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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. IV, Nos. 1-2
May-September, 1980


(IN THIS ISSUE)

NEWS, NOTES AND QUERIES

1. The Literary Society of Suffolk University on Boston's Beacon Hill is preparing for a Eugene O'Neill Week in the spring of 1981--either late March or (more likely) early April. No events have yet been announced, but it is expected that the week-long celebration will feature guest speakers, films of O'Neill's plays, a special session on his homes and activities in Provincetown, New London and California, a trip to the Monte Cristo Cottage, and at least one stage production. Individuals interested in participating--especially acting companies interested in bringing their productions of O'Neill plays to the 550-seat Suffolk University Theatre--are cordially invited to contact the editor, who cannot deny his excitement at the venture, which might be an appropriate opportunity for a meeting of O'Neill Society members in the northeast. Tel. 617-723-4700, ext. 272.

2. Bernard J. Vyzga's scene designs for the summer 1979 production of The Hairy Ape at Dartmouth College, which were included in the last issue of the Newsletter, have been selected by a jury of designers, critics, authors, producers and educators for the First Biennial Scenography Exposition to be held this year at Overland Park, Kansas. The designs were chosen to be shown in the top category of the Exposition, "Those Unanimously Selected" and "recognized as outstanding in this truly competitive Exposition." The editor congratulates Mr. Vyzga and is proud to have shared the designs with Newsletter readers.

3. O'NEILL ON MEXICAN TV. Last spring, a Mexican film crew was in the United States to construct a 60-minute documentary on O'Neill for showing on Mexican television in con-junction with an O'Neill Festival in Mexico City next September. Their two-week, March-April itinerary included interviews with Jason Robards, Colleen Dewhurst, Barbara Gelb and Louis Sheaffer; a session of Virginia Floyd's O'Neill seminar at Smithfield College; and shots of O'Neill haunts in Provincetown, Connecticut and New York City. (The site of the legendary "Hell Hole" in Greenwich Village--now a parking lot--was visited but rejected as empty of O'Neillian echoes.) Frederic von Stange, of the federal International Communication Agency, was U. S. coordinator for the film, which may not be aired or screened in this country because, according to Mr. von Stange, the ICA is prohibited by law from showing its films in the United States.

4. Anent that imminent Mexican festival, Jose Quintero left in early June for Mexico City, where he will direct a Spanish-language production of Ah, Wilderness!

5. Eugene O'Neill was among the "writers particularly related to Provincetown" whose lives and works were discussed during the James Joyce Symposium, co-chaired by Joyce Society President Zack Bowen, in that city on 11-16 June. According to Michael Knight, who reported on the event for the New York Times (June 17, 1980, p. C7), "a panel ... compared Joyce and his work and Eugene O'Neill ... and his work. The panel concluded that there were many similarities and many contrasts." Any questions?

6. JAMES O'NEILL, SR., 1900. Michael Hinden, browsing in an old bookstore in San Francisco last December, found a gem--a January, 1900 copy of The Dramatic Magazine (Vol. IX, No. 3) which records contemporary reactions to James O'Neill's performance as D'Artagnan in The Musketeers, Sydney Grundy's dramatization of the Dumas novel ("Mr. O'Neill has everywhere been hailed as the beau ideal of the role, which he plays with all the fire of youth, yet the finish acquired by his long experience as the leading romantic actor of America"), and in Monte Cristo. "The double Dumas dramas have been so popular that much of his time has been occupied in playing return dates, so great has been the demand." A "special irony" is the inclusion, in the same issue, of the following ad:


OPIUM

MORPHINE habit cured in 10 to 20 days. 30,000 cases cured. NO PAY TILL CURED. Address Dr. J. L. STEPHENS CO. Dept. T 3. Lebanon, Ohio.

"Apparently," Professor Hinden notes, "the condition was not that rare in the 'better families' to which most of the ads are addressed."

7. DONALD GALLUP, RETIRING, REMINISCES. In the April 24 issue of the New York Times ("Thursday's Child' and His Memories," p. C20), Richard Eder printed an excellent profile of Donald Gallup, who will retire this summer as curator of the American Literature Collection in the Beinecke Library at Yale. (It was Gertrude Stein who called him Thursday's Child, for a reason explained in the profile.) Among the facts there recalled were Dr. Gallup's editing of O'Neill manuscripts, his involvement in the posthumous productions, and his "rare ability to get along with O'Neill's stormy widow, Carlotta." The following is an extract from the article:

With Yale holding the manuscripts of O'Neill's later years--the Museum of the City of New York received the early O'Neill and Princeton the middle period--Dr. Gallup found himself considerably involved in the efforts to make use of the material; among other things, for the production of Long Day's Journey Into Night. Mrs. O'Neill was a zealous and often changeable guardian of her husband's literary reputation, and the task was not easy.

