Clifford Odets

Clifford Odets - The Playwright as social barometer.

Clifford Odets: “The Artist Is Taking A Strange Place In America Today” 1963 – Past Daily Weekend Gallimaufry

Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets – The Playwright as social barometer.

Clifford Odets – Interview for Sum & Substance – Feb. 3, 1963 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

The name Clifford Odets may not ring any bells, unless you have spent time going through the history of Theatre and the Social commentary of 1930s Depression-era America.

To many, Clifford Odets was a radical – a firebrand of the Theatre; a writer whose work exposed the harsh realities of day to day life. Not the stuff of “genteel Theatergoers”, or the stuff of frothy Broadway musicals. Odets saw the Theatre as a place to bring up conflicts, pose solutions – shed light; look at life for what it was, not as a place for distraction, but for motivation and enlightenment. It was that engagement of the audience by tackling subject matter outside the acknowledged Broadway mainstream that wound up revolutionizing Theatre for decades after. A genre of Theatre which still fights for recognition and a forum, but which has been quietly overshadowed by the glitter and the shiny and the approximate.

This interview, part of the Sum & Substance series, was conducted in February of 1963, a scant six months before his death. Ironically, the discussion starts with how Odets saw himself as a Playwright at 75. He voices pessimism of the state of Arts and Theatre in 1963. How we had rejected the substance and went with the superfluous. How America was losing its way.

1963 – some 54 years ago. Clifford Odets couldn’t have imagined the America of 2017 – yet the work which we wrote in the 1930s is still relevant today. Perhaps too “on the nose” in some places, but a play like Awake and Sing still resounds and feels familiar. The characters, fully fleshed-out and breathing, could be people you run into anywhere.

If you are a fan of Theatre, or have aspirations in that direction, and don’t already know who Clifford Odets was – I would strongly urge you to grab a few of his plays and get familiar – you will find more similarities than differences.

If you are familiar with Clifford Odets and his work, this will be a wonderful reminder of what Theatre and the Arts in general is really all about – what’s it’s always been about.

Enjoy and take notes.

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