NOTES AND QUERIES.
Scholars sleeping in the spare room once occupied by the real Mary
Tyrone? Staged readings of Long Day's Journey
in the actual room that provided its setting? Not as far-fetched as
one might think. Such activities are envisioned for the Monte Cristo
Cottage on Pequod Avenue in New London, now a National Historical
Landmark, which is currently being restored to its original
appearance by Sally Pavetti and Lois McDonald of the O'Neill Theater
Center in nearby Waterford.
of last January's issue of the Newsletter (pp. 12-13) already know
of the restoration activity.
An interview with Sally Pavetti in New York Theatre Review ("Using O'Neill's Plays to Restore
Monte Cristo Cottage," October 1978, pp. 24-25) provides
fuller coverage of her experiences during the reconstruction. Ms.
Pavetti describes the house as an embodiment of James O'Neill's
frugality: "Rather than build a new house from scratch, he
chose instead to 'assemble' a residence. Located on the property
when he bought it, were a store and dwelling, and a school house.
Mr. O'Neill moved them together, and, to make the cottage a
residence, added the necessary Victorian 'add-ons': the porch with
its clover leaf bargework, the tower room with witch's hat roof, and
the widow's walk." one of last summer's
after the removal of a bookcase that had been built into the wall of
the front parlor after the O'Neills sold the house, was "the
original wall switch which Mary Tyrone turns on at the end of the
fourth act." And they have learned, with the aid of Eugene
O'Neill's own pencil drawing of the house, "that the present
kitchen was the dining room of Ah, Wilderness! and
that the actual O'Neill kitchen was a lean-to, fallen in disrepair
(The O'Neills took their meals out and did not, like the
Tyrones, have a cook.) A patch of the original pink wallpaper has
been discovered in the second-floor hallway. It is exquisite, and
its color matches the pink tiles of the frontparlor fireplace
downstairs, suggesting to Lois McDonald that Ella O'Neill, despite
the general public impression of her that has resulted from Long Day's Journey, had an active and alert eye in
of the house.
taken my O'Neill seminar to visit the cottage last November 18, I
can report that the exterior has been beautifully restored to its
turn-of-the-century appearance--from its new shingle roof and
restored bargework to the replacement of a section of porch that had
been removed--but that the interior will still require much work
before the house can become the living museum it will someday be.
(The walls were about to be replastered, display cases
halffilled the sitting room, and a leak had developed in the
basement.) But a visit to the cottage is already an incomparable
experience for anyone familiar with the plays set there, especially
when one's guide is as genial and knowledgeable as Lois McDonald,
who devoted half of her Saturday to showing us, not only the
cottage, but the Harkness mansion in Waterford, and the neighboring
Hammond estate with its ice pond, where James O'Neill's tenant
"Dirty" Dolan watered his pigs.
(Messrs. Harkness and Hammond are blended in the Harker of
Long Day's Journey and the Harder of Moon for the Misbegotten; and
it is a whimsical wink of fate that the Hammond villa should now
house the headquarters of the O'Neill Theater Center!)
first impression of Monte Cristo is its smallness. Despite high
ceilings in all but the sitting room, the first-floor rooms are
(The second-floor rooms, without the saving grace of height,
could be even more oppressive, though several are sunny when the
O'Neillian fog is not about.) But the surprise gives way to
increased understanding when one considers how easily tempers could
flare in such close quarters.
O'Neill Theater Center has plans for the cottage to serve as a
conference site for O'Neill enthusiasts from both theatre and
academia. But that must await the completion of the renovation,
which was hampered by last February's blizzard, which tore open
doors, upended display cases, blew snow into indoor drifts, and left
the cottage looking, according to Sally Pavetti, "like a bomb
had hit the place." However, the blizzard is now long gone, the
work is progressing admirably, and my class and I can attest to the
insight and delight that a visit there can offer. --Ed.
The O'Neill section of the International Seminar on English and
American Studies in Debrecen, Hungary (Sept. 8-11) is reported to
have been successful. Papers were read by Virginia Floyd
("Eugene O'Neill: A Playwright's Progress--The Long Night's
Quest")and Peter Egri ("The Uses of the Short Story in
Chekhov's and O'Neill's Multiple-Act Plays"), and Jess Adkins
spoke on the work of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford,
Anent the 1923 silent film version of Anna Christie
starring Blanche Sweet, whose recent rediscovery in a Yugoslavian
archive was reported on page 19 of the last issue of the Newsletter.
The film, produced by Thomas Ince and directed by John Griffith Ray,
was shown, sans its Russian subtitles, on New York City television
station WNET's "Lost and Found" series last July. John J.
