Days to Come
By Lillian Hellman
Directed by J.R. Sullivan
August 2nd through September 30th
- Tuesday – Saturday 7:30pm
- Saturday & Sunday 2:00pm
- Wednesday: 9/5 at 2:00pm
- Thursday: 9/20 at 2:00pm
- No performance: Saturday 9/8 at 2:00; Tuesday 9/18 at 7:30
Running time: 2:20 with one intermission.
The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row
410 West 42nd St.
Lillian Hellman’s second play, Days to Come, is a family drama set against the backdrop of labor strife in a small Ohio town which threatens to tear apart both town and family. “It’s the story of innocent people on both sides who are drawn into conflict and events far beyond their comprehension,” Hellman said in an interview before Days to Come opened in 1936. “It’s the saga of a man who started something he cannot stop…”
Andrew Rodman is running the family business and failing at it. The workers are out on strike and things are getting desperate.
“Papa would have known what to do,” his sister Cora nags, “and without wasting time and money.”
“The strike, these people here—it’s wrong for you,” his wife Julie advises, “It doesn’t make any difference who wins—”
But it’s too late. Rodman is bringing in strikebreakers, naively failing to anticipate the disastrous impact that this will have on his family and their place in the community where they have lived for generations.
Audiences had no chance to appreciate Days to Come when it premiered on Broadway in 1936; it closed after a week. Hellman blamed herself for the play’s failure. “I wanted to say too much,” she wrote in a preface to the published play in 1942—while admitting that her director was confused and her cast inadequate. “On the opening night the actors moved as figures in the dream of a frightened child. It was my fault, I suppose, that it happened.” Nevertheless, “I stand firmly on the side of Days to Come.” In 1942, Hellman could afford to take responsibility for the play’s failure; she had enjoyed much success in the days after Days to Come (with both The Little Foxes and Watch on the Rhine.) But Hellman’s play is better than she would admit.
Days to Come was revived only once in New York, in 1978, by the WPA Theatre. In reviewing that production for The Nation, Harold Clurman wrote that “our knowledge of what Hellman would subsequently write reveals that Days to Come is not mainly concerned with the industrial warfare which is the ‘stuff’ of her story for the first two acts.” Hellman’s real preoccupation is “the lack of genuine values of mind or spirit” of her principle characters, the factory-owning Rodmans.
The Village Voice called the play “very much worth seeing”:
“Days to Come appears in retrospect to be a warm-up for her first masterpiece, The Little Foxes…It was also the first place in which her great continuing theme was fully stated: that there is no line between private morality and public policy, that political choices are moral choices. All people, Hellman tells us, have their failings; they are to be understood. But when those failings spill out onto other people, they become something which is no longer private and which cannot be overlooked.” The Village Voice, 1978
More than a neglected curiosity by one of America’s greatest playwrights, Days to Come is subtle, complex and vital drama: “Very much worth seeing,” indeed.
Sets: Harry Feiner
Costumes: Andrea Varga
Lights: Christian DeAngelis
Sound: Jane Shaw
Props: Joshua Yocom
Fight Director: Rod Kinter
Dialects & Dramaturgy: Amy Stoller
Casting: Stephanie Klapper, CSA
Production Stage Manager: Jeff Meyers
Illustration: Stefano Imbert
Graphics: Hey Jude Design, Inc.
Press: David Gersten & Associates
“I Wanted to Say Too Much:”
Lillian Hellman and the Creation of Days to Come
Maya Cantu, Bennington College
Saturday August 11, after the Matinee
Maya Cantu is on the Drama Faculty at Bennington and Dramaturgical Advisor to the Mint. She received a D.F.A. in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at Yale School of Drama. Her book American Cinderellas on the Broadway Stage: Imagining the Working Girl from “Irene” to “Gypsy” is now available through Palgrave Macmillan.
Daniel Walkowitz, New York University (Emeritus)
Sunday August 12, after the Matinee
Professor Walkowitz is an historian who specializes in labor history, eminently qualified to discuss the labor issues, which dominate the plot of Days to Come. His publications include Working-Class America: Essays on Labor, Community and American Society and Rethinking U.S. Labor History: Essays on the Working-Class Experience.
Sharon Friedman, New York University
Saturday September 15, after the Matinee
Sharon Friedman is the author of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism entry on Lillian Hellman, as well as numerous essays on other important American women playwrights, such as Susan Glaspell, Rachel Crothers and Lorraine Hansberry.
Alice Kessler-Harris, Columbia University
Thursday September 20, after the Matinee
Kessler-Harris is the R. Gordon Hoxie Professor Emerita of American History. She is the author of is A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman (2012). Kessler-Harris specializes in the history of American labor and the comparative and interdisciplinary exploration of women and gender.