Mr. Scott and his wife, son and daughter have long hoped to sell the declining family business so they can pursue dreams now out of reach. When a buyer finally appears and makes a rich offer—Scott hesitates. If he sells, the old shop will become a dance hall—and Thomas Scott believes that dancing is immoral.

The Price of Thomas Scott poses probing questions about prejudice, principles, pretense and progress. Whether you find Thomas Scott inspiring or enraging—you’re sure to find Elizabeth Baker’s drama entertaining and provocative.

The Price of Thomas Scott has had only one production (at the Gaiety Theatre in Manchester, 1913.) The Guardian praised Baker’s “very considerable merits as a dramatist,” and her “careful realism…a minute study of the surface detail of life, leaving the audience to draw what conclusions they liked from what was before them.” The Era agreed, describing the play as a “delightful piece of realistic drama…There is much interest and food for thought in the picture of Thomas Scott.”

Spirited and independent, Annie Scott trims hats in her father’s shop, but longs to study fashion in Paris, despite her father’s disapproval. Like Annie, Elizabeth Baker grew up in a strict, religious household. She described her childhood in a 1927 magazine profile: “I was absolutely ignorant about the theater,” she told the journalist, “but I think I had a feeling for dramatic pictures.” Still living at home, Baker first started going to the theatre at 30, when Granville Barker was producer at the Court, and “was so much inspired by the productions there that she attempted to write a play herself.”

Just a few years later, in 1910, Elizabeth Baker’s play, Chains, was sharing the stage with Granville Barker, J.M. Barrie Shaw and Galsworthy as part of Charles Frohman’s season at the Duke of York’s. “A remarkable play,” the Times declared, “—all the more remarkable if, as we believe, it is the first attempt its author has written.” Baker may have even upstaged her most famous colleague that season. The New Age declared, “there are some respects in which I think Miss Elizabeth Baker might well challenge even Mr. Shaw’s supremacy,” calling her a “new playwright of unmistakable dramatic genius.”

With The Price of Thomas Scott Mint Theater Company will launch our most ambitious undertaking since the inauguration of the Teresa Deevy Project in 2010. “Meet Miss Baker” will bring new attention to this long forgotten, much deserving author. We will follow The Price of Thomas Scott with overlapping productions of two Baker plays at two theaters within Theater Row in the summer of 2020. Our Theatre Row twin bill will include Baker’s surprising comedy Partnership, about an ambitious professional woman who receives a tempting business proposition, and Baker’s claim to fame, Chains. We’ll offer readings of many of her other plays over the course of the next two years. Publication of Elizabeth Baker Reclaimed will coincide with our Baker twin bill two in 2020.

Elizabeth Baker

By Maya Cantu

Catapulting from office typist to “one of the most widely discussed playwrights in England” (The Christian Science Monitor), Elizabeth Baker startled her contemporaries with the realist landmark Chains (1909). In this and the twelve produced plays that followed, Baker focused extraordinary attention on the lives of London’s clerks, shopgirls, and suburban strivers. Drawn in her life and work to themes of wanderlust, Baker wrote plays that incisively explore the constraints of class, gender, and social convention upon individual agency, while centralizing the ambitions and desires of working women.

Born to a family of drapers in Paddington, London on August 20, 1876, Baker (whose birth name was Gertrude) grew up amid a large step-family in the suburbs of west London. In 1883, Baker’s widowed mother, Elizabeth Reavell, remarried master draper George Robert Collett—and assumed an enterprising new role running her second husband’s business. At the age of fourteen, Baker worked as an assistant in her parents’ shop, while writing “little things” and short plays in her spare time. Soon after, she found employment as a London shorthand clerk and typist, later working in the offices of The Spectator.

Characterized in the press as an untrained “girl-novice,” the thirty-two-year old Baker created a theatrical sensation with her first full-length play, Chains. First presented by the Play Actors in 1909, and then by Charles Frohman at the Duke of York’s Theatre, Chains focused on lower-middle-class characters longing to break away from routines of work and marriage, with clerk Charlie Wilson looking to new horizons in Australia. Baker earned praise for her “keenness of observation, her powers of drawing characters from the life, and her gift of writing dialogue that is natural and unforced” (The Field). The Bystander called Chains “one of the greatest plays that has been produced in this country for many a long day.” Baker, meanwhile, continued in her work as a typist.

