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English and Creative Writing

Two Short Plays

The Wonder Hat and Back of the Yards

Two Short Plays by Kenneth Sawyer Goodman breathes new life into Chicago’s historic Little Theater Movement. This illustrated edition of two of Goodman’s best-known plays, The Wonder Hat and Back of the Yards, recalls that Goodman—still well-remembered as a key figure in Chicago’s theater scene and the man for whom the Goodman Theatre was named—wrote and produced his own works before the influenza epidemic of 1918 cut short his life.

Co-written in 1916 with Ben Hecht, The Wonder Hat comically updates classic European commedia dell’arte. The Wonder Hat was Goodman’s most widely performed play and is still his best-known work. Whimsical illustrations accompany this vivid play, which features a hat that confers invisibility on the wearer, a pair of star-crossed lovers, and the assurance that love still conquers all. In contrast, Back of the Yards presents a gritty realist drama about Irish Americans in one of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods, in which a cop and a priest collaborate to save a young man at risk.

Original artwork accompanies both plays, and Ioana Cornea and Benjamin Goluboff’s critical introduction uses material from the Kenneth Sawyer Goodman archives at Chicago’s Newberry Library to illustrate Goodman’s life and career, the Little Theater Movement, and Goodman’s collaboration with Hecht.

Ioana Cornea graduated from Lake Forest College with a degree in education and English; she works as a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools.
Benjamin Goluboff is an associate professor of English at Lake Forest College. He has written on a wide variety of topics in American literature.