"I first met her in 1954," Dr. Gallup recalled. "Jim Babb, the head of the Yale Library, said he found it a little taxing to answer all her telephone calls and asked me to take over. I went down to Boston, where she was staying, and I thought of taking with me Xeroxes of the dedications to her that he had put at the beginning of his plays. She didn't have them--we had the manuscripts, you see--and afterward she told me that from then on she always referred to them as her rosary."

8. NEW O'NEILL OPERA. Among the four new productions in the New York City Opera's 1980-81 season at the New York State Theatre, Lincoln Center, will be An American Trilogy. Included in the one-act premieres on the triple-bill, opening on October 9, will be Before Breakfast, with music by Thomas Pasatieri and a libretto adapted by Frank Corsaro from the O'Neill monodrama. Mr. Corsaro will direct, and Marilyn Zschau will sing the role of the nagging wife.

9. Jason Robards is at work on an autobiography whose title, A Curious Friendship, refers to the near-mystical currents that the actor always felt toward O'Neill, although the two never met. "I am trying to understand and reveal," Mr. Robards writes (in the "People" section of the Boston Globe Magazine, May 18, p. 42), "what happened to me psychologically during that period when I came to identify so self-destructively with the O'Neill characters I was playing. It's a hard book to write, but I'm struggling on."

10. Last March, the New York Friends of the O'Neill Theater Center hosted a wine and hors d'oeuvres party at which David Hays, vice-president of the O'Neill Center, gave a presentation on the visual aspects of the first production of Long Day's Journey Into Night, for which he designed the set.

11. Travis Bogard will chair an 8:30 a.m. business meeting of the American Theatre Association's Eugene O'Neill Committee at the ATA Convention in San Diego on Monday, August 11.

12. NEW LIGHT ON O'NEILL & CO. Edward Shaughnessy, whose work has appeared frequently in these pages, is working on an illuminating magnum opus called "Strindberg and O'Neill: The Sunshine Boys"! The Newsletter is eager to print an abstract--or at least a refraction.

13. DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS ON O'NEILL.

Collins, Robert H. "American Realism and the Broadway Stage: A Study in Dramatic Form from O'Neill to Shepard." English, U. of Minnesota, 1980. Dir.: J. D. Hurrell.

Grace, Thomas. "Values and Form in Modern Tragedy: The Existential Community in Plays by Eugene O'Neill and His Contemporaries." English, U. of Chicago, 1980. Dirs.: Robert E. Streeter and James E. Miller, Jr.

Pike, Frand. "Confession as an Implicit Structuring Device in the Late Plays of Eugene O'Neill." Theatre Arts, U. of Minnesota, 1980. Dir.: Charles Nolte.

14. PUBLICATIONS OF NOTE.

Jean Chothia. Forging a Language: A Study of the Plays of Eugene O'Neill. Cambridge University Press, 1979. 243 pp. (To be reviewed in the next issue of the Newsletter.)

[A review by Dennis Welland, "The dodge-question of dialect," appeared in the April 4 issue of TLS, p. 399. Welland praises Ms. Chothia for her valuable contribution to the undernourished study of language in drama, and specifically for choosing as her subject "the major American dramatist about the inadequacies of whose use of language there has hitherto been the highest degree of consensus on both sides of the Atlantic." Chothia does not champion every O'Neillian mot nor label every one bon, but her study may, one hopes, weaken Mr. Welland's "consensus." More in the next issue. --Ed.]

Virginia Floyd, ed. Eugene O'Neill: A World View. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1979. 250 pp. (See review in this issue, pp. 12-15.)

Eugene O'Neill. Poems, 1912-1944, ed. with introduction by Donald Gallup. New Haven & New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1980. vii + 119 pp.

[What a pleasure it is to welcome back a venerable publishing house that lost its autonomy just 100 years ago and now returns, headed by Chester Kerr, as a subsidiary of Houghton Mifflin. (See Herbert Mitgang, "An Old House Made New," New York Times Book Review, January 13, 1980, p. 39.) Such phoenixes are far too infrequent! And to have O'Neill's 72 poems between two covers makes the house's re-emergence doubly delightful. The collection will be reviewed in the next issue of the Newsletter. --Ed.]

Richard B. Sewall. The Vision of Tragedy (New Edition, Enlarged). New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980. xi + 209 pp.

[Published in both cloth and paperback editions @ $15 and $4.95 respectively, the 1980 enlargement includes Long Day's Journey Into Night (pp. 161-174) as one of two additions to the eight works discussed in the 1959 edition. A review of the Long Day's Journey chapter will appear in the next issue of the Newsletter. --Ed.]

15. RECENT AND FORTHCOMING PRODUCTIONS.

Ah, Wilderness! Dunster House, Harvard College, March 6-15, 1980. (Performed in the Dining Hall by members of the Dunster Drama Society.)

Ah, Wilderness! American Conservatory Theatre, San Francisco. Opened on April 8, 1980. Continuing thereafter in repertory. For dates, tel. 415-673-6440.

Ah, Wilderness!, dir. John Reich. Ringling Museums Court Playhouse, Asolo State Theater, Sarasota, FL. Closed on May 1.

