A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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“When you think, you stink” (sports adage) (10/30)
“Real estate is a relationship business” (real estate adage) (10/30)
Shit-in ("sit-in” for gender-neutral bathrooms) (10/30)
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Entry from February 03, 2013
“Drama—what literature does at night”

American drama critic George Jean Nathan (1882-1958) wrote in Testament of a Critic (1931):

“Drama.—What literature does at night.”

This short definition of drama has been frequently reprinted in theater books and magazines, but Nathan had used similar language earlier. In his “The Theatre” column in Vanity Fair (1930), Nathan wrote:

“To define drama as what literature does at night is perhaps a half-truth but it is, even in its most unmannerly implications the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth ...”


Wikipedia: George Jean Nathan
George Jean Nathan (February 14, 1882 – April 8, 1958) was an American drama critic and editor. He worked closely with H.L. Mencken, bringing the literary magazine The Smart Set to prominence as an editor, and co-founding and editing The American Mercury.

Google Books
Vanity Fair
Volume 34, Issue 4
July-December 1930
Pg. 42 (The Theatre by George Jean Nathan):
To define drama as what literature does at night is perhaps a half-truth but it is, even in its most unmannerly implications the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so far as the theatre in Europe goes at the moment and the truth plus so far as the theatre in New York has this season goes up in the writing of this sentence.

Google Books
Testament of a Critic
By George Jean Nathan
New York, NY: A.A. Knopf
1931
Pg. 179:
Drama.—What literature does at night.

Google News Archive
4 January 1931, Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “What 1931 Will Offer In Theater” by Gilbert W. Gabriel, pg. E5, col. 5:
And as the year in which Mr. Nathan summed it all up for all ages with just the following definition: “Drama—What Literature Does at Night.”

Google Books
A treasury of the world’s great letters from ancient days to our own time, containing the characteristic and crucial communications, and intimate exchanges and cycles of correspondence, of many of the outstanding figures of world history, and some notable contemporaries: selected, edited, and integrated with biographical backgrounds and historical settings and consequences
By Max Lincoln Schuster
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
1960
Pg. XLIII:
If the theater is what “literature does at night,” then letters tell what the subjects of autobiography do and think behind closed doors.

Google Books
The Theatre Quotation Book:
A Treasury of Insights and Insults

By Russell Vandenbroucke
New York, NY: Limelight Editions
2001
Pg. 10:
Theatre is what literature does at night.
GEORGE JEAN NATHAN

Google Books
A Treasury of Jewish Quotations
Edited by Joseph L. Baron
Lanham, MD: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.
2004
Pg. 93:
Drama — what literature does at night.
G. J. Nathan, Testament of a Critic, 1931. p. 179

Google Books
Broadway Babylon
By Boze Hadleigh
New York, NY: Back Stage Books
2007
Pg. 130:
“Drama [is] what literature does at night.” — critic GEORGE JEAN NATHAN

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theater • Sunday, February 03, 2013 • Permalink