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At the beginning of the twentieth century American theatre was heavily dominated by commercialism In 1909 an attempt to establish a European-style art theatre in New York City was made Geisinger 241 The building was so cavernous and unsuited for experimental work that the project failed after two seasons Dedicated to producing the best of European and classical drama and to fostering new American plays the first production groups of the 1900s were amateurs Geisinger 241 The memberships were organized by subscription so that true experiment could be conducted without commercial pressure One of the first of these companies in New York City was the Washington Square Players From a similar group the Provincetown Players appeared the first American dramatist of international stature Eugene ONeill His first full-length play Beyond the Horizon was successfully produced in 1920 Taubman 121 Most of ONeills subsequent work represented a restless search for theatrical style such as expressionism in The Emperor Jones and The Hairy Ape and allegory in his updating of Aeschylus Oresteia trilogy Mourning Becomes Electra before he found a suitable idiom for modern tragedy in his autobiographical play Long Days Journey into Night Blum 242 In 1918 art theatre was established on a commercially successful basis by New York Citys Theatre Guild Priestly 134 During the next two decades it became the most important platform for American drama encouraging such playwrights as Robert Sherwood Maxwell Anderson and Elmer Rice in addition to ONeill and European writers Priestly 134 The Theatre Guilds success quickly stimulated independent Broadway producers to follow its example The artistic challenge was also taken up by various designers including Lee Simonson Norman Bel Geddes and Jo Mielziner who provided distinguished settings that were realistic symbolic or expressionistic as required Priestly 135 In 1927 Show Boat by Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern set new standards in the musical theatre and in spite of competition from the expanding motion-picture
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