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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. III, No. 2
September, 1979


(IN THIS ISSUE)

NEWS, NOTES AND QUERIES

1. L'AFFAIRE CHABROWE. Leonard Chabrowe's Ritual and Pathos--the Theatre of O'Neill has had a mixed response from critics. A review by H. N. Levitt of Hunter College appeared in the October 1977 issue of Educational Theatre Journal. Mr. Chabrowe, wishing "to correct a crucial misunderstanding" in that review, wrote a letter that was printed, along with a reply by Professor Levitt, on page 142 of the March 1979 issue. Both the Chabrowe letter (a) and the Levitt reply (b) are reprinted here.

a. "Professor Levitt stated that my book 'purports to categorize many of O'Neill's plays according to the rituals they contain and the degree of pathos (suffering) exhibited by their characters.' But that is not quite the case. The book actually purports to show how O'Neill's plays were aimed at giving the audience an aesthetic experience of a religious nature. The ritual and the pathos were just means to that end. So while the book might have fallen victim to the perils of trying to do too much, especially in the subjective sphere of aesthetic experience, it certainly did not fall victim to the 'perils of parochialism in textual analysis.'

"Missing the whole point of the book is no doubt what made Professor Levitt focus largely on peripheral matters as if they were central. Possibly it is also what made him present quotes and opinions from the book in a misleading way and attribute foolish notions (such as 'exulted ideals') to the book when they were not there. At least I hope that is the reason."

b. "In his letter, Mr. Chabrowe refers to the 'aesthetic experience of a religious nature' that he believes O'Neill's plays create. In the second line of his book he defines religious art as that whose 'primary intention is to evoke emotions.' The definition is far too general to have applicability: a religious experience divested of the supernatural is not a religious experience--it is something else.

"The parochialism I mentioned is evident in Mr. Chabrowe's use of autobiographical elements in O'Neill's life to shore up his case, to say nothing of the intrusion of this material on textual analysis. The author is able to construct his thesis by selection of only those life motifs that are favorable to his argument.

"Finally, I did not attribute 'foolish notions' to the book when I referred to the frequent appearance of the verb 'exult.' I attributed incorrect grammar. On pages xxiii, 163, 186, and 188, variations of 'exult' are used when 'exalt' is clearly intended.

"Mr. Chabrowe states on page 190 that the 'intellectual content (of O'Neill's plays) has far more scope and subtlety than his intellectual critics are aware of.' Criticism is either enlightening or it is not; enlightenment is a matter of reasoning."

2. In "Papp Plans 5-Play Swap" (New York Times, May 30, 1979, p. C17), Mel Gussow reports that Joseph Papp "is negotiating with the Soviet Union for an exchange of five American plays and five Russian plays." The dates for the two-month repertory season have not been announced, but it will follow a six-month tour of A Chorus Line in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe which may take place as early as spring 1980. Included in Papp's list of possible American plays, which will be performed in English in Moscow and Leningrad, is "The Iceman Cometh, with Jason Robards, which Mr. Papp plans to do during the forthcoming O'Neill centennial season."

3. Lloyd Richards, new director of the Yale Repertory Theater, in an interview with Tom Lask in the New York Times ("New Yale Drama Head Affirms Professionalism," July 30, 1979, p. C11), said that an O'Neill play will be included in the Rep's 1980-81 season. A likely choice is Dynamo, which Mr. Richards characterized as "a very challenging work, but not one of the acknowledged classics."

4. John Henry Raleigh lectured on the confessional mood in O'Neill's late plays for a large and enthusiastic audience at the English Department of L. Eotvos University, Budapest, Hungary, on April 26. The same department will host an international conference on American studies next spring. The conference, whose main theme will be "The Origins and Originality of American Culture," will be held in Budapest from April 9-11, 1980. Peter Egri will be speaking on some European models of The Iceman Cometh.

5. The Summer 1979 "Playbill" of the O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference includes a progress report, by Curator Sally Thomas Pavetti and Assistant Curator Lois Erickson McDonald, on the Center's activities directly related to O'Neill:

The Eugene O'Neill Theater Museum and Library is entering a period of renewal, renaissance in nature. In 1963 the Collection began with the Harriet Whitmore Enders and Dale Wasserman Collections and grew to encompass at least ten major theatre collections including original Eugene O'Neill letters.... There is a very good bibliographical reference section on O'Neill, his life and works, and the Center continues to serve as a clearing house for research on the playwright. The library is located on the third floor of the Mansion in what was formerly the schoolroom of the Hammond family.

The Monte Cristo Cottage, a National Historic Landmark, has been completely restored on the exterior and is to serve the public as a Landmark and Museum.
In the summer of 1979 we will begin to move sections of our permanent collection to the Cottage as work continues on the interior restoration.... The Cottage at 325 Pequot Avenue, New London, will be opened by appointment until a Certificate of Occupancy is granted by the Building Inspector of the City of New London.

6 PROVINCETOWN POSTPONEMENT. According to a report in the New York Times (June 5, p. C11), the opening of the new Provincetown Playhouse will take place, not on July 4, 1980, as originally hoped, but in 1981, with groundbreaking ceremonies occurring next spring. Owners Adele and Lester Heller and architect William Warner are currently engaged in revising Mr. Warner's prizewinning design to meet theatrical needs, town and state building codes, and "local sensitivities." In addition, the original $1 million cost estimate has risen to $2.5 million, and a fund-raising drive is to begin shortly. According to the Times, "plans call for the new Playhouse to seat 400 people, to include a rehearsal space with seating for 100 and a Eugene O'Neill Museum and Library, and to be a center for O'Neill scholars."

