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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. VIII, No. 3
Winter, 1984


(IN THIS ISSUE)

NEWS, NOTES AND QUERIES

1. ERRATA MAGNA. A shamefaced editor apologizes to the justifiably offended, both here and beyond, for the large and small omissions that marred his report of last October's O'Neill birthday celebration in New York City ("Bogard Wins Medal," Summer-Fall 1984 issue, p. 41). Not only did he omit the full name of the sponsoring organization--the Theater Committee for Eugene O'Neill--but an absent e made a considerable difference in the statement by the playwright that adorns the Committee's annually awarded medal. "It is," said O'Neill, "only the dream [not the dram!] that keeps man fighting, willing to live." Unless O'Neill was tacitly dictating a revision of his hard-won philosophy--in which case Professor Bogard is correct that "wee dram" would be more idiomatic!--contrition is in order and is herewith announced.

2. WHITE REPORTS CHINA EXPERIENCE. In "A Director Takes O'Neill All The Way to China" (New York Times, Sunday, January 13, 1985, Sec. II, pp. 4, 6), George C. White, President and founder of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT, related his experiences in directing the production of Anna Christie (retitled Andi) in Beijing, China, that is reviewed in this issue. With the cooperation of the Chinese Embassy in Washington and the Chinese Theater Association, and buoyed by the knowledge gained from a playgoing visit to China in 1980 and hosting Chinese delegations to the O'Neill Center in several recent summers, Mr. White found himself in "a theatrical world strangely similar, yet totally different from our own." (Among the differences was the attendance at rehearsals of paying "observers" who expected to be consulted for their advice. When they were not, one went directly to an actor, forcing Mr. White to lecture the cast on the importance of directorial control.)

Having free choice of the play he would direct, White settled on Anna Christie as the "logical" selection: "I felt that the story of an old sailor, forced to send his daughter away after her mother's death because he could not care for her, and her subsequent decay into prostitution would find an empathetic resonance in a country not too long removed from such practices." The changes in setting, time and character nationality, detailed in this issue's review, were made with the goals of "eliminating any possibility that audiences might view this story of a Swedish-American and an Irishman as some sort of representation of a certain kind of alien lifestyle," and of underscoring the fact that "O'Neill's eloquent portrayal of the relationship of a father and child and its accompanying love and guilt ... surmount all national boundaries."

Mr. White praised the "fantastic concentration" of his cast, who achieved in six weeks of rehearsal ("observers" notwithstanding) what they were accustomed to doing in three months. And equal local praise was showered on the work of the director, his adapter-translator Huang Zhongjiang, and his American colleagues--scene designer Ming Cho Lee, costume designer Patricia Zipprodt and lighting designer Ian Calderon. "Thanks to so many vital and valuable contributions from the artists of both sides," Mr. White concludes, "we had brought it off!" May this be but the first of many such cooperative ventures. The benefits--even if purists frown at the textual tamperings involved--can extend well beyond the realm of the theatrical. --Ed.

3. EGO at NEMLA '85. The session on O'Neill at the 1985 convention of the North-East Modern Language Association, to be held at the Sheraton-Hartford Hotel at the end of March, will be chaired by Jackson R. Bryer. Entitled "O'Neill for the Scholar and for the Public," it will take place in Suite 1220-22 from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. on Friday, March 29. Donald Gallup, former curator of the Yale Collection of American Literature, will speak on "The Eugene O'Neill Collection at Yale" and join in a panel discussion with Perry Miller Adato, director and co-producer of the soon-to-be-aired television documentary "Eugene O'Neill--A Glory of Ghosts"; Geraldine Fitzgerald, actress and director; Sally Pavetti, curator of the Monte Cristo Cottage; and Frederick C. Wilkins, editor of the Newsletter.

4. RARE BOOKS FOR SALE: a note from O'Neill biographer Louis Sheaffer. "Having more books than my apartment can comfortably accommodate, I've decided to sell my twenty-odd O'Neill first editions and a good number of rare, out-of-print books on the drama that I no longer need for research. For a list of the books, those interested can write me at 5 Montague Terrace, Brooklyn Heights, NY, 11201."

5. TREASURES OF O'NEILLIANA IN DETROIT. Thanks to Gail Cohen of the Hedgerow Theatre for sending Catalogue 40 of John K. King Books in Detroit, which lists a number of rare O'Neill items, many of them from the collection of Joseph Heidt, long time friend of O'Neill and press agent for the Theatre Guild. Included: advance galley proofs of A Moon for the Misbegotten, dated 1947, six years before the book was published ($2,000.00); a studio photo portrait of O'Neill by Pinchot (NY, 1936, 13xl0 1/2"), inscribed on mount "To Joe--with all the best there is! Eugene O'Neill Oct. '36" ($900.00); and many rare and first editions ranging in price from $8.50 for a Modern Library Nine Plays (1932) to $2,500.00 for O'Neill's own copy of the advance proof for Iceman. Also a group of holograph notes and letters by Carlotta with one letter signed by O'Neill ($1,000.00 for the lot), a set of Theatre Guild press releases ($150.00 for the baker's dozen), plus other photographs. The catalog is at least half a year old, but much may remain. The interested can call (313) 961-0622 or write to John K. King Books, P.O. Box 363A, Detroit, MI 48232.

