The circumstances under which “The Easiest Way” was written are rather peculiar. When I was an advance-agent, ahead of second-class companies, the need of money caused me to write a one-act piece called “All the Way from Denver,” which in time I was able to dispose of. Later, after having written “Paid in Full,” I realized that in the play, “All the Way from Denver,” there was a situation or theme that might prove exceedingly valuable in a four-act play. After discussing the possibilities with Mr. Archie Selwyn, we concluded to write it. In the meantime, the one-act piece had come into the possession of Margaret Mayo, and through her, Mr. Edgar Selwyn decided that the title should be “The Easiest Way” instead of “All the Way from Denver.”
The play was then taken in its scenario form to Mr. C.B. Dillingham, and discussed with him at length. This was prior to the public presentation of “Paid in Full.” I possessed no particular reputation as a dramatic writer—in fact, the Messrs. Selwyn—Archie and Edgar—were the only ones who took me seriously, and thought me a possibility. Mr. Dillingham was not particularly impressed with the piece, because he thought it was much too broad in theme, and he did not like the idea of slapping the managerial knuckles of the theatre. Further, the obvious inference in “The Easiest Way,” that Laura was kept out of work in order to be compelled to yield herself to Brockton, was a point which did not appeal to him. However, we had a working agreement with him, and later, Mr. Archie Selwyn, in discussing the story of the play with Mr. David Belasco, aroused his interest. The latter saw “Paid in Full” and “The Wolf,” and so he sent for me, with the result that “The Easiest Way” was first produced in Hartford, Conn., on December 31, 1908. Since its New York production, it has been presented in nearly every country of the world. It has not always met with commercial success, but it has always been regarded as a play of representative importance.
William Winter was one of the bitterest enemies of “The Easiest Way.” He placed it with “Zaza” and Brieux’s “Three Daughters of M. Dupont.” As an opposite extreme view, we give the opinion of Mr. Walter Eaton, written in 1909, concerning the play: “It places Mr. Walter as a leader among our dramatists.” In some respects, we may have surpassed it since then, in imaginative ideality; but, as an example of relentless realism, it still holds its own as a distinct contribution. The text has been edited for private circulation, and it is this text which is followed here. A few modifications, of a technical nature, have been made in the stage directions; but even with these slight changes, the directions are staccato, utilitarian in conciseness, rather than literary in the Shaw sense.
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