From Page to Stage, Introduction

With the dramatization of James Fenimore Cooper's The Spy in 1821, the American stage beheld the first successful adaptation of an American novel, initiating a trend that persists in today's theatre and film. The popularity of the novel in the nineteenth century, especially the historical and romantic novel, provided the theatre with a unique set of characters who jumped from the written page directly onto the boards of the stage. Since the theatre-going public was also the novel-reading public, audiences flocked to see favorite characters come to life. Conscious of this bridge between formats, twentieth-century novelists continued to generate plots and roles that easily adapted to the theatre.

From Rip Van Winkle to Uncle Tom's Cabin to Tobacco Road, American audiences have enjoyed nearly two centuries of adaptations, witnessing popular novels translated and transformed on the stage.