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Spotlight >> William Saroyan

William Saroyan Collage

William Saroyan, Armenian Playwright
William Saroyan is regarded as the greatest playwright of Armenian heritage in the 20th century. Born in 1908 in Fresno, California, Saroyan was remarkably prolific, writing over 1500 stories, novels, and plays. He grew up impoverished as the son of Armenian immigrants. When his father died in died in 1911, he was put in an orphanage in Alameda with his brothers. Six years later, the family reunited in Fresno, where his mother, Takoohi, had obtained work in a cannery. As a writer, Saroyan described the experiences of immigrant settlers in the San Joaquin Valley of California and ordinary people challenged by the effects of the Great Depression with a sympathetic understanding of their joys and troubles. Among his most famous works are the short story "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze," the novels The Human Comedy and My Name Is Aram, and the play The Time of Your Life, set in a waterfront saloon in San Francisco. The Time of Your Life won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940, but Saroyan refused the $1000 prize on the grounds that commerce should not judge the arts; however, he did accept the New York Drama Critics Circle award. In 1948 The Time of Your Life was adapted into a film starring James Cagney. Before the war Saroyan had worked on the screenplay of Golden Boy (1939), based on Clifford Odets's play, but he never gained much success in Hollywood. The plays Sam Ego's House (1949) and The Slaughter of the Innocents (1958) examined moral questions, but they did not achieve the success of his prewar works. When Saroyan joked on Ernest Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway responded: "We've seen them come and go. Good ones too. Better ones than you, Mr. Saroyan." Many of Saroyan's later plays, such as The Paris Comedy (1960), The London Comedy (1960), and Settled Out of Court (1969), premiered in Europe. Manuscripts of a number of his unperformed plays are now at Stanford University, along with his other papers. Saroyan visited Armenia three times and saw his play My Heart's in the Highlands in the Yerevan theatre. 'Although I write in English, and despite the fact that I'm from America, I consider myself an Armenian writer. The words I use are in English, the surroundings I write about are American, but the soul, which makes me write, is Armenian. This means I am an Armenian writer and deeply love the honor of being a part of the family of Armenian writers,' said Saroyan, and there are no better words to describe him than his own. Saroyan also published essays and memoirs, in which he depicted the people he had met on travels in the Soviet Union and Europe, such as the playwright George Bernard Shaw. Saroyan died from cancer on May 18, 1981, in Fresno. "Everybody has got to die," he had said, "but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case." Half of his ashes were buried in California, and the rest in Armenia. He once gave this advice to a writer: "Try to learn to breathe deeply; really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell."
 
Links:
saroyanfoundation.org
www.kalinian-saroyan.com
www.electroasylum.com/saroyan


PLAYS
 
(Dates given are for the first New York production.)


MY HEART'S IN THE HIGHLANDS, April 1939
 
THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE, October 1939 — "With its use of a Chekovian technique harnessed to a Tolstoyan philosophy, holds great vigour in action and it would be well for London to venture on a production."- Sunday New York Times. The Time of Your Life won both the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics' Circle award.
 
A THEME IN THE LIFE OF THE GREAT AMERICAN GOOF, 1940
 
LOVE'S OLD SWEET SONG
, April 1940
 
THE PING PONG CIRCUS, 1940
 
A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
, 1940
 
SUBWAY CIRCUS
, 1940
 
SWEENEY IN THE TREES, 1940
 
HERO OF THE WORLD, 1940
 
THE PEOPLE WITH LIGHT COMING OUT OF THEM, 1941
 
THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
, April 1941
 
THREE PLAYS, 1941
 
ACROSS THE BOARD ON TOMMOROW MORNING AND TALKING TO YOU, August 1942
 
HELLO OUT THERE, September 1942
 
THE AGONY OF LITTLE NATIONS, 1942
 
BAD MEN IN THE WEST
, 1942
 
COMING THROUGH THE RYE, 1942
 
ELMER AN LILY, 1942
 
THE POETIC SITUATION IN AMERICA, 1942
 
TALKING TO YOU, 1942
 
GET AWAY OLD MAN, November 1943
 
THE HUNGERERS, 1945
 
JIM DANDY, 1947
  
A DECENT BIRTH, A HAPPY FUNERAL, 1949
 
DON'T GO AWAY MAD, 1949
 
SAM EGO'S HOUSE, 1949
 
OPERA, OPERA, 1950
 
THE SON, 1950
 
EVER BEEN IN LOVE WITH A MIDGET, 1957
 
THE CAVE DWELLERS, October 1957
 
THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS, 1958
 
CAT, MOUSE, MAN, WOMAN, 1958
 
ONCE AROUND THE BLOCK, 1959
 
THE PARIS COMEDY; OR THE SECRET OF LILY, 1960
 
THE LONDON COMEDY; OR SAM, THE HIGHEST JUMPER OF THEM ALL, 1960
 
SETTLED OUT OF COURT, 1960 (play, with F. Cecil)
 
SAM, THE HIGHEST JUMPER OF THEM AL
L, 1961
 
HIGH TIMES ALONG THE WABASH, 1961
 
AH MAN, 1962 (play, with P. Fricker)
 
