Barrie Stavis

Major plays
Book jackets
Enduring Lines Review and appreciation Recent publications about Barrie Family photos Links

Barrie Stavis, a distinguished American playwright, has authored several powerful plays about men struggling in the vortex of history.  They advocate ideas, suffer, often are executed, but eventually their ideas win. The heresy of one age becomes the established truth of the next.   His heroes include scientist Galileo, human rights fighter John Brown, and labor leader Joe Hill. 

Stavis's plays can be done on a clean, simple stage, bounded only by history, ethics, religion, politics, and psychology.  His plays have been translated into 28 languages and have been produced in dozens of major theaters around the world and in numerous college theaters.  When theater companies and producers want serious drama, they produce Stavis's works. 

The National Theater Conference honors  an outstanding emerging playwright each year with the "Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwriting Award." 

Barrie also wrote a few light, humorous books at the early stage of his career.  Some notes on this part of his work are here.

Born in 1906, Barrie Stavis was actively involved in all his work until his death on February 2, 2007, at the age of 100.

Barrie died on Feb. 2, 2007, at the age of 100. 

Email your remembrances, and I'll put them here. (benstavis"at"

Obituary by Chris Martin

Pete Seeger sings happy birthday to Barry, with wonderful photos

Chris Martin Remembers Barrie

Lou Campbell remembers his cherished mentor

As with Joe Hill, his ideals will never die.
As with John Brown, his soul is marching on.

Major Plays 

Harpers Ferry.  New York: A.S. Barnes, 1960, 67.
First new play in a classical repertory produced by the Tyrone Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, 1967.
John Brown adopts guerilla warfare to overthrow slavery.  The raid fails and he is executed, but his truth marches on to victory.
book jacket

Lamp At Midnight.  New York: A.S. Barnes, 1966.
First produced at New Stages, New York, 1947.
Television adaptation Hallmark Hall of Fame, 1966.
 Galileo challenges religious dogma with science and finds enormous resistance to the truth.
book jacket
   To order video or dvd of Hallmark Hall of Fame production go to:
    Last revision of text is published in:
Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature Vol. 2, No. 2 (Fall-Winter, 1990).

The Man Who Never Died.  New York: A.S. Barnes, 1972.
Joe Hill confronts power by organizing a trade union and pays with his life
First produced at the Jan Hus Theater, New York, 1958.
book jacket

Coat of Many Colors, A Play About Joseph in Egypt.  New York: A.S. Barnes, 1968.
The biblical Joseph in Egypt helps establish human control over nature and gets enmeshed in court politics.
book jacket

The Raw Edge of Victory  in Dramatics Vol. 57, No. 8 and 9 (April and May 1986).
George Washington leads a revolution to establish national independence.

The House of Shadows, Just completed, March 2003, not published yet
People face complicated moral choices during cataclysmic social change. (France Aug. 1937).

Here's an interesting article Barrie published in Colliers in 1944: "They See Without Looking"

Overviews and comments

Recent Publications About Barrie Stavis

  • Larner, Daniel.  "Barrie Stavis."  Dictionary of Literary Biography 341, Twentieth Century American Dramatists, Fifth Series.  New York:  Gale, 2008, 237-245.
  • Sipario, Mensile di Teatro Billetto Musica Lirica Cinema Artivisive, Milan, Italy. June-August 1998. Sipario, The performing arts journal in Italy, has published a double issue devoted entirely to his works.  It contains essays on Barrie Stavis's works and a new translation of Lamp at Midnight by Antonia Brancati
  • Murray Kreiger, "To Make Reason and Will of God Prevail," Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature Vol. 9, No. 2 (1997), pp. 153-172.
  • Ezra Goldstein, "An Interview with Barrie Stavis," Studies in American Drama,  Vol. 6, No. 1 (1991), pp. 71-93.  This same issue also includes a long photo essay, with photographs of productions of Barrie Stavis's plays.
  • Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature Vol. 2, No. 2 (Fall-Winter, 1990) contains the most recent revised version of Lamp at Midnight as well as thirteen essays about Barrie Stavis's works.


Doolee's data base page on Barrie Stavis


For information about productions, copyrights, etc, please contact Richard Weisberg, Literary Executor,
  email: rhweisbg"at"

The Barrie Stavis Literary Archive is currently being cataloged at the University of Delaware Library, Special Collections.

For more information about the collection or reference assistance, please contact 
Timothy D. Murray, Head, Special Collections: 
  tel:   302 831-2229. 
Additional information about Special Collections is available at

This website is managed by Ben Stavis (cousin) benstavis"at"
Last updated Feb. 17,  2011.