O'Connor reviewed it in the July 21 issue of the New York Times (p. C-25):
O'Neill play was put through the inevitable process of adaptation,
and the action is no longer confined to the New York waterfront and
the coal barge captained by Chris Christopherson, Anna's father. The
film opens in 'a small village in Sweden,' where 5-year-old Anna
plays happily by the shore. Then a cut to Shanghai and a shot of her
sailor father, drunk and broke, cursing the spell of the devil sea.
this, the scene set for 15 years later, 'time passes,' and the
father learns that Anna is coming to visit him from her farm in
Minnesota, where she was raised by cousins after her mother's death.
The play proper begins, and O'Neill's brooding tale of promises and
betrayal, purity and corruption unfolds--with some typical Hollywood
adjustments, of course.
Sweet's Anna is created through an unusual combination of unaffected
acting and stylized mime. Her entrance, carrying a bulky suitcase
and wearing a hat pulled down over one eye, is a memorable
arrangement of body gestures. As the father, George S. Marion (who
played the same role in the later Garbo version of Anna Christie),
settles for the caricature of the pathetic clown, his curious
features almost frozen into a ridiculous mask. William Russell as
Mat, the burly Irishman who courts Anna ('Anna--sure it's a nice
name and suited to you'), is pure O'Neill, a perfect candidate for
the title role in The Hairy Ape."
For the record. Persons interested in organizing an O'Neill event
might do well to emulate the work of Dr. Martin Blank, who produced
a six-week O'Neill Festival at the College of Staten Island, City
University of New York (then Staten Island Community College), in
September and October 1974. The festival included productions of Hughie
and Long Day's Journey; films of Long Voyage Home, Anna Christie,
and The Count of Monte Cristo
(the James O'Neill film of 1913); videotape interviews with Jason
Robards, Colleen Dewhurst and Harold Clurman; lectures by Barbara
Gelb, Elliot Martin and George White; seminars on the two
productions conducted by Louis Sheaffer; and an exhibition of rare
manuscript material, including O'Neill's Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes.
"An inspiring program," wrote Elaine Boies in the Staten Island Advance (Sept. 19, 1974). May it inspire
WORK IN PROGRESS.
Ruth Selden, Vice President and Executive Editor of Frederick Ungar
Publishing Company, has announced the imminent publication of a book
of critical essays, Eugene O'Neill: World Citizen,
which will appear in either the spring or fall of 1979. Edited by
Virginia Floyd, the volume will contain the papers delivered at MLA
sessions she has directed. Newsletter readers have read summaries of
those papers in previous issues; soon they will be able to peruse
them in full.
Robert E. Wilkinson of Villanova University is working on a Eugene
O'Neill Handbook, which he hopes to complete "within the next
three to five years." The Newsletter will be happy to forward
any advice, caveats, suggestions, or just words of encouragement--or
readers can write Dr. Wilkinson directly in Villanova, PA 19085.
"I'm interested," he writes, "in knowing if there is
a market for such a book, a market not in the economic sense but in
the sense of readers interested in having a handy compendium of
information about O'Neill."
Frank R. Cunningham of the University of South Dakota is completing
a book on O'Neill and the Romantic Tradition.
Professor Cunningham recently described his subject and approach:
"I have thought for some years that O'Neillians have
concentrated on the spiritual and religious themes in the works at
the expense of the humanistic, psychological and philosophical ideas
and motifs. I am particularly moved by the resemblances between
Romantic myths (say, the rebirth of Coleridge's Mariner and
Carlyle's Teufelsdrockh) and e. g. O'Neill's central character in
his Ancient Mariner, Lazarus in LL, Juan in The Fountain, and even, to some extent, Larry Slade in
Following upon Morse Peckham and R. P. Adams' work in Romanticism, I
have done some work on Lazarus and Dion Anthony as Romantic heroes,
searchers for value in a potentially organic and meaningful
universe. In short, I don't see O'Neill's world as 'depressing,'
religionbound, 'haunted,' to the extent that Engel, Bogard and
others have. I agree with Trilling that Freud saw the connection
between Romanticism and modern psychoanalytical thought; and I think
I can demonstrate that O'Neill's view of man is considerably more
spacious than the Naturalists or 'illusionists' have allowed so far.
I suppose I am more in Carpenter's line of thinking, let
say, than in that of any of the other prominent O'Neill scholars;
excepting that I hope not only to show O'Neill as within the
Romantic tradition, but also as positively affected by the thought
of Freud, Adler, and 'humanistic' psychology generally."
