Menu Bar

Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. VII, No. 3
Winter, 1983



1. PROVINCETOWN PHOENIX SOARS. Thanks to the dedication of Producing Director Adele Heller, the Provincetown Players, heirs to the first architects of authentic American drama, are back in business. Architecture remains a problem, of course, and they won't have a playhouse until the summer of 1985; but they succeeded in recreating the soon-to-be Players' very first double bill, from the summer of 1915, in a large hall of the Provincetown Art Association last September 22 and 23. The program, appropriately titled "Beginnings," comprised Constancy by Neith Boyce and Suppressed Desires by Jig Cook and Susan Glaspell. The latter, long a staple of community theatres, is well-known; but Constancy, never performed since 1915, was the real shocker: a light (and lightly veiled) treatment of the tempestuous relation-ship between John Reed and Mabel Dodge, it demonstrated great wit and literary skill, and the issues it raises are as "relevant" today as they were 68 years ago. Professional actors, directed by John MacDonald, brought both plays to delightful life; and the evening included slides of 1915 photographs and reminiscences by several of the original Players' descendants--Miriam Hapgood DeWitt, Trixie Faust, Joel O'Brien, Peter Steele and Heaton Vorse--that recaptured the spirit of excitement that attended the Players' birth. The full performance will be repeated next March 23, as part of the O'Neill conference at Suffolk University in Boston.

Prior to that, the two plays will be performed by the same cast at the Smithsonian in Washington, in the Great Hall of the National Portrait Gallery, on December 28, 29 and 30, in conjunction with two related exhibits--"Portraits in Motion" at the NPG, and "Provincetown Printers: A Woodcut Tradition" at the National Museum of American Art. Times and ticket information are available from Sandra Westin at the Smithsonian (tel. 202-357-3178). Viewers, in December or March, are in for a treat.

2. LETTERS, I: THAT PICTURE. I remember being taught, before becoming a teacher, that one should not ask a question for which one doesn't have the answer in advance. I've luckily disregarded the instruction, and have learned a lot from my students as a result. And now I've learned that, as an editor too, an admission of ignorance can lead to enlightenment. What I didn't know was the site and date of the photograph of O'Neill on the cover of the last issue. (I also didn't know that it would be cropped, and I apologize to all who sought the announced autograph, which I promise will be on view in Boston next March!) The answer was provided by Margaret Loftus Ranald, Professor of English at Queens College, to whom I send thanks and congratulations. Her speculations, subsequently corroborated, were these:

The picture just HAS to have been taken at Tao House, above Danville, California. I should pick the precise location as the ground floor patio outside "Rosie's" room, where the player piano was kept and Blemie slept. Note also the hillside in the background. Incidentally, this patio is partially roofed by the verandah upstairs, to which both Carlotta and Eugene's bedrooms had direct access. The view is over to Mt. Diablo. Judging from the colour of his hair, this might be fairly late in the Tao House period (October 1937-January 1944), but I'm surprised to see him photographed holding anything, since his tremor was very pronounced by then. I would date this around 1940-1941 for the above reason. I have no specific evidence except recognition of the patio site. Perhaps someone at the Tao House Foundation may have the answer.

Corroboration came from Travis Bogard, who noted that, on the back of the original at the Beinecke Library, Carlotta had written, "Gene at Tao House when his health began to really seriously break--1942." As for specific locale, he reports that the picture was taken "on the terrace off the living room." When he received a copy of the photograph from Mrs. O'Neill, she "noted ... that it was taken about the time Oona married Chaplin and commented that 'You can see the strain in his face.'" Thank you, Professors Ranald and Bogard; now I know what I've got!

3. LETTERS, II: ANENT PROSCENIA. Does The Iceman Cometh require a proscenium stage? That, in essence, is what I asked in the Spring 1983 issue ("Iceman Cometh Not," p. 29), after learning that the Robards-Quintero revival was aborted in part because the Circle in the Square, a financially viable house, was rejected since it lacked a proscenium. Thanks to the many who responded, all of whom shared my concern. Here are the two most extended comments.

a. It seems to me that there can be two rationales behind the rejection of Circle in the Square as a space for Iceman: (a) that of Mr. Robards--i.e., I don't want to play in the round because I work better in a proscenium space; or (b) that of Mr. Quintero--i.e., for aesthetic reasons I don't think that the round is beneficial to the spirit of this play. Neither excuse holds much water here! I've tried to contact Messrs. Quintero, Robards and Jones to get their rebuttal, but the last could not be reached and the others chose not to discuss it. How-ever, their respective agents claim that finances were the destroying force. I'm certainly as anxious as anyone to know the real reason.

--Joedy Lister, Tallahassee, Florida

b. I wholeheartedly agree with your opinion concerning the staging of Iceman in the round.... I played Cora in a New York City theatre group's production six years ago. The production was directed on a three quarter round stage. Local reviews and audience reaction were so positive that the director has decided to direct the production once again, using a three quarter round stage. Audience response to our first production included numerous remarks stating that, due to their seating, they were thrust into the atmosphere of Harry Hope's saloon and were immediately absorbed into the existence of each character's pipe dream. If the three quarter round stage was accepted so positively and the audience was aided in its ability to sympathize with Harry Hope's assemblage of blinded hopefuls, then staging the play in the round would only prove more successful.

