Bowles and John Steinbeck wrote for it. Though E.B. White’s Holiday magazine essay “Here Is New York,” and Truman Capote’s “Brooklyn Heights: A Personal Memoir,” were later published as slim, stand-alone books and have assumed canonical status, “The American Theater” is a compelling analysis of Broadway system, and many of Miller’s observations still ring true. Holiday folded in 1977 and just relaunched in France this year. I found Miller’s essay in the 1956 anthology Ten Years of Holiday, though the essay appears in The Theater Essays of Arthur Miller. Below is a short excerpt from “The American Theater”:

All over the country there are nine-year old girls, for instance, who are walking around the house as my daughter is at this very moment, in high-heeled shoes with the lace tablecloth trailing from their shoulders. If mine doesn’t recover before she is sixteen she will wake up one morning and something will click inside her head and she will go and hang around some producer’s office, and if he talks to her, or just asks her what time it is, she may well be doomed for life.

The five blocks [in New York City], therefore, are unlike any other five blocks in the United States, if only because here so many grown people are walking around trailing the old lace tablecloth from their shoulders.

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