Authors: Lynn Riggs

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American playwright

Identity: American Indian (Cherokee)

Author Works


Knives from Syria, pr. 1925 (one act)

Big Lake, pr., pb. 1927

Rancor, pr. 1927

A Lantern to See By, pb. 1928

Sump’n Like Wings, pb. 1928

Roadside, pr., pb. 1930

Green Grow the Lilacs, pr., pb. 1931

Russet Mantle, pr., pb. 1936

The Cherokee Night, pr., pb. 1936

A World Elsewhere, pb. 1939

The Year of Pilar, wr., 1940, pb. 1947

The Cream in the Well, pr., pb. 1941

Dark Encounter, pb. 1947

Four Plays, pb. 1947

Laughter from a Cloud, pr. 1947

Hang on to Love, pb. 1948

Borned in Texas, pr. 1950 (revision of Roadside)

Toward the Western Sky, pr., pb. 1951 (music by Nathan Kroll)


Laughing Boy, 1933

Delay in the Sun, 1935

Garden of Allah, 1936

The Plainsman, 1936 (with Waldemar Young and Harold Lamb)


The Iron Dish, 1930


The success of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s musical Oklahoma!, which is based on Green Grow the Lilacs, has kept Lynn Riggs’s name alive. Riggs’s works celebrate and preserve the author’s Cherokee heritage, his recollections of Oklahoma farm life, and his love of the American musical traditions of country ballads, folk songs, and cowboy music.{$I[AN]9810000428}{$I[A]Riggs, Lynn}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Riggs, Lynn}{$I[geo]AMERICAN INDIAN;Riggs, Lynn}{$I[tim]1899;Riggs, Lynn}

Rolla Lynn Riggs was born August 31, 1899, at Claremore, Oklahoma, into the life he portrayed so well in his best work. He attended local schools and the state university, sandwiching his education between a variety of jobs, some associated with writing. His poems were published in national magazines before any of his plays were accepted commercially. Borned in Texas, produced as Roadside in 1930, was a failure on Broadway, but Green Grow the Lilacs, which followed, received an excellent Theatre Guild production in 1931. This same group insisted that Rodgers and Hammerstein revise the play as a musical; out of this collaboration, Oklahoma! was born. In the meantime, Riggs went on writing, occasionally appearing as visiting lecturer in universities, and assisting in productions, mostly nonprofessional, of his later works. He died in New York City on June 30, 1954.

Second only to Paul Green in the provocative use of folklore in drama, Riggs was never a popular playwright, yet he continued to write and produce individually excellent plays. Criticism has only begun to evaluate his minor but significant contribution to the American drama.

BibliographyBraunlich, Phyllis. Haunted by Home: The Life and Letters of Lynn Riggs. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988. An important biography and critical analysis of Riggs’s works. Illustrations, complete listing of Riggs’s works, extensive bibliography, and index.Braunlich, Phyllis Cole. “The Oklahoma Plays of R. Lynn Riggs.” World Literature Today 64 (Summer, 1990): 120-136.Brenton, Joseph. “Some Personal Reminiscences About Lynn Riggs.” Chronicles of Oklahoma 34 (Autumn, 1956): 296-301. A warm remembrance of Riggs by Brenton, who knew him from his earliest college days in Oklahoma to his death in New York. Brenton places some of Riggs’s major decisions and accomplishments into biographical context.Downer, Alan S. Fifty Years of American Drama. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1951. In the chapter entitled “Folk Drama,” Downer suggests that Green Grow the Lilacs, and more important, Roadside, epitomize the American folk drama. The plays are distinguished above other Western melodramas by their poetry of speech, warm humanity, and characters. Index.Erhard, Thomas. Lynn Riggs: Southwest Playwright. Austin, Tex.: Steck-Vaughn, 1970. This forty-four-page monograph provides an excellent biography and critical introduction to Riggs’s plays. Erhard comments on the playwright’s use of the territorial Oklahoma dialect and settings to tell universal stories of human drama.Wilk, M. OK! The Story of Oklahoma! 1993. Reprint. New York: Applause, 2002. Discusses Riggs’s contribution to the musical theater.
Categories: Authors