--Ellen Christiansen-Marino, Staten Island, NY

4. O'NEILL'S NINETY-FIFTH. The Theater Committee for Eugene O'Neill, headed by Barbara Gelb and George White, celebrated the 95th anniversary of O'Neill's birth in grand style at the St. Regis Sheraton on October 9th. Jason Robards, recipient of the 1983 Eugene O'Neill Birthday Medal, was filming Sakharov in London, but his taped acceptance was played, and the medal was received for him by Colleen Dewhurst. Ellis Rabb read a congratulatory letter from Jose Quintero, who was rehearsing a Saroyan play at Brandeis University; and Geraldine Fitzgerald gave this year's toast to the playwright, whose admirers hope to have all his plays on the boards--and not just in New York, but in New London and Provincetown as well--during and after the centennial year of 1988. May their plans succeed. O'Neill is blessed in his advocates.

5. O'NEILL PLAY BY ROBERTS? Yes, if it's about O'Neill, and not by him. Which is what author Meade Roberts and director John Cassevetes are currently working on at a New York studio in Westbeth. Fourteen actors, including Ben Gazzara, Patty LuPone and Carol Kane, are rehearsing Thornhill, a play "loosely based on the life of Eugene O'Neill," according to Carol Lawson's report in the New York Times (Oct. 28, 1983, p. C2). Gazzara plays Theodore Thornhill, a playwright, whose wife, played by LuPone, is "modeled on" Carlotta Monterey. The play, produced by Barry and Fran Weissler, Kenneth-Mark Productions and the Shubert Organization, and "capitalized at a hefty $900,000," is headed for Broadway this winter after out-of-town tryouts. (Would that such dedication and munificence were allotted to O'Neill's own work!) Further developments will be reported in future issues of the Newsletter.


a. Virginia Floyd has completed work on Eugene O'Neill, slated for imminent publication by Ungar as part of its "Literature and Life" series. A review will appear in a future issue of the Newsletter.

b. Robert K. Sarlos' Jig Cook and the Provincetown Players: Theatre in Ferment, reviewed in the Summer-Fall 1982 issue (pp. 40-41) has won the American Theatre Association's Barnard Hewitt Award for distinguished achievement in theatre history.

c. Critical Essays on Eugene O'Neill, edited by James J. Martine, nears publication. Its contents will be listed in a future issue, and a review will follow publication.

d. Margaret Loftus Ranald has completed work on The Eugene O'Neill Companion, which will be published by Greenwood Press, Westport CT. Included in its contents are detailed summaries of all the plays, critical comments, original cast lists, biographical data on all the O'Neills and assorted friends of the playwright, essays on the state of O'Neill scholarship, bibliographies, lists of film and musical adaptations, and some as yet unpublished letters. "The Companion," Prof. Ranald writes, "is NOT an encyclopedia, but a companion--all you wanted to know about O'Neill (and a lot you didn't care about). I hope that it is reasonably accurate and that people will enjoy it, as well as use it." The Companion--something this editor has long wished for--will be reviewed as soon as it appears.

e. Normand Berlin's The Secret Cause: A Discussion of Tragedy, reviewed in the Spring 1982 issue (pp. 38-40), has been reissued in a paperback edition by the Univ. of Massachusetts Press. The price of $8.95 will make it available for use in drama courses. Bravo!

f. Travis Bogard will edit the two volumes of O'Neill that will be a part of the Library of America series. He will also provide the introduction for a volume of the Selected Letters of Eugene O'Neill (about 500 of the extant 3000), that he is editing with Jackson Bryer and that will be published, probably in 1985 or 1986, by the Yale Univ. Press.

g. Eugene O'Neill is one of the 15 authors discussed in Beongcheon Yu's The Great Circle: American Writers and the Orient, published this November by Wayne State Univ. Press. A review will appear in a future issue of the Newsletter.

h. Paul Voelker's essay, "Eugene O'Neill's Aesthetic of the Drama," which appeared in the March 1978 issue of Modern Drama, has been selected for inclusion in a volume of criticism on major American writers being edited by Drs. Prafulla Kar and D. Ramakrishna at the American Studies Research Centre in Hyderabad, India.

i. Panda Zoo, a collection of the poetry of Norman Andrew Kirk, has been published by West of Boston, in association with Bitterroot, an international poetry magazine. It includes "Good Morning, Eugene," which first appeared in the Newsletter. The book is available @ $10 in paperback and $20 hardbound (plus $1 per copy for postage and handling), from West of Boston, P.O. Box 2, Cochituate Station, Wayland, MA 01778.

7. HELP SOUGHT FOR THESIS. Todd C. Hampshire, a Master's candidate in Theatre at Ohio State Univ., has begun research for a thesis on the 1947 try-out tour production of A Moon for the Misbegotten. He would welcome leads from anyone who has encountered reports or comments on the production other than those in the standard, readily accessible works on O'Neill. If you have such, please let him know. (Todd C. Hampshire, Dept. of Theatre, Ohio State Univ., 1089 Drake Union, 1849 Cannon Drive, Columbus, OH 43210.)


