Eva Le Gallienne as Elsa,
with Alma Kruger as Miss Agatha,
and Donald Cameron as Eben in the
Civic Repertory Theatre production
of Susan Glaspell’s Alison’s House
Theatre Guild Records
In 1931, Susan Glaspell’s Alison’s House was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama; Glaspell was only the second woman to receive this honor. The play is about the descendants of Alison Stanhope, an Emily Dickinson-like midwestern poet. Set on 31 December 1899, the play explores the changing ideas about morality and social tradition that are the central conflict between the older and younger generations of the Stanhope family as they move together into the twentieth century. The family is particularly divided over the scandalous relationship Elsa, a young member of the family, is having with a married man. Elsa’s romance echoes Alison’s love of a married man, a relationship she gave up rather than suffer the disgrace that would result if she pursued the affair. In the character of Elsa, Glaspell was writing from her own experiences facing the community outrage caused by her own love affair with a married man, George Cram Cook. The romance between Glaspell and Cook was so shocking to their midwestern community, in fact, that it was gossiped about for years after the couple moved to the East Coast.