HOW WIDE IS BROADWAY? : THE THEATRE GUILD'S RADIO AND TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS IN POST-WORLD-WAR-II AMERICA
Nathans, Heather S
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In the fall of 1947, the Theatre Guild, arguably the theatrical producing organization that had defined the American theatre aesthetic since its inception in 1918, splashed confidently and unhesitatingly into the barely-charted waters of the nascent medium of live television. The attempt seemed destined for success since the Guild had been producing a successful radio program for two years and was paired with NBC, the most successful of the early television networks. However, fourteen months later the Guild retired from television. It had failed in its ambitious plan to bring the sights, sounds of Broadway to every living room from coast to coast. I argue that the principal reason for its failure was artistic rather than commercial and that by 1948 the Guild's various broadcasting ventures illustrate that the Theatre Guild, which had once defined itself as farsighted and experimental had in reality become nearsighted and stodgy. This dissertation explores the background of the Theatre Guild before it entered broadcasting, during the time it was developing its position as Broadway's leading exponent of artistic plays and experimental theatre. It continues the story through the Guild's production of The Theatre Guild on the Air, a weekly series of hour-long adaptations of stage plays that it began producing in 1945, and on to the Guild's abortive first attempt at live television from 1947-1948. Finally, it documents the Guild's efforts to return to television, which it ultimately did in 1953, although with a different purpose in mind and with a much more successful approach.