6 BOOK-HUNTING EDITOR REPEATS PLEA FOR AID. Reviewing Atkinson's Eugene O'Neill: A Descriptive Bibliography for this issue, I was moved to repeat my long-ago plea for readers' assistance in locating the one volume in the Jonathan Cape series of editions of O'Neill's plays that was unavailable when I acquired all the others in London a half-decade ago: Strange Interlude. Not the first Cape edition, 3 1/4" x 5 1/4" and gold-stamped on a blue cloth binding; but a later, larger edition, probably 5 1/4" x 7 5/8", and silverstamped on the blue cloth binding. The desire to obtain a good--as-new copy of that volume to join its 15 blue brethren has become something of an obsession; and I will gratefully rush a brand-new copy (still in the publisher's plastic wrappings) of a renowned two-volume biography of O'Neill to the first person who announces that he or she can complete my set. (A monetary payment, if reasonable, can be substituted if that person already has a renowned two-volume biography of O'Neill!) --Ed.

7. PECILE TO DISCUSS AH, WILDERNESS! Thanks to a grant from the Connecticut Humanities Council, the Hartford (CT) Stage Company is offering a "Sundays-at-Six" speaker-and-discussion series, "Theater: Reflections of Human Experience," prior to the last Sunday evening performance of each play in its 1984-85 season. The last play, Ah, Wilderness!, will be discussed by Jordan Pecile, O'Neill scholar and Professor of Humanities at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, at 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 30. The hour-long session is free and open to the public, and no ticket is required. Those who wish to attend a performance as well can write or call the Hartford Stage Company, 50 Church Street, Hartford, CT 06103 - (203) 527-5151.

8. NEW BOOK ON O'NEILL IN GERMANY. Verlag Peter Lang AG (Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.) has announced the publication of Eugene O'Neill: The German Reception of America's First Dramatist (1984, 211 pp., Vol. 50 of Germanic Studies in America, $28.95 cloth, ISBN 0-8204-0156-0). The author is Ward B. Lewis of the University of Georgia. All who attended Professor Lewis' talk at last March's O'Neill conference will be aware how qualified he is to treat the history of O'Neill's reputation in Germany and the response there to his individual plays. A review of the book will appear in a future issue of the Newsletter.

9. LONG DAY'S JOURNEY ON VIDEOTAPE. NTA has released the 1962 Sidney Lumet film of O'Neill's great autobiographical drama on videotape for the price of less than $.42 per minute. (The 170 minute tape costs $69.95.) The television was praised by critic Benedict Nightingale in the New York Times (April 8, 1984, Sec. II, p. 28):

This is everything movies aren't meant to be: a long, wordy play conscientiously transposed from stage to screen, shot in black and white, and offering only the most cursory glimpse of the big world outside the Connecticut house in whose living and dining rooms the action is confined. Yet, this version of Eugene O'Neill's masterpiece riveted the reviewers when it appeared in 1962, and it still seems an astonishing piece of work: intense, powerful and exquisitely acted.

It contains no less than three major performances. Ralph Richardson finds a wonderful tenderness in the character of James Tyrone.... Jason Robards, Jr. twists and seethes with self-hatred and regret [as Jamie]. And Katharine Hepburn--well, has a more variegated piece of acting ever been seen in the cinema than her study of the genteel drug addict, Mary Tyrone?

A saga of guilt, accusation, recrimination and love that looks domestic, sounds domestic, yet even on the small screen feels Aeschylean.

10. RECENT AND FORTHCOMING PRODUCTIONS.

Andi (an adaptation of Anna Christie), dir. George C. White. Theater of the Central Academy of Dramatic Arts, Beijing, China, October 16-21, 1984. Reviewed herein.

The Hairy Ape, dir. Susan Perry. Strider Theater, Colby College, Waterville, ME, February 7-9, 1985.

Kejsar Jones (operatic adaptation of The Emperor Jones), dir. Lars G. Thelestam. Royal Opera, Stockholm, Sweden. Opened (premiere) on September 29, 1984. Reviewed herein.

Long Day's Journey Into Night. PCPA Theaterfest, Santa Maria, CA. Closed on February 17, 1985.

Long Day's Journey Into Night, with Siobhan McKenna as Mary Tyrone. Abbey Theatre, Dublin, Ireland. Opened on February 14, 1985.

Strange Interlude, dir. Keith Hack, with Glenda Jackson as Nina Leeds. Nederlander Theater, New York City, February 14 - April 7, 1985. (Official opening for this transplantation from London was February 21.) Tickets may be purchased ('round both world and clock) via credit card. Call CHARGIT, tel. 212-944-9300. The number of the Nederlander Theatre (208 West 41st St., NYC 10036) is 212-921-8000. A review will appear in the next issue of the Newsletter.

(IN THIS ISSUE)

 

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