Portrait of Susan Glaspell
Portrait of Susan Glaspell

Linda Ben-Zvi, professor emerita of CSU and Tel Aviv University, has authored four books on early twentieth-century American playwright, novelist, journalist and actress, Susan Glaspell. As part of Women’s History Month, Professor Ben-Zvi will be at Bas Bleu Theater in Fort Collins on March 9 and 10 to discuss Glaspell and the themes that appear in two of her politically pivotal works: the short parable Free Laughter and the full-length play Inheritors. According to Ben-Zvi, “the themes she explores — suppression of free speech, fear of foreigners, censorship of faculty on campuses – have connections to our own lives today.” 

Susan Glaspell founded the first modern American theater company, the Provincetown Players, with her husband. A journalist by age eighteen, she worked her way through university as a news reporter and became a leading novelist of the period. Considered the first modern American woman playwright, she won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1931, only the second woman to do so.

While Susan Glaspell was one of the most notable literary figures of her generation, until fairly recently she was mostly lost to history. Having written four books on the subject, Ben-Zvi is credited with helping to recover Glaspell’s work. When asked what inspired her interest in Glaspell, Ben-Zvi explains, “Susan Glaspell, who was considered the mother of modern American drama, had been lost to the American drama canon, and after reading her plays I thought that it was important to bring her work back again, through teaching her plays, publishing about her and her writing – including plays, novels, and short stories – and working to get her dramas performed again.”

It makes sense to showcase Glaspell during a celebration of Women’s History Month, because as Ben-Zvi says, “all of her plays have at their center a woman character who is the hero of each work. She was one of the few playwrights who used female characters to become the mouthpieces for the playwright’s thoughts.”

Bas Bleu is hosting the event, and describes it this way:

To provide points of reference for Dr. Ben-Zvi’s two evening presentations, Laura Jones will direct staged readings of Free Laughter on Saturday, March 9 and Inheritors on Sunday, March 10. Both pieces were written in the 1920s during the Red Scare, marked by the weakening of democratic institutions, curtailment of protest, prosecution and deportation of aliens without due process, and attempts to stifle free speech on university campuses. Powerful, ironic, and thought provoking, Glaspell’s writing illustrates how important and vital theatre is to the maintaining of a free and healthy society.

Ben-Zvi is particularly excited to bring this event to Fort Collins, as the performance of Free Laughter will be a world premiere, with the audience being the first to hear and see the work performed on stage. It is also a homecoming of sorts for Ben-Zvi, who taught at CSU in the English department for 25 years. After retiring from CSU, she moved to Israel with her family, where she taught in the theatre Department of Tel Aviv University. Her recent projects include working on articles about Cuban American playwright Maria Irene Fornes and Glaspell’s work for the Federal Theatre Project.

Event Details: Linda Ben-Zvi Celebrates Susan Glaspell
March 9 and 10, 2019 at 7:30pm

Tickets are $10 for each evening or $15 for both presentations.  The $15 special is only available at the box office: 970-498-8949. Find out more on the Bas Bleu Theater website.