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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. X, No. 1
Spring, 1986


(IN THIS ISSUE)

NEWS, NOTES AND A' THAT

1. QUINTERO TO SPEAK AT BOSTON CONFERENCE. Add one more major speaker to the roster of O'Neill conference participants listed in the last issue of the Newsletter (pp. 3-4): Josť Quintero, the greatest director of O'Neill's works, whose recent revival of The Iceman Cometh moved to the Doolittle Theatre in Los Angeles after its Broadway run. All who have read Mr. Quintero's memoirs, If You Don't Dance They Beat You (Boston: Little, Brown, 1974), know how moving and insightful his comments on O'Neill can be. His evening talk at the conference should prove a valuable addendum to that unforgettable book.

2. O'NEILL PLAY SLATED FOR PERFORMANCE AT MAY CONFERENCE. The Eugene O'Neill Theater Festival, Tom McDermott, Artistic Director, will bring its acclaimed west-coast production of Hughie to the conference on "Eugene O'Neill--the Later Years" at Suffolk University in Boston at the end of May. The Festival, with headquarters in Los Angeles, plans an extensive series of O'Neill productions, both at home and on tour, beginning in the summer of 1986. This will be the group's first visit to the east, and Mr. McDermott will be on hand to discuss possible later visits to other cities and campuses throughout the country.

3. FILM ON O'NEILL WINS PRIZE. "Eugene O'Neill--a Glory of Ghosts," the 2 1/2-hour documentary film that will be seen on PBS this summer, and will be the first-night feature at the O'Neill conference in Boston this May, has just won the Special Jury Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival. This prestigious award should whet the appetites of conferencegoers, who will not only see the film before its television premiere, but will see it in a big-screen format (16mm) and will be able to discuss it afterward with script writer Paul Shyre and director Perry Miller Adato. What a glorious second dessert for that evening's baked stuffed lobster banquet. (The first dessert will be Indian pudding!)

4. BERGMAN FILM AT O'NEILL CONFERENCE? Given the affinity that Sweden has shown for O'Neill, it's not really surprising, is it? As a preamble to the talk, "'Daddy spoke to me!': Gods Lost and Found in O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night and Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly," that Thomas P. Adler of Purdue University will deliver on Friday afternoon, May 30, screenings of the Bergman film will be featured on the mornings of May 29 and 30. (The film of Long Day's Journey [like that of The Iceman Cometh] will also be available for viewing, in both big- and small-screen formats.)

5. A FEW NOTES TO MAY CONFERENCEGOERS. If you plan to attend the Thursday banquet and don't like baked stuffed lobster, please let us know in advance (tel. 617-723-4700, ext. 271). A chicken alternative will be available for those who tell us beforehand. If you have not yet sent in your registration form and fee, please do so posthaste: we need the information (hotel dates, etc.), and the money won't hurt either! Besides, our supply of allocated rooms at the Parker House is diminishing rapidly. By the way, everyone who has requested a slot as participant or spectator at the first-day conference-within-the-conference can consider her/himself accepted. But space is running out, so wing us your request soon if you haven't already done so. The formal conference program, delayed because information is still coming in, will be sent to all registrants as soon as it appears--probably by late April. If you requested a room at the Parker House, be assured that your room will be waiting, although you will not receive a confirmation directly from the hotel. Do let us know if there is any change in the dates you previously announced. Be warned, by the way, that the Thursday sessions will begin very early, and it would be best to arrive in Boston by Wednesday evening, May 28. The whirlwind of preparations continues unabated, the prognoses are extremely favorable, and we look forward to welcoming you to Boston at the end of May!

6. EGRI READIES SECOND O'NEILL BOOK. With his book on Chekhov and O'Neill approaching publication day (it may be ready in time to be available at the May conference in Boston), Peter Egri is nearing the end of a second book-length manuscript on the playwright, to be entitled "The Birth of American Tragedy." He describes its aim and focus:

The main thrust of the volume is a systematic analysis of possible reasons for the extraordinary fact that American fiction had already been on a universal level in the middle of the 19th century, and American poetry (Poe and Whitman) became models for European poets; but American drama stepped on to the stage of national and international significance only after World War I. The merit of O'Neill in achieving universal significance appears to me to have been even greater under these special circumstances. The book starts with the aborted effort of Thomas Godfrey, a literal beginning of American tragedy, and then offers a close reading of selected plays by O'Neill as representatives of a literary beginning. The plays included are The Personal Equation, The Hairy Ape, Strange Interlude, Mourning Becomes Electra, A Touch of the Poet, More Stately Mansions, The Calms of Capricorn and Long Day's Journey Into Night.

7. O'NEILL CASEBOOK IN THE WORKS. Did you know that Mourning Becomes Electra is the most popular of O'Neill's plays in English university syllabuses? That's what Normand Berlin learned when he agreed to edit a Casebook on O'Neill for Macmillan of London. The mandate was to emphasize Electra, with side glances at The Iceman Cometh and Long Day's Journey. (Professor Berlin subsequently persuaded Macmillan to permit equal emphasis on all three works.) O'Neill will be the first American dramatist to be represented in Macmillan's popular casebook series, which in the past has concentrated on Shakespeare and other English playwrights, and the book should be out by the O'Neill centennial in 1988. It will be followed by a casebook on Arthur Miller.

8. TIMELY WORDS. Two occurences in recent months have given evidence that the legacy of Eugene O'Neill lives on--perhaps in surprising places. Last fall, in an interview with Dotson Rader ("Now, a New Beginning," Parade Magazine, November 17, 1985, pp. 6-9), actor Robert Wagner was asked "what kept him from totally falling apart" when his wife, Natalie Wood, died at 43.

