The WASP Life

by:  Charles Haugland at 11/07/2013

“Think much, speak little, write less,” read plaques on display in the homes of Isabella Stewart Gardner and J.P. Morgan. While the prep- schooled scions of the old-money elite controlled America’s political, business, and military establishment for decades, they remained chronically underrepresented in the arts — and happy to remain that way. However, as their influence slipped away in the later decades of the 20th century, it fell to the outcast artists among them to counter — or embrace — the stereotypes that had come to define the “WASP.” The family that A.R. Gurney conjures in The Cocktail Hour exemplifies the paradox of this situation.

In privileged circles, an aversion to creative careers may represent simple professional disdain. Tad Friend, author of Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of WASP Splendor, notes that in his family, writing was not considered “man’s work” in contrast to traditions of public service or executive leadership. Alternately, the personal and confessional aspects of the arts may have proved an insurmountable obstacle. In a culture based on privacy and stoicism, the disclosure of feelings was considered both a sign of personal weakness and a vulgar plea for attention — in The Cocktail Hour, John’s father Bradley is at least as disdainful of his son’s psychiatrist as he is of his playwriting career.

Given these obstacles, it was only the discontents and outsiders from elite families who took up the pen. John Cheever is a quintessential example — brilliant, tortured, at once disdainful of his privileged past but longing for its comforts. Listing this and other exemplars, Tad Friend writes that “the best books about Wasps are written by those ambivalent about the legacy, or striving to be accepted within its cozy confines, or fed up with the whole thing.”

“The whole thing” is that familiar suite of cultural artifacts — summer houses, polo shirts worn for actual polo games, and nicknames like Biff and Corkie that bear no resemblance to the properly heirloom appellations of their owners. It is a universe that E. Digby Baltzell labeled for eternity in 1964, lifting an obscure colloquial term into the national discourse with his book, The Protestant Establishment, and its description of “an increasingly caste-like White-Anglo Saxon- Protestant (WASP) upper class.”

Despite its title, Baltzell’s work was in fact a warning bell, foretelling how societal currents and the arrogant exclusivity of the aristocracy would bring about its downfall. The world that Gurney depicts, with part-time help replacing lifelong servants, family members dispersing across the nation, and classic values losing their worth attests to the accuracy of Baltzell’s prophecy.

“I’m trapped in this old medium,” laments John in The Cocktail Hour. “It’s artificial, it’s archaic, it’s restrictive beyond belief. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with contemporary American life.” He may be speaking of his drive to write plays, but his cri de coeur also resonates with his subject, a class whose values and pastimes may seem like living fossils in the modern cultural environment. His self-expression, however maligned, becomes a way to preserve an endangered society. John’s family may have its suspicions about the theatre, but they are closer to it than they might think — and, Gurney’s play subtly suggests, their fates may be inextricably linked.


  1. I'm Miss Jasi, a high category independent Escorts in Chandigarh. Please provide me your time to inform you what style of lady I'm.
  2. [URL=]Chandigarh Escort[/URL]
  3. [URL=]Chandigarh Escort[/URL]
  4. [URL=]Chandigarh Escort[/URL]
  5. [URL=]Chandigarh Escort[/URL]
  6. [URL=]Mumbai Escorts[/URL]
  7. We are providing service. and as a Escort girl Preety Girls , Delhi Escorts Agency born in Delhi atmosphere, We are here to provide best Delhi escort services to clients who upcoming in Delhi for their business point and want to spend some time with a total young age girls to take memorable moments of life . We have 20-25 yrs young girls best Agency escorts in Delhi, its open for all persons then want to escorts Service.
  8. if you are disturb to daily work then you can fix your personal appointment with me, guaranteed your mind is sharp after using my Hyderabad escorts service.
  9. We are the based in gurgaon provides high profile russian escort service in gurgaon.We have alaways ready to vip level model escorts call girl also available here.
  10. Jaipur Escort Service (Delhi Noida, Gurgaon,). India Call Girl All Staff Age 18 To 28 Years Old In jaipur & Gurgaon, Goa, Mumbai in India.
  11. Neetu Rawat service an hot and naughty Girl Independent Call Girl In Jaipur services in Jaipur. Hire a Call Girl In Jaipur for complete sexual satisfaction.
  12. Nice Information. Here I find many useful things. Also visit my website
  13. We are beautiful and erotic girl in Mumbai, has Nice arcs and stances to offer only for you. Mumbai Escorts.
  15. My eyes are striking and my lips full and sensual. If you seek an erotic uncomplicated encounter then let me spoil you. indulge you. until you feel exhilarated, contented and fulfilled Goa Escorts.
  16. This in the luxury of your Hotel or private residence. Make Your Life Lushy. My reputation is my success so come along to experience the best that Hyderabad has to offer. I am waiting for you if you spend a time with me you will never want to go back to the real world. The beauty who has the experience and the body to knock your socks off Hyderabad Escorts.
  17. At Hyderabad Escorts you can get the best service to make your time awesome.
  18. My name is, I am new to Mumbai and only 21 years old. I am fun, bubbly and cute. I love to meet new people and try new things. Real girl, real fun. Always pleasant, I strive to provide an unforgettable experience. And offer you a ticket away from your daily life In a Mumbai city you walk from one stressful situation to another. Give your mind and body a chance to relax and enjoy with massage in Mumbai. Make an appointment today Mumbai Escorts.
  19. if you are a visitor or on a official visit to Hyderabad and planning to relieve your self then visit Hyderabad Escorts.
  20. Meet private noida escort professionals for best companionship services for different occasions and moods. They are dedicated to provide you complete happiness and satisfaction by their wonderful partnership and intimate services.
  21. Get erotic pleasure by noida escorts model as well as call girl in noida for more fun and joy and make your fantasy enjoyable because she is too hot and pretty gives outstanding fun?
  22. Noida escorts is very versatile escort model in this city once you meet her you never forget her read more info about her service contact us.
  23. Hello friends this is Priya Gupta the independent noida escort girl give escorts service in noida and I read your post such a nice info it is useful for me?
  24. One can meet Independent Mumbai Glam Escorts. Mumbai Escorts Agency have so many sexy escorts.
  25. Reshma Sharma is one of the best Call Girls service provider model in Pune. I am provide high profile service to VIP clients in Pune 5 star hotels.
  26. I am Oditi Well educated an independent escorts in Mumbai. One of the high class Mumbai escorts service. Visit Website
  27. i am Zoya an independent escort in Mumbai, visit my website and feel my heaven
  28. i am Liza a model independent escort in Mumbai. i provide night services to my clients, who need me wants to fuck with me, i am always there for them visit my website and enjoyy me
  29. Surat escort Service – High profile call girl service - - Rajkot Escort Service – All India Escort Service - - Vadodara Escort Service -- Jaipur Escort Service - Ahmedabad Call Girl Service -- Kolkata Escort - - Siliguri Escort - - Patna Escort - -
  30. Well qualified and professional Colaba escorts on your doorstep, book Colaba escorts service and get erotic fun.

Post a Comment


About me

Lisa Timmel,  Bevin O'Gara, and Charles Haugland share their thoughts on New Plays, Dramatury, and their experience sharing nightly conversations with the audiences that come to see our shows. Get the inside scoop of new scripts and play development!

Avenue of the Arts / Huntington Avenue Theatre: 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston MA 02115
South End / Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA: 527 Tremont Street, Boston MA 02116
Main: 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston MA 02115 | 617 266 7900 | BOX OFFICE 617 266 0800

© 2017 Huntington Theatre Company. All rights reserved | Trouble viewing this site? Please download Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.