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Oklahoma designated the Lynn Riggs Players of Oklahoma, Inc. as the official state theater in 1971. Poet, musician, dramatist, scenarist and director Lynn Riggs (1899 - 1954) wrote 21 full-length plays, numerous short stories, poems, and even a television script before his untimely death at 55. Then Governor Johnston Murray sent an Oklahoma flag to drape over his coffin (the first time in Oklahoma's history this was done). The Rogers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! is based on Riggs' play Green Grow The Lilacs. The Lynn Riggs Memorial is in Claremore, OK.
Rollie Lynn Riggs (August 31, 1899 - June 30, 1954) was an American author, poet and playwright born on a farm near Claremore, Oklahoma. His mother was 1/8 Cherokee, and when he was two years old, his mother secured his Cherokee allotment for him. He was able to draw on his allotment to help support his writing. Riggs wrote 21 full-length plays, several short stories, poems, and a television script.
The Cherokee Night by Lynn Riggs, presented at the Provincetown Playhouse by the Community Theatre Division of the Federal Theatre Project, July
He was educated at the Eastern University Preparatory School in Claremore, Oklahoma, starting in 1912. Riggs graduated from high school in 1917, and travelled to Chicago and New York. He worked for the Adams Express Company in Chicago, wrote for the Wall Street Journal, sold books at Macy's and swept out Wall Street offices. Returning to Oklahoma in 1919, he wrote for the Oil and Gas Journal. Travelling to Los Angeles, Riggs worked as an extra in the theatre, and a copyeditor at the Los Angeles Times, which published his first poem. Riggs entered the University of Oklahoma in 1920, and taught English there from 1922-1923. However, Riggs did not graduate after he became ill with tuberculosis during his senior year. Riggs then moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico for health reasons and soon joined a group of artists. However, in 1926 Riggs moved back to New York hoping to work in the Broadway theatres.
His first major production was a one-act play, Knives from Syria, which was produced by the Santa Fe Players in 1925. He began teaching at the Lewis
Institute, Chicago, while continuing to write. In 1928 he received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and travelled to Europe. Riggs began writing
his most famous play, Green Grow the Lilacs in the Cafe Les Deux Magots on the Left Bank in Paris. He completed this play five months later in Cagnes-sur-Mer,
in Southern France.
He then lived in Santa Fe, Los Angeles, and New York, and was a screenwriter for Paramount and Universal Studios. After serving in the military 1942-44 he worked on an historical drama for Western Reserve University, published a short story, "Eben, The Hound, and the Hare" (1952), and worked on a novel set in Oklahoma. He moved to Shelter Island, New York after he started receiving a steady income when Green Grow The Lilacs was adapted into the landmark musical Oklahoma! in 1943.
Riggs was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1943, and in 1965 he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
The law designating The Lynn Riggs Players of Oklahoma, Incorporated as the official Oklahoma state theater is found in the Oklahoma Statutes, Title 53, Chapter 78 Section 81.
Title 53. Oklahoma Historical Societies
Chapter 7. - Lynn Riggs Players of Oklahoma, Inc.
§ 81. Official Theater of the State of Oklahoma
The Lynn Riggs Players of Oklahoma, Incorporated, is hereby designated "The Official Theater of the State of Oklahoma".
§ 82. Historical Society as official depository
The Oklahoma Historical Society shall be the official depository for such articles, papers, script and other materials and items as may be donated to the state by the Lynn Riggs Players of Oklahoma, Inc., for advancing the cultural and educational heritage of Oklahoma.
Laws 1961, p. 726, § 1.