Baker followed Chains with a versatile range of challenging and original plays that premiered on the stages of England’s repertory theaters, as well as in the West End. These included Edith (1912), a one-act feminist comedy for the Women Writer’s Suffrage League; the comic drama The Price of Thomas Scott (1913, Gaiety Theatre, Manchester); and her scintillating business-world comedy Partnership (1917, Court Theatre). Long independent, Baker also found mid-life romance with James Edmund Allaway, a widower who worked in the upholstery trade; she married him in 1915, at the age of forty. In 1922—echoing themes in Chains—the pair emigrated for two years to the Cook Islands; and at Australia’s Sydney Repertory Society, Baker premiered an early version of her controversial satire Bert’s Girl (produced in 1927 at the Court Theatre).

Despite receiving glowing reviews for the tragicomic Penelope Forgives (1930), Baker faced declining production prospects in the early 1930s. Her career as a professional playwright apparently concluded with the one-act One of the Spicers (1932). Following the death of her husband in 1941, Baker moved from her longtime family home in Bedford Park to Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, where she lived with a stepsister. Four ITV Television Playhouse adaptations of her plays appeared between 1959 and 1961. These broadcasts brought “Mrs. Gertrude Allaway, an eighty-four year old widow” (The Daily Mirror) a small measure of renewed recognition, half a century after The Guardian described Elizabeth Baker as a “widener of frontiers.” She died in Hertfordshire on March 8, 1962.

Cast

Donald Corren
Andrew Fallaize
Emma Geer
Josh Goulding
Mitch Greenberg
Nick LaMedica
Jay Russell
Tracy Sallows
Mark Kenneth Smaltz
Ayana Workman
Arielle Yoder

Creatives

Sets: Vicki R. Davis
Costumes: Hunter Kaczorowski
Lights: Christian DeAngelis
Sound & Musical Arrangements: Jane Shaw
Props: Chris Fields
Choreography: Tracy Bersley
Dialects & Dramaturgy: Amy Stoller
Casting: Stephanie Klapper, CSA
Production Stage Manager: Jeff Meyers
Stage Manager: Kristi Hess
Illustration: Stefano Imbert
Graphics: Hey Jude Design, Inc.
Press: David Gersten & Associates

“Do you really want to go away?” Elizabeth Baker--her life and work.
Maya Cantu, Bennington College

Sunday, January 27, after the Matinee

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.

“Where’s the Nonconformist conscience?” Nonconformists and Liberal Politics.
George Robb, William Patterson University

Saturday, February 2, after the Matinee

Professor Robb will talk about Nonconformists (or Protestants) at the turn of the last century in England. Robb received his PhD in History from Northwestern University. He was a Fulbright Scholar in the United Kingdom. His most recent books are British Culture and the First World War (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015) and Ladies of the Ticker: Women and Wall Street from the Gilded Age to the Great Depression (University of Illinois Press, 2017).

“I forgot, you used to be a Puritan, Tom.” Thomas Scott’s Beliefs.
J. Patrick Hornbeck, Chair and Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Sunday, February 3, after the Matinee

Hornbeck teaches and writes on the history of Christianity, on religion in the contemporary U.S., and on the relationship of religion and law. A frequent commentator in the national press, Hornbeck is author or editor of eight books, including most recently Remembering Wolsey (Fordham University Press). He holds graduate degrees from the University of Oxford and attended Georgetown University as an undergraduate.

“Times have changed:” Thomas Scott’s London.
Judith Walkowitz, Johns Hopkins University (Emeritus)

Sunday, February 10, after the Matinee

For more than three decades, Walkowitz, a British historian, has concentrated her research and writing on nineteenth-century political culture and the cultural and social contests over sexuality. Her latest book, Nights Out: Life in Cosmopolitan London extends her interest in the cultural and social history of London to mid-twentieth century.

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