Eugene C. Davis and the Samuel French Editions

by Adrienne Kennedy

08/24/12 09:22

 

During the years 1946-1949, I went to Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio. We had a drama teacher named Eugene C. Davis. During my first year at Glenville, the drama department put on The Barretts of Wimpole Street. It starred a student named Kathy Dembo. Everyone said she was going to Hollywood. It seemed possible. Eleanor Parker’s father taught geometry at our high school. Ross Hunter’s mother still lived on the next street in the house he grew up in. He came to our junior high and gave a talk on a movie he was in. It was coming out soon. I went to see it. It took place in the desert.

 

At Glenville the Drama Room and the Music Room were beautiful. The Drama Room had a stage and long windows. As you entered, there were long wooden tables along the wall. And one of the long tables had an array of Samuel French plays in alphabetical order. Mr. Davis let us look at the books but we could not remove them. He was the only person who removed the books in order to read scenes from plays. They were his Samuel French editions. In addition to taking drama one semester, the Drama Room was my homeroom for three years.

 

Often before class started at 9:15, I would go over to the table and gaze at the little books and try to read the titles. Mr. Davis talked to us about Our Town, Night Must Fall, Winterset. He read from Maxwell Anderson. He read to us from the stage. He always wore a grey suit, vest, and white shirt. He told us he went to New York every summer for a week to see plays and had met Jose Ferrer when he saw Cyrano De Bergerac. He would go over to the table and take a book and then read to us from the Samuel French Edition, lay the book on his desk and tell us about the play. He told us about Our Town.

 

There must have been at least fifty or sixty French Editions on that table, always in perfect order. How was it that Mr. Davis could choose one of these books, seemingly at random, read to us from it, pausing to explain passages, and then lay the book on the desk and tell us about the meaning of the passages he had read from an then tell us about Thornton Wilder, Judith Anderson, Katherine Cornell, and his former student at Glenville Jerome Lawrence. The main source of his knowledge of plays seemed to come from his perfectly ordered table of Samuel French Editions.

 

As I write in People Who Led to My Plays, we had to do a monologue in Drama Class. I chose the novel Jane Eyre. Eugene C. Davis said, “Adrienne, you have imagination.” I think of him.

 


 

Adrienne Kennedy’s plays are published by Samuel French. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and is a recipient of the Anisfield Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement.

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