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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. VIII, No. 2
Summer-Fall 1984


(IN THIS ISSUE)

NEWS, NOTES AND QUERIES

1. BOGARD WINS MEDAL. Travis Bogard, Professor of Dramatic Art at the Univ. of California-Berkeley, received the 1984 Eugene O'Neill Birthday Medal, which is awarded annually to a group or individual whose efforts have enriched the "universal understanding" of O'Neill and his work. The medal was presented by Barbara Gelb, co-chairman of the Committee, at a dinner in the Helen Hull Room, Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center. Held on Tuesday, October 16, the 96th anniversary of O'Neill's birth, the dinner was hosted by Martin E. Segal, chairman of the Center's board of directors, who is also the Committee's treasurer. Other Committee members in attendance included Colleen Dewhurst, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Joseph Papp, Jose Quintero and Jason Robards, Jr. Prof. Bogard was honored for his celebrated study of O'Neill's oeuvre, Contour in Time, for his spearheading of the restoration of Tao House, and for his current work with Jackson Bryer in locating, collecting, tabulating and editing the letters of O'Neill. Previous recipients of the medal, which bears the playwright's likeness and quotes his credo--"It is only the dram that keeps man fighting, willing to live"--have been Brooks Atkinson, Jose Quintero, the Royal Dramatic Theater of Stockholm, and Jason Robards.

2. THE O'NEILLS ON STAGE. Few stories in American drama are as compelling as the life of the man who created its greatest works; and it seems that, as the 1988 centennial approaches, the number of productions of plays by O'Neill will be rivaled by the number of theatrical works about the man and his family. The first to be produced was Dreams of the Son, by Herman Daniel Farrell III, that opened at the West End Theatre (91st Street and West End) on 18 July. The play deals with O'Neill's life, including his relationships with his father, mother, brother, Louis Halliday, Agnes Boulton, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Terry Carlin, Carlotta Monterey and other. Barbara Gelb has written a one-character play, Carlotta, in which O'Neill's third wife may be played by Colleen Dewhurst. And Anthony Perkins may represent O'Neill in Together, a play by California television writers Morton Thaw and Edward Robak, which is tentatively scheduled for a New York production early in 1985. Described as "turbulent yet tender" (an apt description of the relations between Eugene and Carlotta O'Neill), the play is set in a San Francisco hotel room during several months in the fall and winter of 1936. Michael Frazier and Roger Stevens, the producers, are reportedly "optimistic" about the project, in which "six or eight actresses, some logical, some unlikely, are being talked about for Carlotta." [Enid Nemy, "1985 target date for a play about the O'Neills," The New York Times (August 31, 1984), p. C2.]

3. TAO HOUSE UPDATE. According to the International Herald Tribune (Mdy 23, 1984), "the National Park Service has hammered out an agreement with residents of Danville, California, to open the 14-acre hillside estate of playwright Eugene O'Neill to the public on a limited basis." Given the length and volume of the dispute between the neighbors of Tao House and the playwright's devotees, the verb may well be appropriate. But the news is heartening, even though the issue of access is still unresolved. The point of contention has been Kuss Road, the winding, private, one-lane route to Tao House. Under the new agreement, the Kuss Road Homeowners Association will permit the Park Service to transport up to 30 visitors a day, in two vans, from a parking area in downtown Danville; and will permit the Eugene O'Neill Foundation, which purchased the house in 1975, to host five major events there each year, with a maximum attendance of 60 at each. In return, the Park Service will share the cost of an electronically activated gate at the foot of Kuss Road.

That full, permanent access to Tao House remains a problem, and that feeling for the historic importance of the site is still not unanimous, was clear from the words of KRHA president William McCann: "Kuss Road will not be the final route to this monstrosity.... Not more than 30 people a day would want to see that house."

Actually, millions will see it, electronically, early in 1985, thanks to a two-hour documentary about O'Neill that will be part of a PBS series called "American Masters." The documentary's director and co-producer, Perry Miller Adato, shot footage at Tao House in mid-May, including comments by Travis Bogard, vice president and program director of the Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Tao House, and Jane Washburn, who used to type O'Neill's nearly indecipherable manuscripts, and who remembers him as "a marvelous, gentleman ... amusing, intense, just nice to be around." January is the tentative date for broadcast of the documentary, which will include scenes from O'Neill's works, performed by such luminaries as Jason Robards, Blythe Danner, Colleen Dewhurst and Geraldine Fitzgerald.

4. 1985 TAO HOUSE CALENDAR. The Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Tao House, following the sellout success of its handsomely illustrated, fact-laden calendar for 1984, has produced a 1985 edition in the same format that fully equals the brilliance of its predecessor. Edited by Darlene Blair and Lois Sizoo, the new calendar celebrates, with chronologically ordered photographs, the Foundation's just-completed first decade of activities, among them three O'Neill productions. To get your copy, send a check for $11.50 ($1.50 of which will cover postage and handling) to The Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Tao House, P.O. Box 402, Danville, CA 94526. An additional $15 will secure you a year's membership in the Foundation and aid its work in turning Tao House into a living memorial to Eugene O'Neill.