Ah, Wilderness!, dir. Donald H. Letendre. Assumption College, Worcester, MA, April 20-22, 1980. (Performed by theatre arts students of Assumption College.)

Ah, Wilderness!, dir. Jeff Meredith. Barter Theater, Abingdon, VA. In repertory, June 18 - Aug. 29, 1980.

Ah, Wilderness! Pennsylvania State University Resident Theater Festival, Pavilion Theater, University Park, PA, July 17-20, 22-27, 29-Aug. 3, 1980.

Ah, Wilderness! Hangar Theater, Cass Park, Ithaca, NY, August 5-16, 1980.

Anna Christie, dir. Jonathan Lynn. Presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Other Place, Stratford, England. Opened on Sept. 18, 1979. (See abstract of review by David Mayer in this issue.)

Desire Under the Elms, dir. George Keathley. Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN. Opens on Aug. 23, 1980. (To be reviewed in a future issue.)

Hughie. Old Creamery Theatre Company, Garrison, IA, Dec. 7-8, 1979.

Hughie, dir. David Kerry Heefner. Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 W. 26th St., New York City, Jan. 14 - Feb. 5, 1980.

Hughie, dir. Bill Bryden, with Stacy Keach as Erie Smith. National Theater (Cottesloe), London. Opened on Jan. 22, 1980. Closed in April. (See abstract of review by Gordon Gow in this issue.)

Hughie. Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH, Aug. 7, 9-10, 15, 20, Sept. 4, 7, 1980. (On double bill with The Boor.)

The Iceman Cometh, dir. Bill Bryden, with Robert Stephens as Hickey. National Theater (Cottesloe), London. Opened in March, 1980.

Long Day's Journey Into Night, dir. Robin Phillips, with William Hutt and Jessica Tandy as James and Mary Tyrone, and Brent Carver and Graeme Campbell as the sons. Avon Theatre, Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ontario. In repertory, October 4 - November 8. (Evening performances on Oct. 3, 4, 8, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31 and Nov. 1. Matinees on Oct. 19, 26, 29 and Nov. 2, 5, 8. For information, tel. 519-273-1600.) Hutt and Tandy previously appeared in the play, under Phillips' direction, at Theatre London in 1977.

The Long Voyage Home (the S. S. Glencairn Quartet), dir. Bill Bryden. National Theater (Cottesloe), London. Opened on Jan. 10, 1980. Closed in April. (James Fenton, reviewing the production in the London Sunday Times--"O'Neill and the art of melodrama," Jan. 13, 1980--, found the plays "pure corn" but worth seeing on both historical and critical grounds. "Each impossible task set by the author is performed by the company with an almost unbearable seriousness and skill." "Think," he writes, "of the least good prentice work by Joseph Conrad--there is nothing in it to compare with these scenes for bullshit artistry.")

A Moon for the Misbegotten, dir. Geoffrey Sadwith. Troupe Theatre, 335 W. 39th St., New York City, Dec. 13, 1979 - Jan. 5, 1980.

A Moon for the Misbegotten, dir. Charles Nolte. Meadow Brook Theatre, Rochester, MI, Jan. 3-27, 1980.

A Moon for the Misbegotten, dir. Jon Knowles. New England Repertory Theater, Worcester, MA. Closed on March 9. (See review by Marshall Brooks in this issue.)

A Moon for the Misbegotten, dir. Susan Dunlop. Portland Stage Company, Portland, ME (Maine's resident professional theatre). Closed on May 18.

A Touch of the Poet, dir. Polly Hogan. Lyric Stage, Boston, MA, Feb 20 - March 22, 1980. (See review by Frederick Wilkins in this issue.)

A Touch of the Poet, dir. Deborah Kellar. Centralia College, Centralia, WA, Feb 28 - March 8, 1980. (See illustrated report by Ms. Kellar in this issue.)

16. FAINT-PRAISE AWARD-WINNER FOR 1979. The winner of the editor's first annual prize for the most grudging compliment to O'Neill, just edging out James Fenton, whose remarks about The Long Voyage Home (quoted above) made him a serious contender,
was David Mayer, whose review of Anna Christie in Plays and Players (December 1979, pp. 30-31) began with the paragraph quoted below. With friends like this ...!

When it came to writing dialogue, Eugene O'Neill had a tin ear. His characters, neither having the accent of Christians, nor the gait of Christian pagan or man, speak torrents of a language compounded of long-obsolete slang, inaccurate phonetic stabs at regional dialect, and sudden bursts of baroque rhetoric pulled from the spectrum somewhere between blush pink and deep violet. Even in the plays which reflect this playwright's fleeting admiration for naturalism, his Americans not only appear alien to their boundaries but to this planet. Such criticism of O'Neill hold true so long as his plays remain between the covers of a book. Translated to the stage, even hampered by such clumsy devices as asides and soliloquies and weighted [to] the earth by leaden philosophising, the dramas have a crude vitality and disturbing turbulence, much like an angry wino prodded from a Skid Row gutter.

(IN THIS ISSUE)

 

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