A Sensational Drama in Five Acts
By Rollin M. Daggett and Joseph T. Goodman
Edited by Lawrence I. Berkove
A precocious anomaly in the history of American theater, The Psychoscope is a distinguished example of the vitality and surprising talent of the Sagebrush School of literature, the writers of late nineteenth century Nevada. This important movement, whose most outstanding graduate is Mark Twain, has long been overlooked but is currently revived and appreciated. The Psychoscope was written in 1871 by two of Twain's gifted, close, influential, and lifelong friends: Joseph Thompson Goodman, the owner and chief editor of Nevada's Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, and Rollin Mallory Daggett, an editor on the newspaper. Together, the two wrote a play which was not only an early literary manifestation of two new genres, science fiction and the detective story, but was also close to two generations ahead of its time in theatrical realism.
The play was produced in Virginia City in 1872, and ran for five tumultuous performances in four days. Its raw depiction of prostitutes in action caused a storm of controversy in its cast and in the local newspapers. When its theatrical run ended, it was never again commercially produced, although leading actors acclaimed it and a lucrative offer for rights to it was made. All but a few copies of its limited printings were subsequently lost. Lawrence I. Berkove has recovered the text, prepared a corrected and annotated edition of it for the Mark Twain Journal Press, written an introduction which illuminates its history and significance, and added as appendices all surviving examples of the newspaper controversy. In addition to making available for the first time the text of this once-famous play, this edition also will appeal to those interested in literary history, American theater, and influences on Mark Twain.
Lawrence I. Berkove is a widely published professor emeritus at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the president of the Mark Twain Circle, and has edited other books related to the Sagebrush School: The Fighting Horse of the Stanislaus: Stories & Essays by Dan De Quille (Iowa); The Best Short Stories of Mark Twain (Modern Library); The Sagebrush Anthology: Literature from the Silver Age of the Old West (Missouri); and The Old West in the Old World: Lost Plays by Bret Harte and Sam Davis (New Mexico).
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