The author of numerous plays and film scripts, including Green Grow the Lilacs, later made into the hit musical Oklahoma!, Lynn Riggs (18991954) is recognized as one of America’s most engaging dramatists and was the only active American Indian dramatist during the first half of the twentieth century. An elegant leatherbound collector’s edition, The Cherokee Night and Other Plays, features his never-before-published play Out of Dust, as well as The Cherokee Night and Green Grow the Lilacs.
A mixed-blood Cherokee, Riggs wrote about the people, places, and events of the Oklahoma he knew so well. A cattle rancher’s son, Riggs was born in the Verdigris Valley south of Claremore in Indian Territory. He first gained recognition as a poet in the early 1920s while attending the University of Oklahoma and later moved to New York, where he worked on and around Broadway. In 1927 Riggs was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship, and while in France on that fellowship, he began writing Green Grow the Lilacs, which Rodgers and Hammerstein made into the Broadway musical Oklahoma! in 1943. By the end of his life, Riggs had written some thirty plays and scripts for fourteen films produced between 1930 and 1955.
In their 1939 Handbook of Oklahoma Writers, Mary Hays Marable and Elaine Boylan observe: “Lynn Riggs hitched his wagon to Pegasus and rode into the theatre with an output of poetic and regional plays that has brought him outstanding success.”