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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. V, No. 2
Summer-Fall 1981


(IN THIS ISSUE)

NEWS, NOTES AND QUERIES

1. MLA '81 O'NEILL SESSION. "O'Neill and His Theatrical Children: The Split Character and the Extended Monologue in O'Neill and Others," a Special Session directed by Professor Vera Jiji of Brooklyn College, will be the major O'Neill event at the 1981 Annual Convention of the Modern Language Association in New York City at the end of December. The 75-minute session, from noon to 1:15 p.m. on December 28th, will have a discussion format and will feature panelists from both theatre and academe. Professor Michael Hinden will speak on O'Neill's and more recent playwrights' use of the extended monologue, and Professor Albert Wertheim will do the same for the split character, making specific reference to Days Without End, The Great God Brown and A Touch of the Poet, as well as plays by Adrienne Kennedy and Marsha Norman. Commentators will include playwright Romulus Linney (Holy Ghost, The Sorrows of Frederick, Childe Byron), who has utilized both devices in his work; actress Julie Nesbitt, who played a split character in the New York production of Marsha Norman's Getting Out; and Professor Virginia Floyd. The session, naturally, is open to all members of MLA, and all will be able to participate since Professor Jiji has proscribed the reading of long papers. She also hopes to provide a cash bar so that the assembled O'Neill enthusiasts can mingle and chat.

2. O'NEILL AT ATA. Two papers on O'Neill were delivered by their authors at the 1981 Annual Convention of the American Theatre Association in Dallas on Monday, August 10. "Mysticism and Noh in O'Neill," by Lai Sheng-chuan, was one of the three winners in the ATA's "annual competition for papers in theory and criticism of drama and performance." "O'Neill and the Hebraic Theme of Sacrifice," by Shelly Regenbaum, was featured in a session devoted to "the impact of the Bible on modern drama." The editor hopes to provide abstracts of both papers in the next issue of the Newsletter.

3. MICHAEL HINDEN, whose review of Welded appears in this issue, will represent O'Neill at the Conference on Myth and American Culture that the Canadian Association for American Studies is hosting at the University of Montreal on October 22-24. His subject is, "The Myth of a Lost Eden in the Early Plays of Eugene O'Neill."

4. RECENT PUBLICATIONS.

Chioles, John. "Aeschylus and O'Neill: A Phenomenological View." Comparative Drama, 14 (1980), 159-187.

Gatta, John. "The American Subject: Moral History as Tragedy in the Plays of Eugene O'Neill." Essays in Literature (Western Illinois U.), 6 (1979), 227-239.

Pradhan, Narindar S. Modern American Drama: A Study in Myth and Tradition. New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1978, 138 pp.

Reiss, Walter. "Die weltliterarische Leistung Gor'kijs bei der Schaffung einer Dramenepopoe (M. Gor'kijs ... i drugie-Zyklus im Vergleich zu M. Krleias Glembajevi and O'Neills Mourning Becomes Electra)." Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin: Gesellschafts- und Sprachtwissenschaftliche Reiche, 28 (1979), 347-351.

Szilassy, Zoltan. "The Stanislaysky Heritage in the American Theatre." St. in Eng. & Amer., 4 (1978), 201-212. (O'Neill-Provincetown compared to Chekhov-Moscow Art Theatre.)

Torngvist, Egil. "De Bewerking van de Realiteit: Het Historie-Drama." Scenarium, 4 (1980), 9-20. (Includes examples from Ibsen, Strindberg, Brecht and O'Neill.)

Wertheim, Albert. "Gaspard the Miser in O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night." American Notes and Queries, 18 (1979), 39-42.

Wiles, Timothy J. "Tammanyite, Progressive, and Anarchist: Political Communities in The Iceman Cometh." Clio, 9 (1980), 179-196.

Wilson, Robert N. "Eugene O'Neill: The Web of Family." The Writer as Social Seer (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), pp. 72-88. (on Long Day's Journey.)

Wittenberg, Judith B. "Faulkner and Eugene O'Neill." Mississippi Quarterly, 33 (1980), 327-341.

5. NEW BOOK ON O'NEILL IMMINENT. At the time of his illness last year, O'Neill Society President Horst Frenz was nearing the completion of an anthology and study of European O'Neill criticism based on years of research and a vast collection of reviews and critical articles from all over the European continent. Thanks to Professor Frenz's assistant on the project, Susan Tuck, who is now editing and completing the manuscript and writing an introduction, this much-needed volume will soon be published by Southern Illinois University Press. Entitled Eugene O'Neill's Critics: Voices from Abroad, it represents seventeen countries and spans the years 1922-1980.

