by Susan Glaspell
Adapted by Iris Smith Fischer
in cooperation with the
Susan Glaspell Society
In 1879, maverick Silas Morton establishes a college on the Mississippi River. Forty years later, his granddaughter, a student at the college, faces the threat of federal prison as she embraces her ancestor’s legacy and stands up for students’ rights to free speech.
Iowa’s local history shapes this 1921 drama, inspired by Glaspell’s family history in Davneport and her own grandfather’s admiration of Black Hawk.
A timely and beautiful show
Sponsored by UnityPoint Health - Jones Regional Medical Center
Smith – Harrison Shaffer
Grandmother – Margaret Hogan
Silas Morton – Steve Clemmons
Felix Fejevary I – Kevin Sims
Felix Fejevary II (younger) – David Yager
Senator Lewis – Gerald Morrison
Felix Fejevary II (older) – Jim Greene
Horace – Harrison Shaffer
Doris – Jill Klinkefus
Fussie – Aimee Jones
Madeline Morton – Justeen Schoner
Aunt Isabel – B.J. Moeller
Professor Holden – Mary Sue Vernon
Ira Morton – Kent Knopp
Emil Johnson – David Yager
“Both radical and conservative have to learn that any mode of creative work, which with true perception portrays social wrongs earnestly and boldly, may be a greater menace to our social fabric and a more powerful inspiration than the wildest harangue of the soapbox orator.”
Emma Goldman, The Social Significance of Modern Drama (1916)
Inheritors was first performed in 1921 by members of the Provincetown Players,
a group founded by Susan and her husband, George Cram Cook, which
began as a troupe of amateur actors and grew into one of the foundations for
the American regional theatre movement that began to blossom in the 1960s.
The mission of the Provincetown Players was to produce original plays by
American writers that reflected the American society of their day. Out of
Provincetown would come two prolific and award winning playwrights:
Susan Glaspell and Eugene O’Neill.
Glaspell wrote Inheritors while on sabbatical from the troupe, staying with her
husband in their hometown of Davenport. The Midwestern setting gave her
the inspiration to draw from her family’s own history as settlers of the area and
friends of Black Hawk. Her grandfather, also named Silas, was one of the
inspirations for the Civil War veteran determined to found a college in the play’s
first act. The events that transpire on Morton’s campus reflect Susan’s critiques
of World War I and the Espionage and Sedition Acts that came in its wake. These acts created legal penalties for those who hampered the war effort by criticizing the government and continued into the first Red Scare of the 1920s. With many of her companions being avowed socialists, some of them even journalists for the socialist publication The Masses, Susan knew some of those who were investigated under the Espionage Act and sought to critique these injustices through her work. Inheritors itself was visited by a censor during its original run, though, according to a reviewer, he did not stay long enough past the first act to find anything objectionable.
In this production, a decision was made to cast Professor Holden as a woman. While this may appear anachronistic based on how we think of the progress of women’s roles in society, women were holding roles in America’s higher education even in the 19th century. At Cornell College in Mount Vernon, IA, Harriette Jay Cooke became the first woman promoted to a full professorship with the same salary as a man. In his critique of American universities (another inspiration for the events of Inheritors), George Cram Cook mentions two women operating in the higher levels of academia.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Ben-Zvi, Linda. Susan Glaspell: Her Life And Times. Oxford Univ Pr, 2007. Print.
Black, Cheryl. The Women of Provincetown, 1915-1922. U of Alabama, 2002. Print.
Gainor, J. Ellen. Susan Glaspell in Context: American Theater, Culture and Politics 1915-48. U of Michigan, 2002. Print.
Glaspell, Susan, Linda Ben-Zvi, and George Cram Cook. The Road to the Temple: A Biography of George Cram Cook. McFarland, 2005. Print.
Glaspell, Susan, Linda Ben-Zvi, and J. Ellen. Gainor. Susan Glaspell: The Complete Plays. McFarland, 2010. Print.
Glaspell, Susan, Patricia L. Bryan, and Martha Celeste. Carpentier. Her America: "A Jury of Her Peers" and Other Stories. U of Iowa, 2010. Print.
The International Susan Glaspell Society. blogs.shu.edu/glaspellsociety Web.
McCarter, Jeremy. Young Radicals: In the War for American Ideals. Random House, 2017. Print.
Ozieblo, BaÌrbara. Susan Glaspell: A Critical Biography. U of North Carolina, 2000. Print.