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Rice, Elmer

plays theatre

(US, 1892–1967)

Rice is best known for his plays. He trained as a lawyer and used his legal expertise in his first dramatic success, On Trial (1914), which made original use of a flashback technique. He used expressionism again in his best play, The Adding Machine (1923), in which the symbolically named Mr Zero is driven to madness and murder by the mechanized conditioning of society. In 1935 he joined the radical Federal Theatre Project and his plays of this period show the dramatist struggling to come to terms with the social nightmare of the Great Depression. Rice's first novel A Voyage to Purilia (1930), on the subject of his experiences in Hollywood, reveals his gift for satire, while The Show Must Go on (1949) draws on his life in the theatre.

John Dos Passos, Upton Sinclair  GK

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