The chessmen: a play in three acts

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Publication Type thesis
School or College College of Humanities
Department Speech
Author Manfull, Lowell Lyndon
Title The chessmen: a play in three acts
Date 1955-06
Description "The Chessmen" began as a partial fulfillment of the requirements of a course in playwrighting conducted at the University of Utah by Mr. Robert Hyde Wilson. The first draft of the play was completed at that time. Since then the play has been produced and revised to fulfill thesis requirements. In the play it has been the aim of the author to consider this question: Should a man be allowed to use his military power and authority to pursue his own private ends at the expense of others? The intention has been to show the effects of that ambition on the men who must pay for it . The title of the play was selected to reveal the author's focus on the men who become pawns to another's personal ambitions the chessmen become the dominant symbol in the play. Colonel Bryan, through implication, is the man who plays chess. He is a character who in many respects is outside of the play and it has been the author's desire to keep him there. Little is said concerning his motivations or character development because they are of negligible importance; the important thing is Bryan's effect upon the other characters of the play. We see that effect in the enlisted men and the other officers who are the chessmen. Each man represents a varying degree of involvement with the problem of Bryan's ambition. Perrin senses the truth about Bryan but to him it means little more than personal discomfort; consequently, his major reaction is a mild verbal complaint. When the raid ends his discomfort ends with it and he can go to sleep. Morgan realizes the problem but is emotionally confused by it and can offer at best only a passive resistance until he is emotionally- if not mentally- destroyed by it. Of the enlisted men, Walters has the greatest grasp of the moral implications of the problem; however, due to the military code, he is powerless to do anything about it other than express his views verbally in the hope of arousing someone else to action. He can do his job to the best of his ability - even if it entails going into No Man's Land with Jackson- in order to prevent as much harm as possible. Lieutenant Jackson is fully aware of the extent of Bryan' s ambition. He knows something should be done about it ; but he is not certain just what action he should take. He senses the urgency to awaken Fabian to the truth. Fabian, due to his position as company commander, is closer to the emergency of the battlefront situation. Consequently, he is somewhat blinded to Bryan's ambitions. The play reveals Fabian's realization of the truth. He is the one man who can act on the power of his convictions. Once he knows that Bryan's only concern is his personal gain, he acts to remove the threat that Bryan represents. But in destroying Bryan he realizes that he will destroy himself because, although the death of the Colonel may be morally justified, it is a breach of military law. Fabian acts with an awareness of the consequences of his action. The production of "The Chessmen*' was a revelation of the course that subsequent rewritings must follow. It proved many interesting points--not the least of which is that a playwright is possibly the worst judge of what is good and what is bad in his own script until he can see it performed on a stage and until the writing has grown cold enough that he can approach his play objectively. One scene- the climax of the first act of the original script--which seemed highly effective in writing was not only ineffective but meaningless in production and, consequently, was dropped from the second draft of the play. The drinking scene in the second act was especially lifeless in writing and yet proved to be one of the more playable scenes in the production. The production quickly pointed out the strength and inadequacies of the play. The original first act contained two scenes the first of which was almost straight exposition which was unexciting and unmoving on the stage. In the second draft the second scene became the core of the first act and parts- about one-third- of the first scene were incorporated into the one scene. It was evident from the production that the lines of conflict between Bryan and the men and particularly Bryan and Fabian-were confused and muddled by too many intervening scenes and a certain circumlocution within the speeches. This was rectified by Mred pencilling" parts of some speeches, reorganizing the sequence of scenes and clarifying character relationships. In the original draft of the play, two sets were employed- one depicting the fire direction hootchie and the other Bryan's private dugout. Bryan never came into contact with the men with the exception of Fabian. Bryan was removed from the men and, consequently, the conflict between them was weakened. The short scene that begins the present draft was written before the play was performed to correct this lack of contact. In subsequent revisions one set was employed thereby bringing Bryan into contact with the men.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Subject Play; Military
Dissertation Institution University of Utah
Dissertation Name Master of Arts
Language eng
Rights Management Copyright © Lowell Lyndon Manfull 1955
Format Medium application/pdf
Format Extent 3,190,460 Bytes
Identifier etd3/id/3048
ARK ark:/87278/s6vt51bb
Setname ir_etd
Date Created 2014-06-19
Date Modified 2021-05-06
ID 196616
Reference URL
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