LONDON WALL by John Van Druten explores the lives and love affairs of the women employed as shorthand typists in a busy solicitor's office in 1930's London. The play made its premiere in May of 1931 at the Duke of York's Theatre in London and was acclaimed for its hyper-realistic depiction of office life as well as its soulful probing of the dreams and desires of its female characters.
LONDON WALL recently received an acclaimed revival at London's Finborough Theater: "It hasn't been revived until now, yet comes up fresh as paint," hailed Charles Spencer of The Telegraph, calling
LONDON WALL "A piece that proves both dramatically engaging and a fascinating theatrical time-capsule." Time Out called LONDON WALL "A smart indictment of the meager circumference of a woman's life as part of the urban workforce of the '30s, wrapped around a heartfelt romantic drama."
"Set in the 1930s, the extraordinary thing is that 80 years on, notwithstanding bursts of feminism, the Pill and loosening of social corsets in all directions, much of the discussion between its workers could still be transplanted to the present day. Lowly paid employees (more often than not female) still scurry, obeying a "lord and master" in fear of losing their jobs. Talk over lunch and tea breaks is still of who is going out with whom, who may be near to getting their man to the altar, and who has just been jilted. It could be Mad Men but 20 years earlier." - The Arts Desk
John Van Druten (1901-1957) was an English playwright and theater director. Born in London, he emigrated to the US in 1940 and became a naturalized citizen in 1944. His many successes include I Remember Mama, Bell, Book, and Candle, Old Acquaintance, and I Am a Camera which, together with Christopher Isherwood's novel, Goodbye to Berlin, formed the basis of the Broadway musical, Cabaret. He also holds claim to having written the 9th-longest running straight play in Broadway history, The Voice of the Turtle, which was revived in a co-production by Keen Company and Mint Theater in 2001.
John Van Druten: Sex and the Single Girl
- Saturday, February 8, after the matinee
- Maya Cantu is a dramaturg, scholar and theater historian devoted to the revitalization of forgotten classics. She is currently completing her Doctor of Fine Arts degree at Yale School of Drama. Maya is Mint Theater's Dramaturgical Adviser and the author of the Van Druten biography that appears in our program.
William J. Mann
Author of Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood
- Sunday, February 9, after the matinee
- John Van Druten's identity as both a gay man and talented playwright led to his becoming part of a circle of eminent gay writers living in California during the 1940s and 50s, gathered around British author Christopher Isherwood. William J. Mann will discuss Van Druten's identity and significance as a gay writer. Mann is a novelist, biographer and historian. His biography Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2006.
Julie K. Berebitsky
Author of Sex and the Office: A History of Gender, Power and Desire
- Saturday, February 15, after the matinee
- LONDON WALL offers a look at women's continuing fight to be seen as professional equals in the workplace. Professor Berebitsky's new book, Sex and the Office: A History of Gender, Power and Desire is the first monograph to historicize our understanding of sexual harassment in the workplace. She currently holds positions as Professor of History and Director of the Women's Studies Program at Sewanee: The University of the South.
Margaret Boe Birns
Author of "John Van Druten" in The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama
- Sunday, February 16, after the matinee
- Margaret Boe Birns is a lecturer on English, American and European Literature of the 20th and 19th Centuries. She teaches the courses "The Novel Today" and "Masterpieces of 19th Century Fiction" at New York University and "19th Century Masterpieces: Three Great Social Novels" at The New School. She is also a published poet.
Judith R. Walkowitz
Author of Nights Out: Life in Cosmopolitan London
- Saturday, February 22, after the matinee
- The typists of LONDON WALL muse upon nights "up west" as they manage relationship and workplace pressures. Professor Walkowitz will discuss the lives—and night lives—of London shorthand typists between the wars. Her book Nights Out: Life in Cosmopolitan London reveals how London's Soho district became a showcase for a new cosmopolitan identity in the early to mid-twentieth century. Walkowitz teaches courses in British history and women's history at Johns Hopkins University.
JOHN VAN DRUTEN: A WRITER'S WRITER
Featuring treasures from the John Van Druten Papers
- Monday, March 17th at 6pm
- The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Bruno Walter Auditorium, 65th & Amsterdam
- Mint Theater Company and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts collaborate on an intimate celebration of playwright John Van Druten. Excerpts from the author's unpublished essays, letters, diary and plays will be read, exploring Van Druten's relationship with such literary peers as Tennessee Williams, Christopher Isherwood, and Rodgers & Hammerstein. This event is open to the public, no reservations required.