Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Pulitzer-Winning Play ALISON'S HOUSE Opens Tonight at Metropolitan Playhouse


The Obie Award-winning Metropolitan Playhouse offers the first uncut revival of Susan Glaspell's 1931 Pulitzer winning ALISON'S HOUSE since its debut. Directed by Artistic Director Alex Roe at the Playhouse (220 E 4th Street, New York City), the production runs now through December 13, 2015. Opening night is set for tonight, November 20.

On New Year's Eve, 1899, the Stanhope family homestead in Iowa--former home of late and celebrated poet Alison Stanhope--is being emptied for sale. With the move displacing her surviving sister and uprooting generations of memories, someone will risk the house and all within it to keep its secrets from being discovered. But a Chicago reporter and Alison's niece and nephews, bridling at the mores and demands of the Victorian Age, are eager to share her legacy with the world. On the cusp of the new century, whether the life of the poet also part of her work becomes the question of whether one generation must live forever under the restraints of its forbears.There lies the answer to whether a tightly knit family can withstand the rending of an entirely new age.

Inspired by the life and reputation of Emily Dickinson, whose heirs denied Glaspell rights to use her name, the story of a family struggling with how to celebrate and protect the legacy of a famous but famously reclusive ancestor won the Pulitzer Prize in 1931. Starring Eva Le Gallienne as Elsa Stanhope, and produced by her Civic Repertory on 14th Street in December of 1930, ALISON'S HOUSE ran twenty-five performances. On the strength of its sales, it transferred uptown to the Ritz theater, where it was assailed by critics, in spite of its continued popular success, and closed after two weeks, but not before catching the eye of the Pulitzer Committee. Infrequent revivals have followed, including one in Los Angeles by the Federal Theater Project in 1938. Metropolitan knows of no other presentation of the full script in the New York since its 1930 debut, though the play was last produced in the city by The Mint Theater Company, in a version cutting some characters and scenes, in 1999.

Tickets are $25 general; $20 students/seniors; $10 children, and may be purchased online at or by telephone at 800-838-3006.

SUSAN GLASPELL (1876-1948), the daughter of a hay farmer and school-teacher in rural Iowa, earned her BA at Drake University in 1899 and began work as a journalist for the Des Moines Daily News. She returned in 1901 to Davenport to concentrate on creative writing, and by 1911 had published two novels and stories in numerous magazines. In 1913, she married George Cram Cook, and to escape the gossip of their Mid Western community--he was already twice divorced, and a socialist who had given up a university career to truck farm--the two resettled among like-minded political and artistic spirits, including John Reed, in Greenwich Village.

In the summer of 1915, they helped found a summer theater on a Cape Cod wharf that would help begin America's little theater movement: THE PROVINCETOWN PLAYERS. The Players moved to 139 Macdougal Street in New York in the fall of 1916, where they devoted their work to support new playwrights and experiments in staging as an antidote to Broadway commercialism. By 1922 the company had produced over 90 new plays, including the first productions of Eugene O'Neill's early work, eleven of Glaspell's works, and those of more other women writers than any other theater of the time.

Glaspell and Cook grew disenchanted with the Broadway aspirations and infighting of fellow Players, and left to live a simple, rustic life in Greece in 1922. She returned to settle in Provincetown following Cook's death in 1924, and she continued writing, chiefly novels, though this was the period during which she produced Alison's House. She also served for a director of the Midwest Play Bureau for the WPA's Federal Theater Project in 1936, but resigned after two years. Returning again to Provincetown, she devoted her remaining years to writing fiction.

Among her 15 plays are the one-acts SUPPRESSED DESIRES (1915, with Cook), and TRIFLES (1916), and full-length plays INHERITORS (1921, produced by Metropolitan in 2005), and THE VERGE (1921).

Directed by ALEX ROE (Injunction Granted, Icebound, The Hero, Self, Uncle Tom's Cabin) the cast stars AMANDA JONES (Marie Antoinette: Color of Flesh, The House of Mirth, The Contrast), JOHN D. McNALLY (Within the Law) ANNE BATES (Icebound), SIDNEY FORTNER (Icebound, Self), PAUL HERBIG, JOHN LONG, FLORENCE MARCISAK, MATT McALLISTER (Self), KATHARINE SCARBOROUGH, and BLAINE SMITH (The Henrietta), and MEREDITH SWEENEY (Within the Law). Set design is by ALEX ROE. Lighting by SAMANTHA DAVIS and PATRICK MAHANEY. Costumes by SIDNEY FORTNER.

METROPOLITAN PLAYHOUSE, now its 24th season, devoted to Hope, explores America's theatrical heritage through forgotten plays of the past and new plays of American historical and cultural moment. The theater received a 2011 OBIE Grant from The Village Voice for its ongoing productions that illuminate who we are by revealing where we have come from. Called an "indispensable East Village institution" by and "invaluable" by Back Stage, Metropolitan has earned accolades from The New York Times, The Village Voice, and The New Yorker. Other awards include Outstanding Performance Art Group from the Victorian Society New York, and 19 nominations for NYIT Awards since 2010, including 3 winners for script, actor and costume. Recent productions include THE AWFUL TRUTH, INJUNCTION GRANTED, THE MAN OF THE HOUR, ICEBOUND, WITHIN THE LAW, THE HERO, A MAN'S WORLD, BOTH YOUR HOUSES, THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, DEEP ARE THE ROOTS, THE JAZZ SINGER, ONE-THIRD OF A NATION, UNCLE TOM'S CABIN, and DODSWORTH, as well as the Alphabet City and East Village Chronicles series.

Pictured: John D. McNally, Blaine Smith, Sidney Fortner, and Amanda Jones. Photo by Jacob J. Goldberg Photography.

Related Articles View More Off-Off-Broadway Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

More Hot Stories For You