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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. I, No. 3
January, 1978



The Milwaukee Repertory Theater Company's Eugene O'Neill project (see p. 14 of Newsletter's September issue) is now in full swing. Long Day's Journey Into Night opened on November 4 and Ah, Wilderness! on November 18. The two productions will be in repertory in Milwaukee until January 22, 1978. Two days later, a nine-state, six-week road tour will begin with initial performances at the University of Iowa and at Iowa State University. Director of both productions is Irene Lewis of the Hartford (Conn.) Stage Company. The set, modeled on the sun room of the Monte Cristo cottage, is by R. H. Graham; the costumes by Susan Tsu; lighting by Arden Fingerhut. Playing parallel parts are Robert Burr as James Tyrone, Sr. and Nat Miller; Regina David as Mary Tyrone and Essie Miller; Anthony Heald as Edmund and Richard; Ronald Frazier as Jamie and Uncle Sid; and Rose Pickering as Cathleen and Norah. In addition, Kristie Thatcher doubles as Richard's temptresses, Muriel and Belle, in Ah, Wilderness!

As a result of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, an unprecedented award to a resident theater company, the MRT has been able to arrange for a number of special projects to surround these productions. First of all, Paul Voelker, Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin Center, Marshfield/Wood County, is on a year's leave of absence to serve as O'Neill consultant in residence at the MRT and to coordinate the other phases of the project. Advising him are members of a national advisory committee composed of Bernard Beckerman, Travis Bogard, Robert Corrigan, Horst Frenz, Esther M. Jackson and Frederick Wilkins.

The first visible result of the project has been the publication of a special issue of the MRT's subscriber magazine Prologue, containing specially commissioned, original articles on the two plays. (A list of the contents appears later in this issue, in note #2.) The second result is a photo-essay lobby display of the Monte Cristo cottage and New London, Conn., by the noted performing arts photographer Sandy Underwood. Next, a 30-minute television program has been made on O'Neill, New London, the two plays, and the productions, including scenes of the actors at the Monte Cristo cottage. This program is appearing on Milwaukee television and on stations along the tour route. It will later be available for classroom use.

In addition to editing Prologue and advising on the television project, Voelker has arranged a series of post-performance audience discussions involving MRT production personnel and members of the national advisory committee, as well as other invited scholars. Besides discussants from the fields of English and theater, scholars in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, American history, sociology, anthropology and film have agreed to participate. Voelker will also be going along on the road tour to participate in symposia, talk with local community groups, and arrange post-performance discussions.

Both productions were lauded by Dominique Paul Noth, drama critic of the Milwaukee Journal (November 5 and 19, 1977), who noted, both in the Journal and in a piece on both plays in the New York Theatre Review (January 1978, p. 34), the reverberating echoes that back-to-back performances of these two works create, somewhat lightening the tragedy and adding interesting shadows to the comedy. "Ms. Lewis is certainly right," says Noth, "in finding a lot of humor in Long Day's Journey and a lingering edge of darkness in the Fourth of July lilt of Ah, Wilderness!"

The project looks to be enormously successful and has already done a great deal to increase public appreciation of O'Neill's work in particular and of drama in general. Comments by participants can be expected in a future issue of the Newsletter.



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