Farewell to the Theatre

Richard Nelson
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Harley Granville Barker, the most influential theatre-maker of his time, finds himself adrift in America during the Great War. Estranged from the theatre, and with his spirit almost broken by an acrimonious divorce, English dramatist Harley Granville Barker seeks refuge in the relative obscurity of a quiet backwater, Williamstown, Massachusetts. He finds comfort in the congeniality of his fellow refugees and in the courtesy of strangers — and gradually begins to regain his faith in humanity and his belief in the central role of theatre in the civilized community.

Production Info

Cast: 7 total (2 female, 5 male)
Full Length Drama (about 130 minutes)
Single Set
Contemporary Costumes
Category: Tags: ,

Press Quotes

“Beautiful … I don’t remember the last time I saw a drama so alive to the cruelties, casual and otherwise, that attend people’s lives … Mr. Nelson has placed an actual theatrical personage at his play’s core: the dramatist Harley Granville Barker (1877–1946), who doubled at differing times as both actor and director … Mr. Nelson has alighted upon Granville Barke’s actual time in Massachusetts as an opportunity to dissect an array of folk whose crosscurrents of longing, disaffection and grief overlap to shimmering effect, not least in a ravishing production from his longtime colleague, the theater and film director Roger Michell … [The play] shifts gears in its closing moments to give pride of place to the play within the play, as if in homage to the Shakespearean comedies that are evoked in passing (among them, a revelatory production directed by Granville Barker of A Midsummer Night’s Dream) … Mr. Nelson has also raised the emotional temperature … The obvious parallel here is with Chekhov, and for once that overused point of reference with the Russian master is entirely apt.” —Matt Wolf, The New York Times

“I am normally wary of any new play that could be called “Chekhovian”: it implies something fragile and wispily atmospheric. But Richard Nelson’s extraordinary play about the pioneering playwright-director Harley Granville Barker combines a command of realistic detail with a sense of suffering and loss that genuinely evokes the Russian master … As in many of his previous plays, such as Some Americans Abroad, Nelson deals with cultural collision. In this instance, Granville Barker finds himself in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1916, surrounded by a group of English refugees. Disillusioned with English theatre, and with his marriage to Lillah McCarthy on the rocks, the great man is making a living by lecturing on the college circuit. This brings him into contact not only with fellow exiles, including a Dickensian recitalist and a love-struck female actor, but also with the deeply poisonous politics of American campus life … Exquisite … fulfils the play’s mission of interesting us in characters because of who they are as much as what they do.” —Michael Billington, The Guardian (London)

“A poignant and subtle new play [that] lifts the lid on a theatrical revolutionary who lost his way … Those who prefer their drama with more action may well complain … But it is deliberately downplayed, really beautifully calibrated. Moreover, the fascination lies in what is and what isn’t being said … Harley is full of subtle ambiguities: arrogance and tenderness, nonchalance and suppressed loneliness … Talking into the night, seated at long refectory tables that recede into the shadows … this is a poignant study of isolation and intimacy, impenetrability yet also collective sympathy and a rekindling joy in theatre.” —Kate Bassett, The Independent (London)

