“Few other plays explore so unflinchingly the profound, and profoundly English, connection between sex, money, and class… Still packs a powerful punch.” The Sunday Times (1998)

It’s “Wakes Week” in Hindle; the mill is closed and the workers are idle. Fanny Hawthorn is relaxing at the seashore with a girlfriend when she runs into Alan Jeffcote, the mill owner’s son. Alan takes Fanny to an hotel in Wales for a few days of fun, but the fun stops when their parents find out. Of course, Alan should marry Fanny—no matter that Alan is engaged already. Should Alan do the right thing and make an honest woman of Fanny, or should he do the right thing and stand by his fiancé? Hindle Wakes mixes questions of ethics, class, custom and morals into an effervescent fizz of comic realism.

“One of the most challenging, original and human plays of the English theatre in our day.” New York Call (1922)

Hindle Wakes premiered in London, in 1912. Many critics called it the best play of the year. The Sunday Times hailed Hindle Wakes as “a work of illuminating force…as timely as it is significant” while the Observer noted, “To see Hindle Wakes is to have enlarged one’s life.” However, the play’s unsentimental depiction of two young people seeking pleasure without commitment sparked moral outrage, filling England’s newspapers with passionate argument over the play’s controversial subject matter.

Hindle Wakes “not only scandalized playgoers, but persons who had never been inside a theatre and who were never likely to visit one joined in the general outcry,” according to The Guardian. Of course, controversy was good for business and Hindle Wakes was a hit.

“It is not extravagant to say, that Hindle Wakes is one of the best plays of modern times.” Theatre Magazine (1922)

In New York that same year, unfortunately, the play flopped. The headline of the Times review branded it as “Very Poorly Acted” and it lasted only 30 performances. New York tried again in 1922—this time the Times acknowledged that, “it is now, as it was then…a shrewd, and nourishing and artful comedy.”

Hindle Wakes is a sly morality tale, sliced out of real life, but “it is life mixed with something, or fermented into something, more exhilarating than the real thing,” wrote the Guardian’s famed critic C.E. Montague, in reviewing a 1924 revival of the play. “Seen last night after an interval of some ten years, the play struck us as an even better comedy than we had felt it to be in its youth…Houghton was surely born with the right touch for a dramatist, and it will be surprising if Hindle Wakes does not keep a permanent place on the stage.” Montague’s prediction has proven true in England, however, Hindle Wakes has not been seen in New York for 95 years.

An industrious playwright from Manchester, Stanley Houghton (1881-1913) “startled England with the brilliant originality of his comedies of Lancashire life” (The New York Times). Blending truthfully observed realism with shrewd comic grit and “supremely sophisticated dexterities” (The Manchester Guardian), Houghton wrote over a dozen plays, many of which called for women’s sexual and economic freedom.

Born on February 22, 1881 in the town of Ashton-upon-Mersey, Cheshire, William Stanley Houghton moved as a child to bustling Manchester, where his father thrived as a cotton merchant. After graduating from Manchester Grammar School, Houghton entered his father’s business as a commercial clerk, but devoted most of his spare hours to the theater. As an amateur actor, Houghton appeared in dozens of roles with the Manchester Athenaeum Dramatic Society, while writing one-act plays. In 1905, he was hired to write stage reviews for The Manchester City News, and soon after became assistant drama critic for The Manchester Guardian.

Under the aegis of theater manager Annie Horniman, Houghton decisively picked up his playwright’s pen. With the vibrant, socially engaged plays of the Gaiety Theatre, founded in 1908 as the first repertory company in Great Britain, the London-born “Miss Horniman invaded Manchester and captured it with her army of ideas” (The New York Sun). Houghton’s first one-act play at the Gaiety, the astringent domestic satire The Dear Departed (1908), revealed the playwright’s “capital sense of theatrical values” (The Guardian).

Over the next four years at the Gaiety, Houghton made consistent progress as a playwright. With his first full-length play, Independent Means (1908), Houghton introduced the free-thinking “woman of ideas” that animated his work. He also stimulated Manchester audiences with The Younger Generation (1910), which The Guardian called “a veracious and highly amusing piece of social satire” in which “the realism is delightful.” The Gaiety’s 1912 London premiere of Hindle Wakes at the Incorporated Stage Society, and then Coronet Theatre, launched Houghton as one of the preeminent young dramatists of his generation, while setting off a shockwave of controversy.

Tragically, only a year and a half after Hindle Wakes, Houghton died of meningitis on December 11, 1913, at the age of thirty-two. The New York Press’s Robert Allerton Parker memorialized the Manchester playwright: “the death of Stanley Houghton has taken away a real force in making the English drama cosmopolitan rather than insular,in widening its appeal while deepening its insight.” Over a century after Hindle Wakes’ much-discussed premiere—and following an acclaimed 2012 centennial production at London’s Finborough Theatre—Houghton’s rousing and “remarkable play” (The Observer) continues to resonate.

Cast

Jeremy Beck
Rebecca Noelle Brinkley
Emma Geer
Jonathan Hogan
Sara Carolynn Kennedy
Ken Marks
Brian Reddy
Sandra Shipley
Jill Tanner

Creatives

Sets: Charles Morgan
Costumes: Sam Fleming
Lights: Xavier Pierce
Sound & Original Music: Jane Shaw
Props: Joshua Yocom
Hair & Wigs: Gerard Kelly
Dialects & Dramaturgy: Amy Stoller
Casting: Stephanie Klapper, CSA
Production Stage Manager: Jeff Meyers
Assistant Stage Manager: Elizabeth Ann Goodman
Illustration: Stefano Imbert
Graphics: hey jude design, inc.
Advertising: The Pekoe Group
Press: David Gersten & Associates

POST-SHOW DIALOGUE
Led by Tamsen Wolff, Princeton University

Saturday, January 13, after the matinee

Tamsen Wolff is an Associate Professor at Princeton, where she specializes in modern and contemporary drama and performance, gender studies, cultural studies, voice, directing and dramaturgy. Tamsen will facilitate this discussion, which will feature your thoughts and questions about the play.

“I’M NOT WITHOUT A TRADE AT MY FINGER TIPS.”
Deborah Valenze, Barnard College

Saturday, January 20, after the matinee

Deborah Valenze is a Professor of History at Barnard College, where she also teaches in the Women’s Studies
department. Her research and scholarship have been supported by the Guggenheim Foundation,
and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others. Deborah is the author of The First
Industrial Woman, published by Oxford University Press. Her discussion will consider the impact of
work on women’s independence, among other issues raised by Hindle Wakes.

“THE ACTORS’ BEST FRIEND”: ANNIE HORNIMAN, PATRON AND INSPIRATION
Maya Cantu, Bennington College

Sunday, February 4, after the matinee

Maya Cantu is Dramaturgical Advisor to Mint Theater Company. 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. Maya will discuss the life and work of Annie Horniman.

Flyer