6. RECENT AND FORTHCOMING PRODUCTIONS.

Chris Christopherson. The Goodman Theatre, Chicago. For information about the production, which is scheduled for 1982, call the Goodman: 312-443-3802.

Hughie, starring Jason Robards. Hyde Park Festival Theater, Hyde Park, NY, June 17-21.

A Moon for the Misbegotten, dir. Ginger Valone. Germinal Stage, Denver, CO, July 9 - August 2.

A Moon for the Misbegotten. Woodstock Playhouse, Woodstock, NY, July 15-19, 21-26.

A Touch of the Poet, dir. Roland Jaquarello, designed by Jan Cholawo & Paul Lanham, and presented by Green Fields and Far Away, a company formed by Mr. Jaquarello in 1977 "to present Irish and Irish related work in the U.K." Among the English cities visited during a Summer 1981 tour were Manchester (Library Theatre, St. Peter's Square, 1-6 June) and Liverpool (Neptune Theatre, 8-13 June). The production was financially assisted by Arts Council Touring and was organized in collaboration with the Central School of Art and Design.

7. THE O'NEILLS ON STAGE. Ah, Men, subtitled "An Entertainment on the Male Experience (With Music)," had a brief run at the South Street Theater in New York City last May. The work of author-director Paul Shyre and composer-lyricist Will Holt, it met with generally negative critical reactions and deserves mention here only because one of the 23 famous men impersonated by the three males in the cast was Eugene O'Neill, and the Eugene-Carlotta scene, performed by Jack Betts and Jane White, was one of the few to elicit much praise. It was, according to Mel Gussow (New York Times, May 12), "a brief, epistolary distillation of their tortured relationship," and Kevin Kelly (Boston Globe, May 27, p. 31) found it "oddly harrowing."

The fullest description of the scene was provided by Edith Oliver (The New Yorker, May 25, p. 116): "Miss White becomes the anguished Carlotta O'Neill, reading Eugene O'Neill's dedications to her of one play after another through the years, and somehow embodying the whole story of that racking marriage, as O'Neill ... stands silent, head bowed." Following the O'Neill segment, Miss White sang "Illusions," praised by Mr. Gussow as "a bittersweet song that ... could almost be an extract from a potential musical version of The Iceman Cometh."

It seems to have been Miss White's skills and the presence in the collection of O'Neill and Sean O'Casey (a scene from Pictures in the Hallway) that earned Ah, Men the limited praise it received.

8. DESIRE DANCED--SORT OF. Facets of Desire, a ballet by John Butler, which had its first performance at the Pepsico Summerfare '81 arts festival at the State University of New York-Purchase on Saturday, July 25, was "inspired" by O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms. Jennifer Dunning, reviewing the premiere in the New York Times (July 28, p. CIO), expressed no displeasure at the "urgent, anxious score for woodwinds and strings" of composer Alun Hoddinott, but she had little respect for the Butler choreography and its ostensibly O'Neillian connections:

Well, there was a young man, and a youngish older man and a woman with whom both were in love in Mr. Butler's trio. But they could have been any three human beings acting under the most generalized of passions. For Mr. Butler has reduced the O'Neill play to a naive abstraction of jealousy, revealed in a balleto-modern-dance style that gives its three dancers little to do but stretch yearningly toward one another, strain back in repulsion and push one another away, all of it mildly and at inordinate length. Three good dancers--Kevin McKenzie, Martine van Hamel and Gary Chryst--were wasted, though Mr. Chryst's intensity of presence did add some measure of real theater to this bland melodrama.

9. MONTE CRISTO COTTAGE REDUX. In the May 1981 issue of The O'Neill, a quarterly publication of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, the traumas involved in the restoration of Monte Cristo Cottage, as well as some interesting plans for the future, were described by the Cottage's curator, Sally Thomas Pavetti, and its associate curator, Lois Erickson McDonald:

When the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center took over the Monte Cristo Cottage, it could be said truthfully that we had a derelict house of no particular architectural style that was deteriorating rapidly. At that time such epithets were thrown at the Cottage as "mausoleum" or "elephant (white) supported by toothpicks." We have in the general restoration process sometimes lost our vision of the Landmark's destiny in a maze of frozen pipes, perimeter drains, storm sewers, and denatured alcohol. A minimum of fifteen contractors have worked their individual crafts or trades, and we have had a plethora of engineers, architects, building officials and even an archeologist give us their hypothesis or prognosis of the situation. We owe the City of New London and three different City Councils our gratitude for the major funding of this historic project through the Community Development Program (HUD) and supplementary funding from the Department of the Interior through the Connecticut Historical Commission. Connecticut's Department of Commerce made the replastering and air conditioning of the entire structure possible, and we are now actively seeking funding for final interior decoration and period furnishing.

