Waiting for Lefty: Odets’ breakout play



The script of Waiting for Lefty. A small, short play about real people, real problems, and real politics. Written by Clifford Odets, it was a first attempt at establishing himself as a serious contender in the world of playwriting.

Waiting for Lefty was written by Clifford Odets in 1935. It is a series of seven scenes, each depicting a different kind of struggle during the Great Depression. The first and last scene frame the stories with an ongoing Taxi Driver strike (only loosely based on a strike that happened in NYC during February of the previous year). The play was not the first script written by Odets, but it was the first to make it o the stage.

It was first published in New Theatre subtitled  “A Play in Six Scenes, Based on the New York City Taxi Strike of February 1934”. As stated above, it wasn’t really based on that strike. In fact, Odets is quoted as saying that he made the scenario up and had no idea that a similar strike had happened back in 1934. Thus, it is less of a historical fiction (or current events fiction, really) and more of a scathing commentary on the capitalist system that, despite causing and worsening the Great Depression, was still the accepted way of running the country.

The first run of the show was reportedly a grand success, enlivening the audience who, in turn, spurred the actors to a heightened energy. However, many critics took issue with the very overt socialism (This wasn’t exactly the McCarthy Era, mind you, but being called a “Red” was still a serious accusation) and with the rather simple, archetypal characters.

This play, however, was a serious jumping-off point for Odets’ long and successful career in theatre and, eventually, film.

Isaac Spooner

Odets, Clifford. Waiting for Lefty. New York, NY: Dramatists Play Service, 1962. Print.

Mendelsohn, Michael J. (1969), Clifford Odets: Humane Dramatist, Everett/Edwards Inc.


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