Alice Brown Takes on Social Insecurity: Joint Owners in Spain

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Abstract

Alice Brown's 1913 one-act play Joint Owners in Spain offers the first depiction of a person with dementia to appear on the American stage absent any belittling of its cognitively impaired character. The play features four women, is billed as a comedy, and was a favourite among little theatres of the 1910s and 1920s; it also enjoyed productions across more than seventy years. This essay explores the cultural assumptions and dramaturgical workings that made it a success in its day and then considers evolving reception strategies in order to unpack both its longlived stage-worthiness and its importance today. While Brown is generally regarded as a New England regionalist, her work can also be read as the output of a gentle (and genteel) but firm feminist. In addition, while it is easy to read decades' worth of revivals as an investment in the "quaint," the generally amateur context in which these productions were mounted offers a rich site for examining the anxiety, intergenerational solidarity, and even existential dilemmas aroused by dealing with dementia in a middle-class, American context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-96
Number of pages24
JournalModern Drama
Volume65
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Keywords

  • ageism
  • cognitive decline
  • dementia
  • little theatres
  • old women

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