When Lynn Riggs was born in 1899, Claremore was still part of the Indian Territory that was later incorporated into the state of Oklahoma. Son of an Indian farmer, he enjoyed the simple amusements and “play parties” of his neighbors as well as their unselfconscious folk traditions. He did various odd jobs in his youth, first as an itinerant farmhand and cowpuncher and then as a singer at the local movie house. Later, he traveled around the country, working as a proofreader on a newspaper in San Francisco, as a clerk in the book section of Macy’s department store in New York City, and as a newspaper reporter in Tulsa. At the age of twenty-one, Riggs enrolled in the University of Oklahoma as a music major, later changing his major to English so that he could qualify for a readership position. He continued to hold the position of second tenor in the solo quartet organized by the university, which toured in a professional summer Chautauqua and minstrel show. He had two farces, Cuckoo and Honeymoon, produced at school while he was still an undergraduate.
Riggs’s dramatic successes at the university and his early one-act Knives from Syria, with its Ali Hakim-like peddler character, all showed originality and humor, and he was encouraged to continue playwriting. The production of the full-length Big Lake by the American Laboratory Theatre attracted some critical attention and won for Riggs a Guggenheim Fellowship. In...
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