7. Roger Copeland, in "Theater in the 'Me Decade'" (New York Times, June 3, 1979, Section II, pp. 1, 20) attacks most modern American drama for its "utter indifference to public life." Citing "the essentially public nature of the theater," he asks whether our theatre has not "actually sacrificed more than it has gained from [its] immersion in private life." O'Neill figures interestingly in Mr. Copeland's reply to his own question:

Perhaps, which is not to say that isolated masterpieces won't continue to be created in this highly private age. One need only think of Eugene O'Neill, whose native talent reached fruition when he stopped straining for "universality" and concentrated instead on his own painful family experiences. Miraculously, his greatest play, Long Day's Journey into Night, transforms the claustrophobic family unit into a microcosm of society at large. Only a diehard ideologue would deny that O'Neill's masterpiece is a greater and more lasting work than anything the American theater created in its most politically engaged periods, the 1930's and the 1960's."

8. A meeting of the American Theatre Association O'Neill Committee, chaired by Eugene O'Neill Society President Travis Bogard, was held on August 13 during the ATA annual convention in New York City.

9. The editor salutes fellow editor Stephen S. Stanton, whose Tennessee Williams Newsletter began publication with a Spring 1979 issue. Persons interested in subscribing can get information from Professor Stanton at the Department of Humanities, College of Engineering, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.

10. WORK IN PROGRESS.

a. Three doctoral dissertations wholly or partly devoted to O'Neill are scheduled for completion in 1979. The information about each is in the following order: author, title, university, department, and supervisor.

(1) An Min Hsia, "The Tao and Eugene O'Neill." Indiana, English, Horst Frenz.

(2) Myla Lichtman, "Mythic Plot and Character Development in Euripides' Hippolytus
and Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms: A Jungian Analysis." Southern
California, Drama, H. M. Stahl.

(3) Susan Harris Smith, "Masks in the Modern Drama." Northwestern, English, Douglas Cole.

b. Robert K. Sarlos has completed the study of the Provincetown Players that was announced in an earlier issue. The work, which had not found a publisher by last March, was described in the "Scholarly Works in Progress" section of that month's issue of Theatre Journal: "A book-length study of the Provincetown Players' activity from its inception in 1915 to its transformation into the Experimental Theatre, Inc., in 1923. There will be a critical examination of the manner in which the Provincetown Players functioned as an experimental theatre under the leadership of George Cram ('Jig') Cook, 1915-22."

c. Judith E. Barlow of the English Department at SUNY-Albany, whose recent essay in Modern Drama is abstracted in this issue, offers this description of a study that she is currently revising and hopes to finish this year: "My work-in-progress is a book-length study of The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey into Night, and A Moon for the Misbegotten. The book, tentatively titled Pencil, Tears and Blood: Three Late Plays of Eugene O'Neill, traces the composition of these plays from early notes and scenarios through manuscripts and typescripts to the published versions."

d. Peter Egri, Professor of English at the L. Eotvos University in Budapest, hopes to have completed his book on Chekhov and O'Neill by the end of this summer. "I am particularly interested," he writes, "in the uses of the short story in their plays, i.e. the way in which short story techniques found their places in the total structure of the dramas."

11. RECENT PUBLICATIONS ON O'NEILL. (See also the "Reviews, Reprints and Abstracts" section of this issue.)

James A. Robinson, "O'Neill and Albee," West Virginia University Philological Papers, 25 (February 1979), 38-45.

James A. Robinson, "O'Neill's Symbolic Sounds," Modern Language Studies, 9-2 (Spring 1979), 36-44.

Tom Scanlon, Family, Drama and American Dreams. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press (Contributions in American Studies series, Number 35), 1978. [Chapter Three, "Eugene O'Neill and the Drama of Family Dilemma," describes O'Neill as "predominantly a writer on domestic drama" who traces the warring impulses of security and freedom in the American family and "proves the necessity of authority and security at one point and the necessity of freedom and loneliness at another."]

12. RECENT, CURRENT AND FORTHCOMING O'NEILL PRODUCTIONS.

Ah, Wilderness!, dir. Graham Harley. The Young Company of Ontario, at the George Ignatieff Theatre, Toronto, July 11-21, 1979.

Anna Christie, dir. Jonathan Lynn, design by Saul Radomsky, with Lila Kaye as Marthy, Susan Tracy as Anna, and Gareth Thomas as Mat. Performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, from September 18, 1979.

The Hairy Ape, dir. Michael Rutenberg. Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, August 8-29. (See illustrated review in the next issue of the Newsletter.)

Long Day's Journey into Night. Haymarket Theatre, Leicester, England, February 7-24, 1979

Long Day's Journey into Night, dir. Bradford Wallace. Asolo State Theater, Sarasota, FL, April 6 - July 12.

The Long Voyage Home (the "S. S. Glencairn" quartet), dir. Bill Bryden. National Theatre (Cottesloe), London. Opened on February 20, 1979. (See report in "Reviews, Reprints and Abstracts" section of this issue.)

A Moon for the Misbegotten. Monomoy Theater, Chatham, MA, August 1-4.

A Moon for the Misbegotten. New England Repertory Theatre, Worcester, MA. Fourth of five productions in 1979-1980 season. For dates, tel. 617-798-8685.

A Touch of the Poet, dir. Antal Rencz. Hungaria Chamber Theater, Debrecen, Hungary, spring 1979. (See review in "Reviews, Reprints and Abstracts" section of this issue.)

A Touch of the Poet. Ionia Summer Theater, New Rochelle, NY. In repertory, summer of 1979.

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