About the Author


  • Richard Nelson

    Richard Nelson's plays include the four-play series, THE APPLE FAMILY (THAT HOPEY CHANGEY THING, SWEET AND SAD, SORRY, REGULAR SINGING (Nominated for Outstanding Play in Drama Desk Awards 2014; Public Theater, 2010 – 2013), NIKOLAI AND THE OTHERS (Lincoln Center Theater, 2013), FAREWELL TO THE THEATRE (Hampstead Theatre, 2012), HOW SHAKESPEARE WON THE WEST, (Huntington Theater, 2008), CONVERSATIONS AT TUSCULUM (Public Theater, 2008), FRANK'S HOME (Goodman Chicago, Playwrights Horizons, 2007), RODNEY'S WIFE (Playwrights Horizons, 2004), WHERE I COME FROM (National Theatre Connections), MADAME MELVILLE (which ran in the West End starring Macaulay Culkin and Irene Jacob and opened in May 2001 Off-Broadway); GOODNIGHT CHILDREN EVERYWHERE (winner of Olivier Award for Best New Play, 2000), KENNETH'S FIRST PLAY (with Colin Chambers, RSC), THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA (at the RSC and the Lucille Lortel Theatre, New York), NEW ENGLAND (RSC and Manhattan Theater Club), MISHA'S PARTY (with Alexander Gelman, RSC and Williamstown Theater Festival), TWO SHAKESPEAREAN ACTORS (Tony nomination for Best Play, RSC and Broadway), COLUMBUS AND THE DISCOVERY OF JAPAN (RSC Barbican), SOME AMERICANS ABROAD (Olivier nomination, Best Comedy; RSC, Lincoln Center and Broadway), LEFT, BETWEEN EAST AND WEST (Hampstead), PRINCIPIA SCRIPTORAE (winner of Time Out Award, RSC and Manhattan Theater Club), THE RETURN OF PINOCCHIO, AN AMERICAN COMEDY, BAL, CONJURING AN EVENT, RIP VAN WINKLE, JUNGLE COUP, THE KILLING OF YABLONSKI, THE VIENNA NOTES (Obie Award). His musicals include JAMES JOYCE'S THE DEAD (starring Christopher Walken and Blair Brown; Playwrights Horizons, Belasco Theatre, Broadway, Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, Kennedy Center, Washington; for which he received a Tony Award in 2000 for Best Musical Book), CHESS (the book for the Broadway musical), PARADISE FOUND (dir: Harold Prince and Susan Strohman), MY LIFE WITH ALBERTINE (with Ricky Ian Gordon; Playwrights Horizons), UNFINISHED PIECE FOR A PLAYER PIANO (with Peter Golub). His translations and adaptations include TYNAN starring Corin Redgrave (with Colin Chambers, RSC and West End), LOLITA with Brian Cox (National), Molnar's THE GUARDSMAN (Kennedy Center), Carriere's THE CONTROVERSY (Public Theater), Fo's ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST (Broadway), Strindberg's THE FATHER with Frank Langella (Broadway) and MISS JULIE (Yale Rep), Beaumarchais' THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO (the Guthrie and Broadway); Molière's DON JUAN, Ibsen's WILD DUCK and ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE, Pirandello's ENRICO IV, Goldoni's IL CAMPIELLO, Erdmann's THE SUICIDE. With the esteemed translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, he was co-translated Chekhov's THE CHERRY ORCHARD, Gogol's THE INSPECTOR, Turgenev's A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY and Bulgakov's DON QUIXOTE. Films: Hyde Park on Hudson, staring Bill Murray and Laura Linney (Dir: Roger Michell), Ethan Frome, starring Liam Neeson (Dir: John Madden); Sensibility and Sense, staring Elaine Stritch and Jean Simmons (Dir: David Jones). Television: The End of a Sentence with Edward Herrmann (Dir: David Jones). Radio Plays include: HYDE PARK ON HUDSON, LANGUAGES SPOKEN HERE (Giles Cooper Award), EATING WORDS (Giles Cooper Award), ADVICE TO EASTERN EUROPE, AN AMERICAN WIFE (all BBC).

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 6/5/2017
Pages 90
ISBN 9780881457124

Special Notes

Special Notes

Licensees are required to include the original stage producers credits in the following form on the title page in all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play and in all advertising in which the full cast appears in size of type not less than ten percent (10%) of the size of the title of the Play:

Originally developed and produced by
The Public Theater
Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director; Patrick Willingham, Executive Director

The following must appear within all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play:
Farewell to the Theatre is produced
by special arrangement with Broadway Play Publishing Inc, NYC


Upcoming and Recent Productions


10/9/2016 – 10/9/2016
Shaw Festival Theatre Foundation
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON,