Circle in the Square Theatre

A Comprehensive History


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About the Book

Based on years of research as well as interviews conducted with Circle in the Square’s major contributing artists, this book records the entire history of this distinguished theatre from its nightclub origins to its current status as a Tony Award-winning Broadway institution. Over the course of seven decades, Circle in the Square theatre profoundly changed ideas of what American theatre could be. Founded by Theodore Mann and José Quintero in an abandoned Off–Broadway nightclub just after WWII, it was a catalyst for the Off–Broadway movement. The building had a unique arena-shaped performance space that became Circle in the Square theatre, New York’s first Off–Broadway arena stage and currently Broadway’s only arena stage. The theatre was precedent-setting in many other regards, including operating as a non-profit, contracting with trade unions, establishing a school, and serving as a home for blacklisted artists. It sparked a resurgence of interest in playwright Eugene O’Neill’s canon, and was famous for landmark revivals and American premieres of his plays. The theatre also fostered the careers of such luminaries as Geraldine Page, Colleen Dewhurst, George C. Scott, Jason Robards, James Earl Jones, Cecily Tyson, Dustin Hoffman, Irene Papas, Alan Arkin, Philip Bosco, Al Pacino, Amy Irving, Pamela Payton-Wright, Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Christie, John Malkovich, Lynn Redgrave, and Annette Bening.

About the Author(s)

Sheila Hickey Garvey is a professor emerita of theater at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Connecticut. She is a professional director, actress and a past president of the Eugene O’Neill Society.

Bibliographic Details

Sheila Hickey Garvey
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 404
Bibliographic Info: 29 photos, glossary, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7058-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3949-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface 1

Introduction: The Plaque (1973) 7

 1. Apprenticeship (1945–1950) 11

Part I—The Off Broadway Years

 2. Alternative Theatre (1950–1952) 22

 3. The Off Broadway Movement (1953) 39

 4. The Curse of Success (1953–1956) 56

 5. Destiny Intervenes (1956) 68

 6. The O’Neill Renaissance (1956) 80

 7. The Second Circle in the Square (1957–1960) 96

 8. Off and On (1960–1962) 110

 9. Endings and Beginnings (1963) 128

10. New Partners (1963–1964) 139

11. Competition Off Broadway (1965) 154

12. Triumph and Tragedy (1966–1968) 166

13. Nobody Owns O’Neill (1968) 184

14. Overproducing (1968–1972) 197

Part II—The Broadway Years

15. The Third Circle in the Square (1972) 214

16. Redefining a Myth (1972–1976) 230

17. A Broadway Institution (1973–1976) 247

18. Matters of Perception (1976–1982) 259

19. The O’Neill Centenary (1981–1988) 276

20. A Time to Grieve (1990–1994) 299

21. Amends (1994–1997) 315

22. A Theatre with Character (1994–1999) 334

23. The Legacy (2000–2020) 347

Circle in the Square Productions 355

Works Cited 359

Index 377

Book Reviews & Awards

“This outstanding book chronicles one of the most remarkable theater organizations created since WW II…a detailed, well-written narrative… Rich with backstage stories and intimate portraits and commentary from the artists…Garvey provides an intimate view that readers will find exhilarating, and her scholarship is superb…. highly recommended”—Choice; “A must read”—NewsNotes Dance Blog