Lynn Riggs

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Rollie Lynn Riggs (August 31, 1899 – June 30, 1954) was an American author, poet, playwright and screenwriter born on a farm near Claremore, Oklahoma. His mother was 1/8 Cherokee, and when he was two years old, his mother secured his Cherokee allotment for him. He was able to draw on his allotment to help support his writing. [1] Riggs wrote 21 full-length plays, several short stories, poems, and a television script. [1]

Claremore, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, United States

Claremore is a city in and the county seat of Rogers County in northeastern Oklahoma, United States. The population was 18,581 at the 2010 census, a 17.1 percent increase from 15,873 at the 2000 census. Located in the Ozark Mountains foothills, the city is part of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area and home to Rogers State University. It is best known as the birthplace and home of early 20th-century entertainer Will Rogers.

The Cherokee are one of the indigenous people of the Southeastern Woodlands of the United States. Prior to the 18th century, they were concentrated in what is now southwestern North Carolina, southeastern Tennessee, and the tips of western South Carolina and northeastern Georgia.

Dawes Act US legislative act regulating Native American tribal lands

The Dawes Act of 1887, authorized the President of the United States to survey Native American tribal land and divide it into allotments for individual Native Americans. Those who accepted allotments and lived separately from the tribe would be granted United States citizenship. The Dawes Act was amended in 1891, in 1898 by the Curtis Act, and again in 1906 by the Burke Act.


Early life

The Cherokee Night by Lynn Riggs, presented at the Provincetown Playhouse by the Community Theatre Division of the Federal Theatre Project, July 1936 Cherokee Night.png
The Cherokee Night by Lynn Riggs, presented at the Provincetown Playhouse by the Community Theatre Division of the Federal Theatre Project, July 1936

He was educated at the Eastern University Preparatory School in Claremore, Oklahoma, starting in 1912. Riggs graduated from high school in 1917, and travelled to Chicago and New York. He worked for the Adams Express Company in Chicago, wrote for the Wall Street Journal , sold books at Macy's and swept out Wall Street offices. Returning to Oklahoma in 1919, he wrote for the Oil and Gas Journal. Travelling to Los Angeles, Riggs worked as an extra in the theatre, and a copyeditor at the Los Angeles Times , which published his first poem. Riggs entered the University of Oklahoma in 1920, and taught English there from 1922–1923. [2] However, Riggs became ill with tuberculosis during his senior year and did not graduate. [1] Riggs then moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to improve his health and soon joined a group of artists. However, in 1926 he moved back to New York, hoping to work in the Broadway theatres.

Rogers State University is a public, regional university in Claremore, Oklahoma, with branch campuses in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and Pryor Creek, Oklahoma. Since it began offering bachelor's degrees in 2000, it has outpaced the growth of all other public universities in Oklahoma. It currently has a total enrollment of more than 4,300 students in programs at its three campuses and in its nationally recognized distance-learning programs. Of those, 2,759 were enrolled in its main campus at Claremore in fall 2013.

Oklahoma State of the United States of America

Oklahoma is a state in the South Central region of the United States, bordered by Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, Texas on the south, New Mexico on the west, and Colorado on the northwest. It is the 20th-most extensive and the 28th-most populous of the fifty United States. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people". It is also known informally by its nickname, "The Sooner State", in reference to the non-Native settlers who staked their claims on land before the official opening date of lands in the western Oklahoma Territory or before the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which dramatically increased European-American settlement in the eastern Indian Territory. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged into the State of Oklahoma when it became the 46th state to enter the union on November 16, 1907. Its residents are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.

Chicago City in Illinois, United States

Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois, as well as the third most populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,716,450 (2017), it is the most populous city in the Midwest. Chicago is the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland, and the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States. The metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States, and the fourth largest in North America and the third largest metropolitan area in the world by land area.

Literary career

His first major production was a one-act play, Knives from Syria, which was produced by the Santa Fe Players in 1925. [2] He began teaching at the Lewis Institute, Chicago, while continuing to write. In 1928 he received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and travelled to Europe. Riggs began writing his most famous play, Green Grow the Lilacs in the Café Les Deux Magots on the Left Bank in Paris. [2] He completed this play five months later in Cagnes-sur-Mer, in Southern France. [1]

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

<i>Green Grow the Lilacs</i> (play) 1931 play written by Lynn Riggs

Green Grow the Lilacs is a 1930 play by Lynn Riggs named for the popular folk song of the same name. It was performed 64 times on Broadway, opening at the Guild Theatre on January 26, 1931, and closing March 21, 1931. It had had an out-of-town tryout, running January 19–24, 1931, at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C.. It is the basis of the 1943 musical Oklahoma!

