Listen to a conversation between a student and a librarian.
Can I help you?
Yeah, I need to find a review. It’s for my English class. We have to find reviews of the play we're reading. [starts to ramble]
But they have to be from when the play was first performed—so I need to know when that was… and I suppose I should start with newspaper reviews…
[cuts him off, telling him exactly what he needs] Contemporary reviews.
[doesn't realize she’s defining his need] Sorry?
[matter of factly] You want contemporary reviews. What's the name of the play?
It's Happy Strangers. It was written in 1962 and we're supposed to write about its influence on American theater—show why it's been so important.
Well, that certainly explains why your professor wants you to read some of those old reviews.
The critics really tore the play to pieces when it opened. It was just so controversial—nobody’d ever seen anything like it on the stage.
Really? Was that a big deal?
Oh sure. Of course, the critics' reaction made some people kinda curious about it, they wanted to see what was causing all the fuss.
In fact, we were on vacation in New York—I had to be, oh around sixteen or so—and my parents took me to see it. That would've been about 1965.
[she's answered one of his questions] So that was the year it premiered? Great! But… newspapers from back then aren't online, so how do I…
Well, we have copies of old newspapers in the basement, and all the major papers publish reference guides to their articles, reviews, etc.
You'll find them in the reference stacks in back. But I'd start with 1964. I think the play'd been running for a little while when I saw it.
[changing topics; just chatting now] Oh, how'd you like it? I mean it's just two characters onstage hanging around and basically doing nothing.
Well, I was impressed: the actors were famous and, besides, it was my first time in a real theater.
But you're right—it was definitely different from any plays that we'd read in high school.
Of course, in a small town, the assignments are pretty traditional.
I've only read it, but it doesn’t seem like it'd be much fun to watch. The story doesn't progress in a, in any sort of logical manner. It doesn't have any real ending either.
It just stops. Honestly, y'know I thought it was kinda slow and boring.
[laughing]Well, I guess you might think that, but when I saw it back then it was anything but boring!
Some parts were really funny—but I remember crying, too.
But I'm not sure just reading it… [remembering] You know, they've done this play at least once on campus.
I'm sure there's a tape of the play in our video library. You might want to borrow it.
That's a good idea. I'll have a better idea of what I really think of it—before I read those reviews.
I'm sure you'll be surprised that anyone ever found it radical—but you’ll see why it's still powerful—dramatically speaking.
[light-heartedly] Well, there must be something about it or the professor wouldn't have assigned it. I’m sure I'll figure it out.