5. SIC TRANSIT...; or AFTER THE MOROSCO, WHAT? Sites associated with Eugene O'Neill's theatrical career continue to disappear with lamentable regularity. As one awaits the resurrection of the Provincetown Playhouse and watches a hotelier's behemoth tower above the dark hole where Broadway's Morosco once stood, another playhouse reverberant with O'Neill association has also fallen victim to "progress." The Orpheum in Ogden, Utah, may not loom large in the biographies, but it was on its stage, on Friday evening, February 2, 1912, that Eugene O'Neill first trod the boards as a member of his father's acting company in the five-scene, 40-minute vaudeville abbreviation of Monte Cristo. Not that the debut was heralded; unlike brother Jamie, also in the cast of eleven, Eugene got no mention when the event was reported in Ogden's Evening Standard. But history was in the making when first-nighters, paying a top price of 754, settled back to enjoy Mr. O'Neill's "engagement extraordinary" and such attendant acts as Charles F. Semon ("The Narrow Fellow"), Rice, Sully & Scott ("Fun on the Elevated Bars"), Puck & Lewis ("Nimble Footed Lyric Singers"), Ray Samuels ("The Blue Streak of Rag Time"), Wentworth, Vesta & Teddy ("Comedy Acrobats") and the Juggling Burkes.

The Orpheum, designed by Ogden architect S. T. Whitaker as a duplicate of the California Theater in San Francisco, opened on December 31, 1890, as the Grand Opera House, changed its name when it joined the Orpheum circuit in 1909, became a movie house after the vaudeville era, returned briefly to live performances in 1977, and ended its 93-year life just a year ago when, despite the efforts of a civic group, the Orpheum Theater Restoration Association, to save it, it was felled to make room for a two-level parking garage. Few who park there will realize the significance of the site in the career of a theatrical tyro who was to become America's greatest playwright. [Many thanks to Jean Anne Waterstradt for gathering the materials on which this memorial report is based. --Ed.]

6. NEW AND IMMINENT PUBLICATIONS.

a. Critical Essays on Eugene O'Neill, edited by James J. Martine, has just been published by G. K. Hall & Co. in Boston ($28.50 hardbound, ISBN 0-8161-8683-9). Its contents, all new essays, were listed in the last issue of the Newsletter (p. 47); a review will be featured in the next issue.

b. The Eugene O'Neill Companion, by Margaret Loftus Ranald, is scheduled for December publication by Greenwood Press of Westport, CT. (ISBN 0-313-22551-6, $65.00 hard-bound.) A review will appear in a future issue of the Newsletter, and members of the Eugene O'Neill Society should watch the mail for word of a possible discount price available only to them. Here, in advance of both publication and review, is the publisher's description of the Companion's contents: "In-depth synopses of [O'Neill's] complete published plays with original cast lists and key portions of his unpublished scenarios are presented with critical commentary by Ranald. Character analyses are given for all but a few minor figures. Biographical essays on members of O'Neill's circle--both family and professional associates--appear throughout the work, together with essays on individual theatrical companies, actors, actresses, and other persons intimately associated with O'Neill production and performance. The arrangement is that of a dictionary catalogue and an extensive index is provided. Three appendixes supplement the Companion. The first chronologically lists all completed plays. The second appendix details film, musical, and other adaptations of O'Neill's work with original cast lists. The third appendix provides a critical assessment of dramatic theory and practice, a history of O'Neill scholarship to the present day, and directions it may take in the future. In addition there is a selective bibliography of sources for continuing study of O'Neill."

c. "Masks in the Dramaturgy of eats and O'Neill," an essay by Edward L. Shaughnessy, will appear in the Fall 1984 issue of the Irish University Review, a journal published by University College, Dublin. An abstract will appear in a future issue of the Newsletter.

7. BERMEL VOLUME RETURNS. Readers and teachers who enjoyed Albert Berme's Contradictory Characters: An Interpretation of the Modern Theatre when it was published by E. P. Dutton in 1973, will be glad to learn that it has just been reissued by the University Press of America (ISBN 0-8191-4237-9) in a paperback edition whose price of $12.75, while naturally steeper than that of the original, makes it attractive for assigning in courses on modern drama and comparative literature. Comprising an examination of 14 plays from Ibsen's Ghosts (1882) to Baraka's Dutchman (1964), with particular emphasis on characterization and performance, the book includes a chapter on "The Family as Villain: Long Day's Journey Into Night (pp. 105-121) that merits the attention of anyone who must confront the Tyrones, whether in the study, classroom or theatre. The UPA's address is 4720 Boston Way, Lanham, MD 20706-9990.

