John Drinkwater Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

John Drinkwater was born on June 1, 1882, in Leytonstone, Essex, England, to Albert Edwin and Annie Beck Brown Drinkwater. His father, headmaster of the Coburn Foundation School at Bow, in East London, had been active in amateur theatricals and, in 1886, embarked on a career in the theater as an actor, playwright, and manager (setting a pattern for his son to follow years later). Because his mother was terminally ill, young Drinkwater was sent to live with his maternal grandfather in Oxford when he was nine. An indifferent student, he left Oxford High School in 1897 for Nottingham, where he worked for the Northern Assurance Company and did some acting in amateur productions. His transfer in 1901 to the Birmingham branch of the firm was a fortuitous move, for there he met Barry Jackson, a well-to-do theater enthusiast (two years older than Drinkwater) who presented plays at his father’s palatial home. When Jackson’s group went public as the Pilgrim Players, Drinkwater joined them, and, in 1909, he gave up his career in insurance to work for the Players, becoming general manager in 1913 (by which time the Pilgrim Players had become the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and had a theater). By the time he left Jackson’s employ in 1918, Drinkwater had directed more than sixty productions, had appeared (under the name of John Darnley) in about forty roles, and had written a number of plays, including X = O and Abraham Lincoln. His wife, Kathleen...

(The entire section is 470 words.)