Such an achievement is surely a foretaste of the eventual realization of the democratic ideal, where art will be made not only for the people, but also by the people, and the people will cooperate to make the common life more beautiful, until the communal life itself shall become a living work of art. — New York American, May 28, 1916
Intensely concerned with the Spirit of America, Percy MacKaye was highly acclaimed before the age of film and electronic media as the inspired leader of the civic drama, which gave new meaning to life in America’s larger cities around the turn of the last century. His mythic masques unveiled this spirit before the eyes of his audiences and involved their complete participation, so that at times thousands filled his stages. Such community-participation masques uplifted drama to new levels, and became uniquely American cultural events. MacKaye’s impulse gains new vital importance today as people again seek for a more meaningful sense of community.
MacKaye tapped into the wisdom of the Native Americans as well as the folk culture of the early settlers. We see in the stories of Poog a rendering of the childhood magic of growing up in the Vermont countryside.
American in spirit, but cosmopolitan in scope, Percy MacKaye travelled widely and involved himself in many forms of literary expression. His poetry sings of love, grief, and spiritual universality. His deep friendship with Albert Steffen brought Anthroposophy into his heart, and each grew profoundly as they saw into each other’s worlds.Perhaps Percy’s crowning work was the Tetralogy he wrote, in prologue to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. MacKaye’s own soul had something of the younger Hamlet in it, and in his grappling with the mysteries Shakespeare left us, MacKaye offered his own penetrating dramas. Such a bold effort sounds dubious, yet in the end, MacKaye’s The Mystery of Hamlet, King of Denmark, or What We Will, met with considerable critical acclaim.
We hope you find in Percy MacKaye seeds for a renewal of American culture.