Archive for February, 2017

February Announcement for the Utah Westerners

MORMONS ON BROADWAY, 1914 STYLE, HARVEY O’HIGGINS’ “POLYGAMY”

Kenneth L. Cannon II

Almost one hundred years before the breakout hit “Book of Mormon, the Play” hit the stage, a darker, more solemn play about the Mormons was produced on Broadway.  Ken Cannon will describe and analyze the play, its authors and actors, its background, how the critics received it, and the perceptions it conveyed of Utah Mormons to early twentieth-century America.

Co-written by Harvey O’Higgins, Frank J. Cannon’s co-author of his political autobiography, Under the Prophet in Utah, and an unusually talented and broad-ranged New York writer, “Polygamy” is set in 1914 Salt Lake City.  As O’Higgins told the prestigious Drama Society of New York, he wanted to expose the evils of the “national Frankenstein” of Mormonism in the play. The plot revolves around the reactions and challenges created by a decree of the “Prophet” that an up-and-coming Mormon take a polygamous wife.  The play was cleverly presented in a way intended to appeal to Progressive America and feminists and reformers flocked to the production and hailed its message.  “Polygamy” was reviewed (mostly favorably) by all the major theater magazines and newspapers of the day and had a respectable six-month run.  It exhibited a sophisticated, subtle understanding of Mormon culture which was largely lost on Eastern critics and audiences.  Ken’s article on the play was recently published in Utah Historical Quarterly.

Ken Cannon, a member of Utah Westerners, is a corporate bankruptcy attorney and an independent historian.  For many years, he worked for a national, New York-based law firm in its Salt Lake City office, where the firm’s bankruptcy practice was centered.  He is a Fellow in the American College of Bankruptcy, perhaps the highest honor an American bankruptcy lawyer can attain, and is regularly identified as one of the best attorneys in Utah and the Intermountain West.  In addition to his legal practice, Ken currently holds the rank of Adjunct Professor of Law at the S.J. Quinney School of Law at the University of Utah, where he teaches a course on commercial law.  As a historian, Ken has published over twenty articles in scholarly journals on late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Utah and Mormon history and American legal history, occasionally winning awards along the way.  His long-term historical projects are a group biography of George Q. Cannon’s three oldest sons (Frank was the second) and editing a slightly fictionalized manuscript of the Bohemian period of Greenwich Village written by Isaac Russell, a Utah Mormon who covered Greenwich Village for the New York Times.  He is married to Ann Edwards Cannon, a writer, and they have five sons, four daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren.

February 14, 2017 at 4:48 pm Leave a comment


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