Lynn Riggs

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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.[1] Riggs wrote 21 full-length plays, several short stories, poems, and a television script.[1]

Early life[edit]

The Cherokee Night by Lynn Riggs, presented at the Provincetown Playhouse by the Community Theatre Division of the Federal Theatre Project, July 1936

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.[2] However, Riggs did not graduate after he became ill with tuberculosis during his senior year.[1] 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.

Literary career[edit]

His first major production was a one-act play, Knives from Syria, which was produced by the Santa Fe Players in 1925.[2] 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 Café Les Deux Magots on the Left Bank in Paris.[2] He completed this play five months later in Cagnes-sur-Mer, in Southern France.[1]

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,[3] and in 1965 he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.[4]


He died on June 30, 1954, of stomach cancer in New York City.[5] Claremore, Oklahoma is home to the Lynn Riggs Memorial.[6]


Selected plays include:

Big Lake (1926)
Sump'n Like Wings (1926-28)
A Lantern to See By (1926-28)
Rancor (1926-28)
Roadside (1929)
Green Grow the Lilacs (1931)
The Cherokee Night (1932)
More Sky (1934)
Russet Mantle (1936)

His first play was Cuckoo in 1920, a farce about college fraternities that was performed at the University of Oklahoma in the spring of 1921.[2] The Theatre Guild produced his most well-known play, Green Grow The Lilacs, on Broadway in 1931, where it ran for 64 performances. The musical Oklahoma!, based on Riggs' play, opened on Broadway on March 31, 1943, and ran until May 29, 1948 for 2,212 performances.

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Lynn Riggs: An Oklahoma Treasure, Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma
  2. ^ a b c d Lynn Riggs, Mary Hays Marable and Elaine Boylan, pages 93-96 of A Handbook of Oklahoma Writers, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1939, ASIN B0006AONUW .
  3. ^ "Oklahoma Hall of Fame". Retrieved November 16, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Hall of Great Westerners". National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  5. ^ Information from: Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book And Manuscript Library, Yale Collection Of American Literature, Lynn Riggs Papers, New Haven, CT, November, 1993 Last Updated: February 2000
  6. ^ The Lynn Riggs Memorial webpage


External links[edit]