[Review of the play "The Living Room"]

Tuesday, December 07, 1954

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

It's interesting that "The Living Room" was produced at all in this country. It is fundamentally a religious play. Quotes a review in Time: "brings darkness to light places."

The theater is the last aristocratic art left because it is the only place where people's minds are allowed to function. There's more freedom there than any other art form.

A course he's giving at Columbia University - how did this unnamed play get produced? It's a mystery. Enough people with money believed in it. No one told the playwright the script was bad. The example of "Baby's Irish Rose." It was roundly condemned by the critics but was very successful. Robert Benchley's review in Life magazine. It's the joke about the Irishman and the Jew carried out for three acts. He thought the play had a great deal of drive, but that the portions of the play the audience seemed indifferent to were the goody-goody parts where the Catholics and the Jews praised one another. The play encouraged people to tell the jokes and a sadistic pleasure out of hearing the jokes.

This play - about the reconciliation of two faiths - opened at the same time as one profoundly about just one faith. The opposition to the faith is not well treated - represented by a psychoanalyst.

The theater is a place where discussion is permitted. Around the time these plays opened, the collegiate discussion of the recognition of Communist China was not permitted.

Fear lead the heads of military schools to say no one should discuss it. This was certainly damaging to our reputation abroad.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 71543
Municipal archives id: LT3119


Gilbert Seldes


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About Lively Arts, The

Legendary critic and author of The Seven Lively Arts Gilbert Seldes discusses big-thinking issues in art and life from his characteristically populist perspective.

Simultaneously a timely and visionary program, Gilbert Seldes's The Lively Arts (1953-1956) examines contemporary issues of 1950s television, radio, and theater, as well as current events and the intellectual arts. Seldes, who was the first Director for Television at CBS News and the founding Dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, was also a renowned critic, author, playwright, and editor. As a major social critic and observer, Seldes viewed theater, television, and radio with a prescient eye to the future based on a well-informed understanding of the past. 

These programs feature commentary and discussion on a wide range of topics — from sex and censorship in the movies to progressive education to juvenile delinquency to political campaigning on television — many of which are still hotly debated today. Serving as a precursor to Seldes's television programs and providing an audio context for his seminal books, this show is key to understanding today's cultural commentary.


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