"A doctor once quoted me a great line by Eugene O'Neill," Wagner recalled. "'Man is born broken. He lives by mending. And the grace of God is the glue.' To me, that meant I had an awful lot of glue around. I had my children, and I had an awful lot of people to help hold me together."

And more recently, just after the air shuttle disaster, O'Neill Society Secretary Jordan Miller received a call from the Speech Writing Office at the White House. They were searching for an O'Neill remark "about tragedy being related to life and more life," for possible use in a forthcoming speech by President Reagan, and had located the Society in an annual directory of professional associations. With the aid of Society Treasurer Virginia Floyd, Jordan was able to locate the remark, a 1922 statement in an interview with Mary Mullett that originally appeared in the American Magazine (Nov. 1922, p. 118) and was quoted by Doris Falk on pp. 112-113 of Eugene O'Neill and the Tragic Tension:

tragedy, I think, has the meaning the Greeks gave it. To them it brought exaltation, an urge toward life and ever more life. It roused them to deeper spiritual understandings and released them from the petty greeds of everyday existence.

So if the lines appear in a forthcoming presidential address, you can credit the Society: its officers have been diligently at work. (The passage quoted by Robert Wagner, as readers of this journal are likely to know, appears in The Great God Brown.)

9. REDOLENCE AT HARRY'S PLACE. Thanks to loyal subscriber John J. Virtes for noting, in a letter of 17 February, another effective moment in Paul McCrane's performance as Parritt in the recent revival of The Iceman Cometh in New York City:

I think that at times we forget how low Harry Hope's is and its inhabitants are--you can see but you can't smell. In Act I, after Willie [Oban] comes over to Larry and Parritt's table, as he begins talking to Parritt and moves closer and closer to him, Parritt pulls away with a disgusted look on his face. A small point, but one that I thought was very effective.

Agreed--and not all that small a point, though I confess to not recalling the moment. But adding an olfactory element to Parritt's set-apartness from the others at Harry's strengthens the important emphasis on his alienation. What a rich and meticulously detailed production that was! --Ed.

10. RECENT AND FORTHCOMING O'NEILL PRODUCTIONS.

Before Breakfast, The Dreamy Kid and Where the Cross Is Made, dir. Kenneth MacDonald. The Winter Company, Tower Theater, Mass. College of Art, Boston, Feb. 13-26, 1986. (Reviewed in this issue.)

Beyond the Horizon. Connemara Players at ATA Sargeant Theatre, 314 West 54th Street, New York City, Jan 29 - Feb. 2, 1986.

Desire Under the Elms, dir. Keith Baker. Florida Repertory Theatre, West Palm Beach, Jan 9 - Feb. 2, 1986. [Mr. Baker, FRT Artistic Director, also played the role of Eben. Vicki Sanders, reviewing the production in The Miami Herald (Jan.30, p. 6B), had particular praise for the Abbie of Cheryl Risley: "a compelling study in single-minded aggression, coquettish deviltry and unwholesome instincts, and yet she is not detestable. Her characterization instead reveals forces beneath the surface that make it clear she herself is a victim."]

The Great God Brown, dir. Jarka Burian. Department of Theatre, SUNY-Albany (NY), Nov. 20-23, 1985. (A report by the director appears in this issue.)

The Iceman Cometh, dir. Josť Quintero, with Jason Robards as Hickey. Doolittle Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 12 - March 9, 1986. [A transplantation of the Washington-New York production, the only newcomer to the cast being Gerald Hiken, who replaced Leonardo Cimino as Hugo Kalmar when the latter stayed in New York to tut-tut Kevin Kline as Polonius.]

Long Day's Journey Into Night, dir. Jonathan Miller. National Theatre, Washington, D.C., March 25 - April 20, 1986; Broadhurst Theatre, New York City, April 28 et seq., 1986. [Produced by Emanuel Azenberg, the Shubert Organization, Roger Peters, Roger Berlind and Pace Theatrical Group Inc., the production stars Jack Lemmon as James, Sr., with Bethel Leslie, Peter Gallagher and Kevin Spacey as mother and sons, and Jodie Lynne McClintock as the maid. Scenery is by Tony Straiges, costumes by Willa Kim, and lighting by Richard Nelson. A six-performance week (in New York, at least): Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8, and a Sunday matinee at 3. The top ticket price is $37.50--just $33.10 more than the front-row-center seat I had for the first public U.S. performance of Journey, at Boston's Wilbur Theatre on October 15, 1956! --Ed.]

Mourning Becomes Electra, dir. Tom Haas. Indiana Repertory Theatre, Indianapolis, Feb. 14 - March 2, 1986. (Reviewed in this issue.)

A Touch of the Poet. Department of Theatre, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, Feb. 7-15, 1986.

11. BIBLIOGRAPHIC ADDENDA (exclusive of items reprinted, reviewed or abstracted herein).

Robert E. Fleming, "O'Neill's The Hairy Ape as a Source for Native Son." CLA Journal, 28 (June 1985), 434-443.

Louis Sheaffer, "Genesis of a Bleak Drama of Pipe Dreams." Los Angeles Times, Sunday, February 9, 1986, "Calendar," pp. 3-4. [A summary of the content of The Iceman Cometh, the circumstances of its composition, and its real-life models and autobiographical elements.]

12. TAKING A NAME IN VAIN. Steven Kretser Ltd., Fine Jewelry Design, of Albany, NY, wins the 1986 "distasteful drummer" award for a February ad announcing a special jewelry sale with the words, "THE ICEMAN COMETH." "When the iceman cometh," it chirrups, "you saveth."

(IN THIS ISSUE)

 

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