UND to dedicate state's first 'literary landmark' in honor of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and poet
Dedication ceremony set for March 24, during UND Writers Conference
GRAND FORKS – The first literary landmark in North Dakota is set to be dedicated March 24, during the UND Writers Conference, the UND Department of Theatre Arts has announced.
A plaque honoring the late Maxwell Anderson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and UND graduate, will be unveiled in a 2 p.m. ceremony at the Burtness Theater. The playwright’s grandson is expected to attend the unveiling ceremony.
In connection with the dedication, the film “The Bad Seed” will be shown at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 27, at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks. The event will feature a question-and-answer session, hosted by Terry Dullum, with Joel Vig after the film screening.
Both events are free and open to the public.
Vig, a 1971 Grand Forks Central High School alumnus who lives near Palm Springs, California, has attained the literary landmark designation, to honor Anderson’s legacy, through his work with a United for Libraries program.
The Literary Landmarks program “ties an important writer to a specific location,” Vig said. “It could be the birthplace, or where the writer lived when he wrote (significant works). … It’s a good program to make people aware of great writers.”
A network of literary landmarks is spread across the country, but a few states, including North Dakota, have none, Vig said.
Literary landmarks commemorate writers including the home of Truman Capote in Monroeville, Alabama, where he grew up next door to Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and Mark Twain’s home in Hartford, Connecticut. Dedications have also included the homes of Tennessee Williams, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and William Faulkner as well as literary scenes, such as John’s Grill in San Francisco, where Dashiell Hammett wrote “The Maltese Falcon.”
Anderson is “one of the major playwrights of the 20th century,” Vig said, and his work has been adapted for films, starring actors such as Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, Bette David, Ingrid Bergman and Errol Flynn.
He attended Grand Forks Central High School and worked for the Grand Forks Herald. After graduation from UND, he went on to a career as an educator and journalist for newspapers in San Francisco and New York City.
He is most well known as a dramatist, writing more than 30 plays and 30 films and adaptations during his career. He also wrote screenplays of other authors’ plays and novels, including “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Death Takes a Holiday,” in addition to books of poetry and essays.
Anderson won the 1933 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for his play “Both Your Houses” and was awarded the Gold Medal in Drama by the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1954. As a lyricist, he collaborated with Kurt Weill on the 1938 musical “Knickerbocker Holiday.”
He was awarded honorary doctorates – one in literature by Columbia University in 1946 and one in the humanities by UND in 1958.
On the 75th anniversary of UND’s founding, Anderson wrote a “Love Letter to a University,” which can be found in the collections of the Chester Fritz Library and online.
Anderson’s last play, “The Bad Seed,” an adaptation of a novel by William March, ran on Broadway for 334 performances and was featured in LIFE magazine.
The film is considered to be one of his major commercial successes, Vig said. “It has almost a cult following.”