The Frank Loomis Palmer Fund and the Connecticut Humanities Council are underwriting the costs of a permanently installed multi-media presentation that every visitor to the Cottage will see. This documentary introduces Eugene O'Neill, his New London environs, and the Monte Cristo Cottage to the public. In addition, we have just received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to expand the national visibility of America's greatest dramatist in a documented biography for television, tentatively entitled, "Eugene O'Neill: The Man and the Masks." Thus, our vision has been restored and we look forward to a long, triumphant run as one of our nation's most successful National Landmarks.

10. A LETTER FROM THALIA BREWER, June 3, 1981.

As Historian and acting librarian of The Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Tao House, I have since 1978 been cataloging books and other materials for the library and museum. It has been absorbing--a labor of dedication and love. In the categories, in addition to books, are articles and reports, correspondence, manuscripts, theatrical programs and reviews, audio-visual, and--newsletters. Among the last group are issues of your excellent and comprehensive, as well as beautifully edited Eugene O'Neill Newsletter.

It may be of interest to you and your readers that the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site Association was organized in 1969. I was President of this group from 1969 to 1974. During those years we succeeded, through our initiating efforts, in having Tao House placed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1971. Also, during these years there were repeated bills in the House of Representatives and in the Senate calling for the establishment of The Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site. National Historic Site status finally came in 1976, two years after the formation of the Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Tao House, of which I was the first President.

Having lived almost in the shadow of Tao House for thirty years, the unfolding of the preservation program has great meaning for me. As for the problems--has there ever been anything less than complex about O'Neill?

11. WHO SAID IT, I & II. No winner, alas, in the little contest featured in the last issue of the Newsletter. Most guessers, logically but inaccurately, picked Tennessee Williams. The writer who did say, "When someone asks me who has influenced my work, I point to O'Neill, the Russians, Faulkner, Flaubert," was Carson McCullers ("The Flowering Dream," Esquire, December 1959.)

Since the contest aroused such a flurry of interest and nail-biting insomnia among readers, the editor offers a second "who said it" competition. He will dust the miniscule prize and send it to the first reader to identify the young American writer who admired O'Neill--considered him, in fact, "the beacon light in our own drama today"--but was worried by advance reports of the soon-to-be-produced Hairy Ape:

I see the subject is to be a stoker on an ocean liner. During the successive stages we will see him go back steadily to the primitive man. I hope O'Neill won't let this tendency run away with him. You see, he was "looking backward" in "The Emperor Jones" and, to a degree, we find this in other plays. Tragedy if continued in this vein, will become sordid and brutal. Surely this does not represent his outlook on life. Great tragedy, I think, must look ahead....

The writer whose correct answer is the first received will be the winner and will receive public congratulation in the next issue.

12. ERRATUM. Through an editorial oversight, the reprint in the last issue of Eric Pace's New York Times article on current O'Neill activities ("Preserving the Homes Where Eugene O'Neill Lived and Worked," pp. 25-26) was not accompanied by the requisite attribution. With apologies, we print the latter herewith: "1981 by The New York Times Company. Reprinted by Permission."

13. FITZGERALD FETED. The Outer Critics Circle has awarded its 1981 Lucille Lortel award for "the most noteworthy new director" to Geraldine Fitzgerald, whose direction of Mass Appeal and Long Day's Journey Into Night earned her the $500 prize.

14. OF GIFTS AND GEWGAWS. If you've been dreaming of sporting a necktie, tiepin, scarf or t-shirt featuring Eugene O'Neill's face, or signature, or both--awake! Two organizations have permitted your dream to become a reality. The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center will sell you a navy club tie adorned with multiple gold copies of its O'Neill logo (shown at the top of p. 39); an 18" quiana scarf or a cotton sweatshirt on which the logo is combined with a replica of O'Neill's autograph; a gold tiepin (or lapel pin) in the shape of the logo, and many other items of similar ilk. (Prices range from $3 for the tiepin to $13 for the scarf.)

In addition, O'Neill has at last joined the roster of over a hundred artists whose likenesses grace "literate t-shirts" (and sweatshirts) produced by Historical Products of Cambridge, Mass. The t-shirts (in white, light blue or red) sell for $10 ($36 for four), and sweatshirts (grey only) are $16 ($28 for two). The addresses, for those interested in further information:

Eugene O'Neill Theater Center
305 Great Neck Road
Waterford, CT 06385

Historical Products
Box 220XB
Cambridge, MA 02238

(IN THIS ISSUE)

 

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