What happened in American drama in the years between the Depression and the conclusion of World War II? How did war make its impact on the theater? More important, how was drama used during the war years to shape American beliefs and actions?
The late Al Wertheim’s Staging the War brings to light the important role played by the drama during what might arguably be called the most important decade in American history. As much of the country experienced the dislocation of military service and work in war industries, the dramatic arts registered the enormous changes to the boundaries of social classes, ethnicities and gender roles.
In research ranging over more than 150 plays, Wertheim discusses some of the well-known works of the period, including The Time of Your Life, Our Town, Watch on the Rhine, and All My Sons. But he also uncovered obscure and largely unpublished plays for the stage and radio, by such luminaries as Arthur Miller and Frank Loesser, including those written at the behest of the U.S. government or as U.S.O. musicals.
Wertheim, who taught English, theater and drama on the Bloomington campus until his death last year, was the American son of refugees who escaped the Third Reich in 1937.
South African playwright Athol Fugard was the subject of Wertheim’s 2000 IU Press book, The Dramatic Art of Athol Fugard: From South Africa to the World.