American playwright. Born 1906, died 1963.
After spending some years as an actor in the leftist Group Theatre in New York, Odets made his début and breakthrough as a political dramatist with play in one (long) act, Waiting for Lefty (1935). The play, a classic piece of agitprop theatre, is set against a background of the Great Depression and a meeting of the beleaguered New York cab drivers' trade union.
Waiting for Lefty argues strongly for the use of the strike as a tool in the class struggle, and features many characteristic agitprop elements, including cast members participating from among the ranks of the audience, and the shouting of political slogans from the wings. The object is to rally the audience into a sense of revolutionary euphoria
More social realism dominates Odets' next play, Awake and Sing! (1935), a melodramatic portrayal of a Jewish working class family in New York during the Great Depression.
In his later plays, especially Golden Boy (1937) and The Big Knife (1949), Odets abandoned political theater in favour of a more existentialist, but also more ambivalent, critique of American materialism.