Readers of Professor Cunningham's previous essay in STC,
"Lazarus Laughed: A Study in O'Neill's
Romanticism," will reJoice that much more is yet to come. A
portion of the study, dealing with Romantic motifs in The Fountain,
will appear in a future issue of the Newsletter.
Bogard, Richard Moody and Walter J. Meserve, The Revels History of Drama in English. Volume 8: American Drama. Methuen, 1978.
(A. F. Sponberg, reviewing the volume in TLS (August
4, 1978, p. 886), while he lamented that American drama had still
not found its F. O. Matthiessen, praised the first four chapters, by
Bogard, which concern the "range and contexts of American
drama," the fourth comparing O'Neill's work and Shaw's and
relating O'Neill's oeuvre "to the world of ideas.")
E. Kalson, review of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater Company's
productions of Ah, Wilderness! and Long Day's Journey Into Night.
Educational Theatre Journal, October 1978, pp. 422-424.
Knight, "Design for New Theater Picked in Provincetown."
The New York Times, Nov. 20, 1978, p. C-16.
LeClaire, "Provincetown Awaits Rebirth of Playhouse." The Boston Sunday Globe (Nov. 12, 1978), p. A-20.
Scanlan, Eamily, Drama and American Dreams.
Greenwood, 1978. (Contributions in American Studies, 35.)
RECENT AND FORTHCOMING O'NEILL PRODUCTIONS.
Ah, Wilderness!, dir. Allen Fletcher. American Conservatory
Theatre, San Francisco. In repertory, beginning Oct. 31, 1978.
(ACT's production previously toured in Hawaii and Japan.)
Ah, Wilderness!, dir. Ron Van Lieu. Whole Theatre Company,
Montclair, NJ, ,
May 4 - June
Ah, Wilderness!, dir. Roy Clary. Heights Players, 26 Willow St.,
Brooklyn Heights, NY, Sept. 8-23, 1978.
Desire Under the Elms. Royall Tyler Theatre,
University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, Oct. 18-21, 1978.
The Iceman Cometh, with Robert Darnell as Hickey. Loretto-Hilton
Repertory Theatre, St. Louis, Missouri, Oct. 13 - Nov. 11, 1978.
(dir. Camille David) and The Long Voyage Home
(dir. Bart Whiteman), performed by Source at ASTA, 507 8th St. SE,
Washington, DC, August 1978.
(Richard L. Coe, reviewing the production in The Washington
Post (August 19, 1978, p. E6), praised the group for its
"probity" and "conspicuous integrity" in
capturing the "rugged, granite quality" of the early
O'Neill, and in honoring "the author's deliberate pace, a
respect often denied older plays.")
Long Day's Journey Into Night, dir. L. Ambrosio. Cohoes Music Hall, Cohoes, NY, Jan. 27 - Feb. 8, 1979.
Long Day's Journey Into Night, with Darell
Brown and Mark McKenna, dir. Sonia Moore. American Stanislavski
Theater at Greenwich Mews, 141 W. 13th Street, NYC. Opened Dec. 1,
Long Day's Journey Into Night. George Street
Playhouse, New Brunswick, NJ, Nov. 24 - Dec. 16, 1978.
Long Day's Journey Into Night. Playmakers
Repertory Company, Chapel Hill, NC. In repertory, 1978-79 season.
A Moon for the Misbegotten. Geva Theatre,
Rochester, NY, January 26 Feb. 18, 1979.
A Moon for the Misbegotten, dir. Sue Bowlin.
Lyric Stage Company, 54 Charles St., Boston, MA, Jan. 3 - Feb. 10,
Moon of the Caribbees (in a program of "Four
One-Acts Tonight," with Susan Glaspell's "Suppressed
Desires" and plays by Tad Mosel and Tom Rodman). American Theater
Arts, 133 MacDougal St., NYC, Nov. 9-26, 1978.
Mourning Becomes Electra. A five-part PBS television series,
produced by New York's
beginning on Dec. 6, 1978, and featuring Joan Hackett, Roberta
Maxwell, Bruce Davison and Josef Summer. (A
review will appear in the next issue of the Newsletter.)
A Wife for a Life, Before Breakfast
and Where the Cross Is Made
(performed with the collective title, Faces of O'Neill),
dir. Michael Alexander. Nameless Theater, 1f5 W. 22nd St., NYC. Closed
on Nov. 19, 1978.
Patrick J. Nolan would appreciate any information, beyond the ready
biographical data, about Charles S. Gilpin, the first Brutus Jones.
The editor will happily forward any information.
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