Ah, Wilderness!, dir. Jerry Turner. Angus Bowmer Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR. In repertory, Sept. 11 - Oct. 30, 1983.

Ah, Wilderness! Performed by The Players, Castleton (VTJ State Co. Fine Arts Center, Nov. 30 - Dec. 3, 1983.

Ah, Wilderness!, dir. Margaret Booker. McCarter Theatre Company, Princeton, NJ, Jan. 18 - Feb. 5, 1984.

Desire Under the Elms, dir. Maggie McGovern. Bay Players, Duxbury, MA, Nov. 11-19, 1983.

The Hairy Ape. 725 Broadway Theatre, New York City, Oct. 27 - Nov. 5, 1983.

The Iceman Cometh. Sea View Playwright's Theatre, Staten Island, NY, Sept. 29 - Oct. 2, 1983.

Long Day's Journey Into Night, dir. William Brasmer. Denison Univ. Theatre, Granville, OH, Nov. 12-20, 1982. [For the record; not listed in '82.]

Long Day's Journey Into Night, dir. Malcolm Morrison. North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, High Point, NC. In repertory; closed Sept. 2, 1983. (Reviewed in this issue.)

Long Day's Journey Into Night, dir. Lou Salerni. The Cricket Theatre, Minneapolis, MN, Feb. 5 - March 3, 1984.

A Moon for the Misbegotten, dir. David Leveaux. American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge, MA, Dec. 22, 1983 - Feb. 4, 1984. (The London production, reviewed in this issue. Its transatlantic transplantation will be assessed in the next.)

A Touch of the Poet, dir. James O'Reilly. Body Politic Theatre, Chicago, IL, Sept. 13 - Oct. 21, 1984.

9. AH, WILDERNESS! REVIVED IN NEW YORK. Philip Bosco and Dody Goodman won considerable praise for their performances as Nat and Essie Miller in last summer's Roundabout Theater Company revival, directed by John Stix. Times critic Frank Rich found "unalloyed pleasure" in both actors' work, especially that of Miss Goodman, who "brings out a deep maternal concern that lends emotional weight to Essie's farcical nagging." But the play itself, he said, "will never make anyone's list of Eugene O'Neill's masterworks" because it is "flimsily constructed." The play's interest, he said, lies in the way it "flirts with the tragic on its way to a happy ending," O'Neill demonstrating a mastery "at tucking the sorrows in slyly, at maintaining the bubbly surface even as hearts seem about to break." The main flaw seems to have been the casting of Scott Burkholder as Richard. Burkholder captured the boy's "melodramatic posturing" and "virginal hysteria in anticipating the naughty joys of sex and drink"; but he failed, in Rich's view, to reveal "a fire within--the touch of the poet that plainly exists in O'Neill's romantic portrait of the artist as a young man." (New York Times, June 29, 1983, p. C21.)

10. ACCENT AGUE; or, O'NEILL'S AMERICANS WITH ENGLISH VOICES. As O'Neill's current popularity in England continues to grow, thanks largely to the work of director David Leveaux, more and more British actors must confront the challenge, seldom met in the past, of sounding like Americans. Mel Gussow, discussing the problem in the New York Times ("British Actors Baffled By American Accents," Sept. 8, 1983, p. C14), noted that the problem was easily overcome in the successful recent production, reviewed in this issue, of A Moon for the Misbegotten in the West End:

The British version ... took a fresh approach to the language problem by realizing the fact that O'Neill's people are Irish-American. The actors assumed modified Irish accents and were thoroughly convincing as characters in the author's New England.

11. TRANSATLANTIC CASTING. American actress Carol Teitel will play Mary Tyrone at England's Nottingham Playhouse this fall and winter, initiating a new (and laudable) exchange agreement between American and British Actors' Equity.

12. MORE ON O'NEILL AT MLA '83. At the special session on British playwright Peter Shaffer, "Assessing Shaffer's Stage Mastery," scheduled for 10:15-11:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 29 in the New York Hilton, Michael Hinden will deliver a paper entitled "Trying to Like Shaffer." Not only does the title echo another critic's erstwhile attempt at affection for O'Neill; the paper itself will continue the pairing of Shaffer and O'Neill that Prof. Hinden began in "When Playwrights Talk to God: Peter Shaffer and the Legacy of Eugene O'Neill" (Comparative Drama, Spring 1982).

13. THE MARCH CONFERENCE. A brochure describing the many activities at the March 22-25 conference on "Eugene O'Neill--the Early Years" at Suffolk University accompanies this issue. It is necessarily vague about dates and hours, as plans are still being made, and speakers added, daily. A tentative schedule has been sent to all program participants, and a somewhat less tentative one will be sent to all registrants by mid-January. If you read the Newsletter in a library, or are perusing someone else's copy, write for a brochure and preregistration form. Prices increase by $5 on January 1st, but the fee is still, as many have said, a tremendous bargain, given all that will occur. For tantalizing hints, call 617-723-4700, ext. 271.



Copyright 1999-2007