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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. II, No. 3
January, 1979



1. 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.

Readers 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 discoveries, found 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 by 1937." (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 the decoration of the house.

Having 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!)

One's first impression of Monte Cristo is its smallness. Despite high ceilings in all but the sitting room, the first-floor rooms are surprisingly small. (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.

The 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.

2. 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, Conn.

3. 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):

"The 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.

"After 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.

"Miss 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."

4. 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, Ah, Wilderness!, 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 others!


a. 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.

b. 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."

c. 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 Iceman. 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 us 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.


Travis 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.")

Albert 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.

Michael Knight, "Design for New Theater Picked in Provincetown." The New York Times, Nov. 20, 1978, p. C-16.

Anne LeClaire, "Provincetown Awaits Rebirth of Playhouse." The Boston Sunday Globe (Nov. 12, 1978), p. A-20.

Tom Scanlan, Eamily, Drama and American Dreams. Greenwood, 1978. (Contributions in American Studies, 35.)


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 3, 1979.

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.

Ile (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, 1978.

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, 1979.
(Tel. 617-742-8703.)
(A review will appear in the next issue of the Newsletter.)

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 WNET, 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.

8. 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.

9. Bargain hunters should note the current sale at New York University Press, Washington Square, New York, NY 10003. Through February 28, 1979, the price for Oscar Cargill and Bryllian Fagin's O'Neill and His Plays: Four Decades of Criticism is markedly reduced. The cloth edition, usually $13.50, is now $6; the paperbound edition, usually $4.95, is now $1.95.



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