Les Deux Magots café in the 6th arrondissement of Paris

Les Deux Magots is a famous café in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris, France. It once had a reputation as the rendezvous of the literary and intellectual élite of the city. It is now a popular tourist destination. Its historical reputation is derived from the patronage of Surrealist artists, intellectuals such as Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, and young writers, such as Ernest Hemingway. Other patrons included Albert Camus, Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, Bertolt Brecht, Julia Child, and the American writers James Baldwin, Alison Machin, Chester Himes, Charles Sutherland, and Richard Wright.

He then lived in Santa Fe, Los Angeles, and New York, and was a screenwriter for Paramount and Universal Studios. Riggs was homosexual and was often a non-romantic escort for Hollywood actresses including Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. [3]

Bette Davis American film, television and stage actress

Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis was an American actress of film, television, and theater. With a career spanning 60 years, she is regarded as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history. She was noted for playing unsympathetic, sardonic characters, and was famous for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical and period films, suspense horror, and occasional comedies, although her greatest successes were her roles in romantic dramas.

Joan Crawford American actress

Joan Crawford was an American actress. She began her career as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies before debuting as a chorus girl on Broadway. Crawford then signed a motion picture contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925; her career would span decades, studios and controversies.

After serving in the military 1942–44 he worked on an historical drama for Western Reserve University, published a short story, "Eben, The Hound, and the Hare" (1952), and worked on a novel, The Affair at Easter, set in Oklahoma. He moved to Shelter Island, New York after he started receiving a steady income when Green Grow The Lilacs was adapted into the landmark musical Oklahoma! in 1943.

<i>Oklahoma!</i> Rodgers and Hammerstein musical

Oklahoma! is the first musical written by the team of composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical is based on Lynn Riggs' 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs. Set in farm country outside the town of Claremore, Indian Territory, in 1906, it tells the story of farm girl Laurey Williams and her courtship by two rival suitors, cowboy Curly McLain and the sinister and frightening farmhand Jud Fry. A secondary romance concerns cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious fiancée, Ado Annie.

Riggs was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1943, [4] and in 1965 he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. [5]

The Oklahoma Hall of Fame was founded by the Oklahoma Memorial Association, a group founded in 1927 by Anna B. Korn with the purpose of establishing the hall of fame. In the 1970s, the Hefner Mansion was donated to the association to house the exhibits and busts or portraits of the inductees, and the organization changed its name to the Oklahoma Heritage Association in 1971. It then moved into the former Mid-Continent Life Insurance building in Oklahoma City in 2007 where it is now part of the Gaylord-Pickens Museum.


He died on June 30, 1954, of stomach cancer in New York City. [6] Claremore, Oklahoma is home to the Lynn Riggs Memorial. [7]


Selected plays include:

Knives from Syria (premiered 1925, published 1927)
Big Lake (premiered 1927, published 1927)
Sump'n Like Wings (premiered 1931, published 1928)
A Lantern to See By (premiered 1925, published 1928)
Rancor (premiered 1928)
Roadside (premiered 1930, published 1930)
Green Grow the Lilacs (premiered 1931, published 1931)
The Cherokee Night (premiered 1932, published 1936)
More Sky (1934)
Russet Mantle (1936)
A Year of Pilar (1938)
A World Elsewhere (1939)
The Cream in the Well (1940)
Dark Encounter (1944)
Toward the Western Sky (premiered 1951)

His first play was Cuckoo in 1920, a farce about college fraternities that was performed at the University of Oklahoma in the spring of 1921. [2] The Theatre Guild produced his most well-known play, Green Grow The Lilacs , on Broadway in 1931, where it ran for 64 performances. The musical Oklahoma! , based on Riggs' play, opened on Broadway on March 31, 1943, and ran until May 29, 1948 for 2,212 performances.


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  1. 1 2 3 4 Lynn Riggs: An Oklahoma Treasure Archived 2011-10-04 at the Wayback Machine ., Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma Archived 2011-10-04 at the Wayback Machine .
  2. 1 2 3 4 Lynn Riggs Archived 2009-04-13 at the Wayback Machine ., Mary Hays Marable and Elaine Boylan, pages 93–96 of A Handbook of Oklahoma Writers, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1939, ASIN B0006AONUW .
  3. "Broadway's Forgotten Man" . Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  4. "Oklahoma Hall of Fame" . Retrieved November 16, 2012.
  5. "Hall of Great Westerners". National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved May 4, 2014.
  6. Information from: Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book And Manuscript Library, Yale Collection Of American Literature, Lynn Riggs Papers, New Haven, CT, November, 1993 Last Updated: February 2000
  7. The Lynn Riggs Memorial Archived 2012-08-14 at the Wayback Machine . webpage