NEWS, NOTES AND QUERIES
1. NEW STYLE, OLD STYLE; or, WHAT THE MLA HATH WROUGHT! The "new documentation system" adopted by the Modern Language Association, fully described in Achert and Gibaldi's MLA Style Manual (New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1985). and currently endorsed (and periodically enforced) by the editor of the Newsletter. is a blessing for the typist and works well for the small, general essay whose few, parenthetical references can be easily located in a short list of "works cited" at the end. Granted, it has entailed much effort during the transitional phase; and when this editor once sighed in public about the work he faced in turning old-style submissions into new-style publications, he was jocosely rebuked (perhaps rightly) by the editor of a fellow journal that had chosen (perhaps wisely) to eschew the new and hold with the old, whose tacit response was "you asked for it!" True, indeed; and the Newsletter will continue to "ask" for the new style whenever possible.
But then along comes an essay, and a fine one (a study of Philip Moeller's direction of Dynamo, by Ronald H. Wainscott, which will appear in the Winter issue), that is not only rigorously old-style but bristles with a total of 97 footnotes that cite, at hasty count, well over 50 sources! What is an editor to do? It is an important essay; it merits publication; but it would take a team of amanuenses a good part of a year to do it over in the new style, and the result would be so pocked with parenthetical interruptions that the concentration of even the most dogged reader would be taxed beyond endurance! Having no such team anyhow, the editor opts for coexistence.
In short, this news item (the last on the subject, I hope) heralds "the return of the vanishing footnote" in the Newsletter. Professor Wainscott's essay will appear as it was written, except that the notes will be clumped together at the end, so the browser can enjoy a leisurely, uncluttered read; the typist can retain her admirable cool; and the researcher need not look far for the source of every quotation and factual tidbit. Everyone, it is hoped, will be happy, and the Newsletter will be able to provide its readers with all kinds of discourse. For the Newsletter, the result of the old style-new style battle is a draw: it will embrace both! --Ed.
2. THE EUGENE O'NEILL THEATER FESTIVAL. (A note by Eugene K. Hanson.)
America's apparent reluctance to own up to her greatest playwright may be one more bit of evidence of the truth of the ancient adage: A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and among his own people. Many an American would, unfortunately, respond to mention of the author with, "Eugene Gladstone Who?" Even the New England town where he spent many a youthful summer remains reluctant to admit his one-time citizenship there. As O'Neill enthusiasts gear up to celebrate the centennial of his birth, one of the primary tasks facing them is making America aware, educating a nation about the life and works of its foremost dramatist.
Three Californians have determined to do their part in this effort, by founding The Eugene O'Neill Theater Festival. Originally conceived as a centennial project, the Festival has grown in concept until it is now envisioned as an ongoing venture that may in future embrace the production of other playwrights. especially new writers, as well.
Slated to begin production this fall, the Festival has actually had its maiden run already, a production of Hughie at the May conference at Suffolk University. The Festival has engaged the Melrose Theatre in Los Angeles for a season that will include A Touch of the Poet, Hughie, and Before Breakfast. to be performed in rotation during October and November. The Melrose is an eighty-seat equity-waiver theatre.
Behind this adventurous undertaking are three persons who have come to a deep respect of O'Neill as artist. