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Grant Wood, Playwright



At the height of his fame in the late 1930s, artist Grant Wood co-authored a play with Cornell instructor Jewell Bothwell Tull to enter in a national playwrighting contest. They That Mourn was eliminated in local competition, but Tull’s husband, Cornell English professor Toppy Tull, secretly entered it in national competition. It won the national prize and was published in Stage magazine in April 1936.

“When Grant received a $1.65 check from a play service for lease of the play, he was as pleased as if he had gotten $1,000,” wrote Nan Wood Graham in My Brother, Grant Wood.

They That Mourn is a one-act play set in a country church cemetery before, during, and after a funeral. In its compassion for and candor about its rural characters it resembles Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (1938). Both Wood and Wilder lectured at Cornell in the 1930s. Toppy Tull’s English Club brought Wood to Cornell in 1933 in what is believed to be his first public lecture. Wilder spoke at Cornell in 1931.

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