George Sklar and Albert Maltz, co-authors of “Peace on Earth,” which has just completed a sixteen-weeks’ run at the Civic Repertory Theater, were awarded the Annie E. Gray peace plaque last night at the New School for Social Research. This is the first annual award for the “outstanding American work of art, contributing most to the cause of peace.”
It is ironic fate that singles out the son of a munitions worker as an ## against war. Such is George ##. In his ramshackle, back stage office yesterday, he spoke both for himself and for his collaborator, Albert Maltz.
Sklar is an exceedingly earnest young man. He is twenty-five years old, and so is Maltz. He talks quickly, intelligently; and has the conscientious, studious appearance of a school teacher. Considering that his original aim was for that profession, this is not so strange.
BOTH COLLEGE MEN
He graduated from Yale with a B. A. degree. Albert Maltz emerged from Columbia with a PhD. Both met at the Baker Dramatic School where they wrote and produced “Merry-Go-Round,” a vitriolic dig at Tammany. It was presented simultaneously at the Baker School and on Broadway. So successfully was it received, that with this proof that “two heads are better than one,” they set about planning another play.
The restless and threatening situation throughout the world at present gave them the idea for an anti-war drama.
“We looked up old newspaper files, dealing with the hysterical times just before 1917. There we found all the material we needed,” said Sklar. “I felt that since the working classes are the ones who suffer principally from the effects of war, it should be they who should occupy the center of the stage in our play. Coming from a worker’s family myself, I understood their viewpoint perfectly.
“It would have been foolish, though, to make our hero either a worker or a radical. No audience would have responded seriously to the opinions of such a protagonist. So we chose a professor as a more likely and impressive hero.
“The critics certainly lammed into us when the play first opened,” continued Sklar ruefully. “They called us hysterical and propagandists. An ordinary Broadway production would have died under such a lashing in three days. It was only through our alliance with the Theater Union, which exists principally on contributions from the working classes, that we could continue. Their loyalty sustained us.
“Imagine,” he declared warmly, “the unions organized one hundred and fifty benefits in our theater, in order to keep the play going. Later, we found it easier sailing. The uptown groups began to drop in, and the critics fell in line too.”
When asked about producing a play around the Jewish problem, he answered:
“We have had several such plays submitted to the Theater Union, where we serve on the executive board, but have found none quite up to the mark. A play like that needs expert handling. I feel that the Jewish question is a labor question–not a question in itself. The answer lies only in international working class unity.”