JUNE 30, 1954


Born near Claremore, Indian Territory, August 31, 1899, Riggs was raised by an aunt after his mother, of Cherokee heritage, died when he was age 1. After high school, Riggs worked various jobs and wrote for newspapers on both coasts before spending 3 years at the University of Oklahoma.  His 1st published play, Knives from Syria, came in 1925.  In 1927, the tragedy Big Lake was staged off-Broadway.  His comedy, Roadside (1930), was briefly on Broadway.  In 1931, Green Grow the Lilacs had a cast of soon-to-be-famous stage and screen stars.  The Cherokee Night (1936), deemed too serious for Broadway, dealt with the disintegration of the western Cherokee.  Russet Mantle (1936) was his longest run on Broadway.  In 1941, The Cream in the Well, a tragedy of incest, closed quickly on Broadway as the subject shocked critics.  The Theatre Guild gave Rodgers & Hammerstein the script of Lilacs.  It became Oklahoma! in 1943.  Riggs, one of the Southwest’s most important playwrights, died in New York City.   

Source:  “Riggs, Rollie Lynn (1899-1954),” Oklahoma Historical Society.  Retrieved 5/21/2020, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=RI006
Photo:  Federal Theater Project, 7/1936.  A scene from The Cherokee Night by Lynn Riggs as presented at the Provincetown Playhouse by the Community Theatre Division of the Federal Theatre Project, July 1936.  Public Domain.  

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