Clifford Odets’ “Awake and Sing,” about a Jewish immigrant family in the Bronx during the Great Depression, is an American masterpiece, says Cynthia Meier, managing director of Tucson’s Rogue Theatre, which will stage the play next month.
Originally performed in 1935 by the Group Theatre, directed by Harold Clurman, “Awake and Sing” was one of the first non-Yiddish Jewish plays performed in the United States. “The play’s issues are hauntingly current, as the family struggles to make sense of their place in America,” says Meier.
Odets was born in Philadelphia in 1906 to a poor Jewish family and was raised there and in the Bronx, N.Y. He dropped out of school to become an actor. He met Clurman when he began attending meetings that would later form the Group Theatre.
Odets suggested his play “I Got the Blues” to the new theatre collective. Lee Strasberg didn’t initially like the play, but eventually, Odets revised it specifically for the Group Theatre’s aesthetic, says Meier, and retitled it “Awake and Sing.” His political play “Waiting for Lefty” was produced around the same time, and with the success of both plays, Odets secured his position as the primary playwright for the Group Theatre.
“Tucson’s Rogue Theatre chose this play to begin its 10th anniversary season because ‘Awake and Sing’ speaks to the universal human experience of finding a place to belong,” says Meier.
Awake and Sing previews Thursday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. and runs through Sept. 28 (Thursdays through Sundays) at the Rogue Theatre, 300 E. University Blvd. Tickets are available at 551-2053 or www.theroguetheatre.org.