8. RECENT AND FORTHCOMING PRODUCTIONS.

Ah, Wilderness!, dir. James O'Reilly. Body Politic Theatre, Chicago, IL, Sept. 13 - Oct. 21, 1984.

Ah, Wilderness! San Diego (CA) Repertory Theatre, Oct. 4 - Nov. 8, 1984, in repertory with Long Day's Journey Into Night.

Ah, Wilderness!, dir. Mary B. Robinson. Hartford (CT) Stage Company, May 28 - June 30, 1985.

Anna Christie, dir. Cynthia J. Messier. Your Theatre, New Bedford, MA, Sept. 19-29, 1984. (Reviewed in this issue.)

Anna Christie, dir. George C. White. A production by the Beijing acting conservatory, People's Republic of China, October 1984. [The editor hopes to have a report on this historic event, guest-directed by the president of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT, for printing in a future issue of the Newsletter.]

Desire Under the Elms, dir. Edward Golden. Rand Theater, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst, Oct. 11-20, 1984. (To be reviewed in the next issue.)

The First Man, dir. Ray Huebner. New Vic Theatre, 2nd Ave. nr. 14th St., New York City, October 11-28, 1984.

The Hairy Ape. Wilma Theatre, Philadelphia, PA, March 12 - April 7, 1985.

Hughie, dir. John MacDonald. Provincetown Playhouse production at the Provincetown Art Association, Sept. 20-21, 1984. (Reviewed in this issue.)

Long Day's Journey Into Night, dir. George W. Hayden. Gateway Playhouse, Wareham, MA, June 22 - July 14, 1984. (Reviewed in this issue.)

Long Day's Journey Into Night. Byrdcliffe Theater, Woodstock, NY, July 10-15, 1984.

Long Day's Journey Into Night. San Diego (CA) Repertory Theatre. In repertory with Ah, Wilderness!, Sept. 6 - Nov. 8, 1984.

Long Day's Journey Into Night, dir. Arvin Brown. Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, CT, March 1 - April 14, 1985.

The Long Voyage Home, dir. Robert N. Scanlan. M.I.T. Dramashop, Kresge Little Theater, Cambridge, MA, October 4-6, 1984. [The Dramashop opened its 30th year with "An Evening of Provincetown Plays," in which O'Neill's one-act was preceded by Glaspell & Cook's Suppressed Desires and Wilbur Daniel Steele's Not Smart. An illustrated report will appear in the next issue.]

A Touch of the Poet, dir. Steven Schachter. Berkeley (CA) Repertory Theatre, Sept. 14 - Oct. 21, 1984.

9. STRANGE INTERDICTION. The successful London production of Strange Interlude, starring Glenda Jackson, may make it to Broadway. Actors Equity will permit Ms. Jackson to repeat her role in New York, but it rejected several of her supporting players, and the star refused to make the journey without them. Negotiations are under way between the union and the Nederlander Organization, the goal being a two-way exchange of performers--American actors getting roles in London while the West End cast of O'Neill's drama plays here. More anon.

10. O'NEILL CENTENNIAL SERIES PLANNED IN OHIO. The September 1984 issue of American Theatre included a letter from Lucia Colombi, Artistic Director of The Ensemble Theatre in Cleveland Heights. Responding with gratitude to the article on O'Neill by Albert Bermel in the previous issue of AT (abstracted in this issue of the Newsletter), Ms. Colombi announces her theatre's plan for "a residency devoted to [O'Neill's] plays in his 1988 centennial" (p. 2). The Newsletter will report the specific works and production dates when they are available.

11. EDUCATIONAL PLANS FOR CENTENNIAL. Albert Wertheim and Vera Jiji are working on a project, in connection with the forthcoming O'Neill centennial in 1988, to bring the playwright and his works to non-traditional students.

12. LOST NOTES RECOVERED. On page 54 of the last issue, I noted with embarrassment and apology that I'd misplaced the topic of Professor Cho Mun-Ho's dissertation on O'Neill, a project that he expects to complete early in 1985. Having discovered my notes, I can now inform readers of the topic: "Eugene O'Neill's Treatment of the Despairing Inner Self in His Expressionistic Plays." Persons with an interest in the subject, especially those knowing of materials that might be of use in the project, might write to Professor Cho Mun-Ho, Dept. of English Language and Literature, College of Humanities, Kyungpook National University, Korea.

13. ERRATUM. In Albert Kalson's review of the London production of Strange Interlude in the last issue (Spring 1984, p. 31), the name of the scenic designer was inadvertently misspelled as Noytek. Our apologies to Voytek for that misrepresentation.

(IN THIS ISSUE)

 

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