Lynn Riggs and "Oklahoma!"

Oklahoma Historical Society

The work of Oklahoma playwright and poet Lynn Riggs was the inspiration behind one of the most celebrated musicals of our time.

Lynn Riggs, 1964-01-14, From the collection of: Oklahoma Historical Society

Oklahoma playwright and poet Lynn Riggs grew up on a farm just outside of Claremore. While on a fellowship in France in the late 1920s, Riggs wrote the play "Green Grow the Lilacs." This play provided the basis from which Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II created the musical "Oklahoma!" Riggs was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1948.

"Green Grow the Lilacs", Lynn Riggs, 1931, From the collection of: Oklahoma Historical Society

"Green Grow the Lilacs" is one of Lynn Riggs's best-known works. It premiered on Broadway in 1931 and was considered somewhat unsuccessful, playing a limited run of sixty-four performances. When Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II adapted the play into a musical, they stayed true to much of the original production and even used Riggs's scene notes as the basis for many songs.

Fiddler from "Green Grow the Lilacs", Original Source: Jeff Briley

Though the success of "Green Grow the Lilacs" has been debated, productions of the show continued to be staged through the 1930s and 1940s, including an Oklahoma production featuring this young man as one of the show's cowmen.

"The Iron Dish", Lynn Riggs, 1982, From the collection of: Oklahoma Historical Society

After "Green Grow the Lilacs," Riggs continued working, writing works such as "The Cherokee Night" and "Russet Mantle."

Over the course of his career, Riggs wrote more than twenty full-length plays and authored two published works of poetry including "The Iron Dish."

"This Book, This Hill, These People: Poems by Lynn Riggs", Lynn Riggs, 1982, From the collection of: Oklahoma Historical Society

This collection of poems by Lynn Riggs was published specifically for the state of Oklahoma's seventy-fifth anniversary, or Diamond Jubilee, to honor one of Oklahoma's most well-known poets and playwrights.

Lynn Riggs's gravesite, Jim Meeks, 2017-12-20, From the collection of: Oklahoma Historical Society

Though he split his time between New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, and California, among other places, Riggs was buried in Claremore, Oklahoma, after his death in 1954. He continues to be heralded as one of Oklahoma’s greatest poets and playwrights.

Claremore Museum of History, Jim Meeks, 2017-12-20, From the collection of: Oklahoma Historical Society

Located in Claremore, Oklahoma, the site of Lynn Riggs’s birth, the Claremore Museum of History acts as the Lynn Riggs Memorial in order to keep the story of his life and works alive.

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