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Williamstown Theatre Festival

Monday, July 6, 2009


WASP, White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, refers to members of the upper class of the Northeastern states, who supposedly form a powerful elite. They created and dominated the social structure of the United States beginning practically as soon as this country was formed. Today, they are still imagined to dominate America’s prep schools and Ivy League institutions, many of which were formed in order to teach certain skills, habits, and attitudes associated with the upper class.

This upper echelon set the standard for society, education and politics—as well as class distinction and polarization. WASPs are credited with upholding the traditional British values and tastes, honoring the old and established, playing squash, golf, tennis, badminton, croquet, and polo. Social registers and society pages listed those who mingled in the same private clubs, attended the same churches, and lived in the same neighborhoods—Philadelphia’s Main Line and Chestnut Hill neighborhoods, New York City’s Upper East Side, and Boston’s Beacon Hill are notable examples.

When CHILDREN was first produced (1974), WASPs were part of a swiftly declining culture. Post World War II the networks of privilege and power in the old Protestant establishment began to lose significance. The postwar era created ample economic and educational opportunities for a growing middle class that would soon dominate American culture. In CHILDREN, this decay of a culture is represented by the crumbling house, the run-down tennis court and, the most significant element, the dysfunction within the characters’ familial relationships.

by Sarah Slight [Literary Associate]

[photo] Sam Hough for © WTF ’09 [pictured] Mary Bacon in CHILDREN, Dir. John Tillinger

© [Scenic Design | James Noon, Costume Design | Jane Greenwood, Lighting Design | RuiRita] 2009

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