Belief that plays must present two opposing points of view
Green describes his perspective on drama, and perhaps the secret to his success. He believes that the playwright must present two opposing points of view. This belief made it difficult to write plays about the labor movement: he thought the good guys were all on the side of labor.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Paul Green, May 30, 1975. Interview B-0005-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
- PAUL GREEN:
Well, if I may, I'll speak about that in a minute, but to go
back to this Cabin in the Cotton, one thing that I
learned early in trying to write plays, and I don't know
where I learned it, maybe it was just sort of natural, but I knew that
if you are going to get the truth between two antagonisms and usually in
a play, you have a protagonist and antagonist point of view, one against
the other, and I bet that I have half a dozen labor protest plays half
finished out there, scenes of rioting and all, and maybe I should have
stuck and finished them …but I learned that if you are going
to do a good job basically, you must explain how the … how
each one got to be the way that he is. For instance, I wrote a one act
play and made it finally into a long play about a Negro educator. Well,
how did this fellow, where did he get an idea to try to teach school? He
is a mulatto. Well, some of the colored fellows are talking and say,
"That Abe fellow, he is mixed up.
he's a white man up here, and a white man will say one thing
and a Negro will say another. He's mixed up. He's
a mulatto." One of them says, "He's got
them damn books." The other one says, "Yeah, ever
since that time that they hanged that Charlie fellow on the telegraph
pole and shot him full of holes, ever since Abe seen that,
he's been different." The other one says,
"Yeah, the fool. You know what he done? He went down there in
the night and he cut that Charlie boy down and helped bury
him." "Yeah, he ain't never been the
same." So, I tried to derive his difference and so in the Cabin in the Cotton, I knew darn well that this boy,
this tenant farmer, I could do his case, but there was the landlord.
I've got to explain how the landlord is the way he is.
Otherwise, you get a melodrama and in a lot of the protest plays, the
factory owners or the landlords are just sons of bitches and they are
just like that. You have to let each side have its voice and say its
say. I've got to corroborate it.
- JACQUELYN HALL:
That's the difficulty that you ran into when you tried to
shape your plays that had to do with the labor protest?
- PAUL GREEN:
It has something to do with that and each one …
that's one of the drawbacks, say, in a play .. a Shakespeare
play like Othello. This fellow Iago is just as mean as
he can be and Shakespeare never explains how he got to be so mean. So,
when Verdi made an opera out of Othello, he got a man
to write the libretto, Boito, and Boito gives Iago an aria in which he
sings and explains why he hates Othello so and it is a better job. Of
course, Shakespeare was working so fast that he couldn't take
the time. And that is one of the drawbacks that I found in Mike Gold and
John Howard Lawson and a number of those protest writers. The landlord
or the factory owner or the politician are always just mean, and the
good guys are the labor people.