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Collaborators and Friends: Evelyn Greenleaf Sutherland (1855–1908) and Beulah Marie Dix (1876–1970)

  • Sherry D. Engle
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Abstract

The collaborative relationship of Evelyn Greenleaf Sutherland and Beulah Marie Dix fittingly demonstrates how, during the early 1900s, women often joined forces to create successful plays. Sutherland worked as a drama critic for several Boston newspapers before she began writing plays, while Dix, twenty years younger, wrote plays and novels during her years at Radcliffe. Both were included in “Boston’s Great Array of Literary People” in August 1902, Sutherland described as an “author, collaborator, and playwright,” while Dix was deemed “the young writer of promise.”3 Early in 1901, the two began collaborating, eventually creating over seventeen plays, most of which were historical romances or “costume” plays, often based upon Dix’s student plays. They enjoyed success in England with The Breed of the Treshams, performed by John Martin Harvey in London and throughout Great Britain. “Matt” of Merrymount, produced by Fred Terry, and Young Fernald, a vehicle for Evelyn Millard, also achieved moderate English success. Dix and Sutherland’s most well-known American work became The Road to Yesterday, a “comedy-fantasy” in which a romantic young woman is transported back three hundred years on Midsummer’s Eve to encounter familiar people in other “incarnations” and finds her true “hero.” During the seven years Dix and Sutherland collaborated, they regularly attended theatre together and traveled abroad several times to see productions of their work.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Beulah Dix Flebbe, “Reminiscenses [sic] of a Radcliffe Playwright,” What We Found at Radcliffe (Boston: McGrath-Sherrill Press, c. 1920), B. M. Dix Papers, University of Oregon, Knight Library, hereafter cited as KL.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Information on Evelyn Greenleaf Sutherland’s life is compiled from: Who’s Who on the Stage, 2nd ed. (New York: W. Browne & F. A. Austin, 1908); Johnson Briscoe, The Actors’ Birthday Book (New York: Moffat, Yard and Company, 1908), 208Google Scholar
  3. Helen M. Winslow, Literary Boston of Today (Boston: L. C. Page & Company, 1903), n.p.Google Scholar
  4. Julia Ward Howe’s entry on Sutherland in Mary Elvira Elliott et al., compilers, Sketches of Representative Women of New England (Boston: New England Historical Publication Company, 1904), n.p.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Evelyn F. Scott, Hollywood When Silents Were Golden (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972), 41.Google Scholar
  6. 19.
    Mildred Buchanan Flagg, Notable Boston Authors: Members of the Boston Authors’ Club, 1900–1966 (Cambridge, MA: Dresser, Chapman & Grimes, 1965). Another playwright involved with organizing the club was Josephine Preston Peabody.Google Scholar
  7. 21.
    The New York Evening Post, December 16, 1892, p. 4, lists all the guests. The Theatre of Arts and Letters, headed by Henry Burton McDowell, was an attempt of “a group of minor authors” to establish subscription audiences in New York and other major cities and present “plays of literary merit,” but it lasted only one season. See Gerald Bordman, Oxford Companion to American Theatre (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 663. Sutherland may have become acquainted with Emma Sheridan Fry when the actress was with the Boston Museum Theatre in the early 1890s. Fry rejoined Richard Mansfield’s company for a time in the fall of 1891 but eventually left the stage to write.Google Scholar
  8. 29.
    Evelyn Greenleaf Sutherland, Po’ White Trash in Po’ White Trash and Other One Act Dramas (Chicago: Herbert S. Stone and Company, 1900), 2.Google Scholar
  9. 99.
    Beulah Marie Dix, Across the Border (London: Methuen, 1915), 1; “The Crier,” playbill, Toy Theatre, Boston, MA, December 30, 1914, to January 6, 1915.Google Scholar
  10. 106.
    Beulah Marie Dix, Moloch (New York: Knopf, 1916).Google Scholar
  11. 108.
    George C. Tyler, Whatever Goes Up (Indianapolis: Bobb-Merrill, 1934), 263. Tyler recounts that when Holbrook Blinn first gave him Moloch, he immediately felt it was theatrically gripping, but not being a pacifist himself, he worried that it might be too propagandistic. He sent the play to Colonel Theodore Roosevelt for his opinion, but in the meantime was urged by fellow producers to begin production. When Roosevelt finally replied in October during the run of the New York production, he shared his thoughts on the play. The first act he felt showed “real strength,” demonstrating an “Aeschylean horror and dignity of the portrayal of the blind working of fate which brings evil on evil.” But he wrote that the “lesson” of the play as a whole was “both very foolish and very wicked” in that the play does not discriminate between “wanton or iniquitous war,” or a war of “righteousness.” His letter is reprinted in its entirety in Tyler’s memoir (pp. 265–67).Google Scholar
  12. 117.
    Beulah Marie Dix and Evelyn Greenleaf Sutherland, A Rose o’ Plymouth-Town (Chicago: Dramatic Publishing, 1908), 11.Google Scholar
  13. 125.
    John Corbin, New York Times, October 5, 1902, sect. II, p. 14.Google Scholar
  14. 129.
    John Martin-Harvey, The Autobiography of Sir John Martin-Harvey (London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company, Ltd., 1933), 289. The actor went by Martin Harvey earlier in his career; after being knighted in 1921, he added the hyphen to his name. See also http://www.webrarian.co.uk/martin-harvey/index1.html.Google Scholar
  15. 155.
    Beulah Marie Dix and Evelyn Greenleaf Sutherland, The Road to Yesterday (New York: Samuel French, 1925 revised version), Act 1, 9–16.Google Scholar
  16. 160.
    Alan Dale, Chicago Examiner, January 8, 1907, n.p., clipping, BR.Google Scholar
  17. 164.
    Dix, Theatre Record, Vol. III, The Lilac Room, Academy of Music, Norfolk, VA, October 29, 1906.Google Scholar
  18. 165.
    Dix, Theatre Record, Vol. III, The Lilac Room, Webers Theatre, NY, April 3, 1907.Google Scholar

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© Sherry D. Engle 2007

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  • Sherry D. Engle

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