The Group Theatre

An Enduring Legacy


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About the Book

This book examines the history and influence of the Group Theatre, the most significant acting company in America. Founded during the Great Depression, the Group presented the first plays of Clifford Odets, Sidney Kingsley, and William Saroyan, and launched the careers of Franchot Tone, John Garfield, Elia Kazan, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Martin Ritt, and Luther Adler. The intense realism of their performances inspired generations of writers, actors, and directors in both theater and film.
After the Group closed, its former members directed or produced the Broadway plays Brigadoon, A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman, Camino Real, Bus Stop, The Music Man, Equus, and Yentl. In Hollywood, Group alumni produced, directed, or starred in the award-winning films On the Waterfront, East of Eden, Twelve Angry Men, Hud, Fail-Safe, 1776, Serpico, Network, Norma Rae, and The Verdict. Four of the nation’s best-known acting teachers—Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner, Robert Lewis, and Stella Adler—came from the Group. The studios they established remain the most highly regarded acting schools in the world, with venues on four continents.

About the Author(s)

Mark Connelly teaches literature and film at Milwaukee Area Technical College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he is vice president of the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center.

Bibliographic Details

Mark Connelly
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 339
Bibliographic Info: 42 photos, chronology, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7711-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5112-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Preface 1
Part One. The History 3
1. The Evangelist 4
2. Summer School 12
3. First Steps 28
4. Six Plays 53
5. Ebb Tide 84
Part Two. The Legacy 101
6. After 102
7. Reincarnations 118
8. Resurrection: The Actors Studio 126
9. Naming Names 135
10. Strasberg at the Actors Studio 151
11. The Actors Studio After Strasberg 174
12. The Teachers: Meisner, Lewis, and Adler 182
13. Living Legacy: “The Group Is” 208
14. Brought to Life 232
Chronology 239
Group Theatre Broadway Productions 243
Profiles 267
Chapter Notes 307
Bibliography 321
Index 327

Book Reviews & Awards

• “[An] illuminating history … Presented in a digestible and engaging format, Connelly’s chronicle will fascinate readers interested in theater and film and their intersections.”—Booklist

• “[T]he author’s research is impressively comprehensive and is particularly pathbreaking in its focus on legacy and the many and varied ways in which The Group has impacted theatre making into the twenty-first century.”—Mary McAvoy, associate professor of theatre, Arizona State University