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February 19: Awake and Sing!

February 19, 2013

Clifford Odets’ comic drama, Awake and Sing!, widely considered his best play, premiered on Broadway at the Belasco Theater on this date in 1935, in a Group Theater production directed by Harold Clurman. The cast included Luther Adler, Stella Adler, Morris Carnovsky, John Garfield, and Sanford Meisner. Odets’ play tells of the impoverished, three-generation Berger family, living in the Bronx during the Great Depression. In a review of a 2006 revival, Charles Isherwood wrote in the New York Times that “conflict suffuses the stale air with a tension that almost seems to have mottled the walls. Dinner becomes a simmering battle between factions, in which grievances and recriminations are passed around the table along with the salt and pepper.” A Yiddish version of the play was produced by the Federal Theatre Project in 1938. The title is from Isaiah 26:19: “Awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust.”

“Go out and fight so life shouldn’t be printed on dollar bills.” —Jacob (Morris Carnovsky), Awake and Sing!