PATIENT, THIS I BELIEVE, 1963
 
THE PLAYWRIGHT AND THE PUBLIC, 1963
 
DENTIST AND PATIENT
, 1968
 
THE DOGS, 1968
 
HUSBAND AND WIFE, 1968
 
THE NEW PLAY, 1970
 
ARMENIANS, 1974
 
THE REBIRTH CELEBRATIONS OF THE HUMAN RACE AT ARTIE ZABALA'S OFF-BROADWAY THEATRE, 1975 (play)
 
SELECTED WORKS
 
THE DARING YOUNG MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE, 1934
 
THOSE WHO WRITE THEM AND THOSE WHO COLLECT THEM, 1934
 
INHALE AND EXHALE, 1936
 
THREE TIMES THREE
, 1936
 
A GAY AND MELANCHOLY FLUX
, 1937
 
LITTLE CHILDREN
, 1937
 
A NATIVE AMERICAN, 1938
 
THE TROUBLE WITH TIGERS
, 1938
 
LOVE, HERE'S MY HAT, 1938
 
CHRISTMAS, 1939
 
HARLEM AS SEEN BY HIRSCHFIELD, 1939
 
ed.: HAIRENIK 1934-1939, 1939
 
PEACE, IT'S WONDERFUL, 1939
 
THREE FRAGMENTS AND A STORY, 1939
 
MY NAME IS ARAM, 1940 - SAROYANS FABLES, 1941
 
THE INSURANCE SALESMAN
, 1941
 
HILLTOP RUSSIANS IN SAN FRANCISCO, 1941
 
RAZZLE DAZZLE
, 1942
 
GET AWAY,OLD MAN,
1943
 
THE HUMAN COMEDY
, 1943
 
DEAR BABY, 1944
 
WHY ABSTRACT
 
THE ADVENTURES OF WESLEY JACKSON
, 1946
 
THE SAROYAN SPECIAL, 1948
 
THE FISCAL HOBOES, 1949
 
A DECENT BIRTH,
1949
 
THE ASSYRIANS, 1950
 
TWIN ADVENTURES, 1950
 
THE TWIN ADVENTURES
, 1950
 
TRACY'S TIGER
, 1951
 
ROCK WAGRAM, 1951
 
THE BICYCLE RIDER IN BEVERLY HILLS, 1952
 
THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS, 1952
 
THE LAUGHING MATTER
, 1953
 
THE BICYCLE RIDER IN BEVERLY HILLS
, 1953
 
MAMA, I LOVE YOU, 1956 (sometimes listed as THE BOUNCING BALL)
 
THE WHOLE VOYALD, 1956
 
PAPA, YOU'RE CRAZY, 1957
 
THE WHOLE VOYALD AND OTHER STORIES, 1957
 
THE WILLIAM SAROYAN READER, 1958
 
HERE COMES, THERE GOES YOU KNOW WHO, 1961
 
HERE COMES, THERE GOES, YOU KNOW WHO, 1961 A NOTE ON HILAIRE HILER, 1962
 
NOT DYING, 1963
 
ME, 1963
 
BOYS AND GIRLS TOGETHER, 1963
 
SHORT DRIVE, SWEET CHARIOT, 1964
 
AFTER THIRTY YEARS, 1964
 
ONE DAY IN THE AFTERNOON OF THE WORLD, 1964
 
SHORT DRIVE SWEET CHARIOT
, 1966
 
LOOK AT US, 1967
 
HORSEY GORSEY AND THE FROG, 1968
 
I USED TO BELIEVE I HAD FOREVER, BUT NOW I'M NOT SO SURE, 1969
 
LETTERS FROM 74 RUE TAIBOUT, 1969
 
MAKING MONEY, AND 19 OTHER VERY SHORT PLAYS, 1969
 
DAYS OF LIFE AND DEATH AND ESCAPE TO THE MOON, 1970
 
PLACES WHERE I'VE DONE TIME, 1972
 
THE TOOTH AND MY FATHER, 1974
 
PLACES WHERE I'VE DONE TIME, 1975
 
SONS COME AND GO, MOTHERS HANG IN FOREVER, 1976
 
AN ACT OR TWO OF FOOLISH KINDNESS, 1976
 
FAMOUS FACES AND OTHER FRIENDS, 1976
 
MORRIS HIRSCHFIELD
, 1976
 
SONS COME AND GO, MOTHERS HANG IN FOREVER, 1976
 
THE ASHTREE TALKERS
, 1977
 
CHANGE MEETINGS, 1978
 
ed.: HAYATS'UTS' HOVHANNES, 1978
 
OBITUARIES, 1979
 
TALES FROM THE VIENNA TALES, 1981
 
BIRTHS, 1981
 
MY NAME IS SAROYAN
, 1983
 
THE PHEASANT HUNTER
, 1986
 
AN ARMENIAN TRILOGY, 1986 (ed. Dickran Kouymjian)
 
THE CIRCUS, 1986
 
MADNESS IN THE FAMILY, 1988 (ed. by Leo Hamalian)
 
WARSAW VISITOR; TALES FROM THE VIENNA STREETS
, 1991 (ed. Dickran Kouymjian)

WHERE THE BONES GO, 2002 (ed. by Robert Setrakian)
 


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