The Old Maid (Adapted From Edith Wharton)
About the Play
Baltimore Theatre, Broadway, New York 1934
Drama, Melodrama, Literary Adaptation,
Full-length, divided into six episodes
Availability: Archive copies of the 1951 acting edition are available to purchase through Samuel French.
Charlotte Lovell battles her cousin Delia for the affection of her illegitimate child, whom she reluctantly gave to Delia to raise. In the end, will the child see Charlotte, her biological mother, as nothing more than “an old maid”?
While working in Hollywood, Akins got the idea to adapt Edith Wharton’s classic novel The Old Maid into a play. Critical response was guarded—Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times deemed it “a nicely mannered period piece” and said it had “the sweet sadness of old letters that have been stored in a garret” but cautioned it was “less than a masterpiece.” Nevertheless, audiences loved it, particularly women. “It’s what’s known as a matinee show… that is, its principal appeal has been to feminine audiences,” observed a Times reporter after the play won the 1935 Pulitzer Prize for Drama —a surprise victory in a season that included The Children’s Hour, The Petrified Forest, Accent on Youth, and Awake and Sing.
About the Playwright
Zoe Akins (1886-1958) was a playwright, poet, critic and novelist. Born in the small town of Humansville, Missouri, she was encouraged to write by her father. Drawn to the theatre, she also briefly tried an acting career—but after a season of walk-ons, she decided to focus on writing. Her first play to be produced in New York was the verse drama The Magical City (1915), performed by the Washington Square Players. In 1919, Akins made her Broadway debut with Papa: An Amorality in Three Acts, whic…
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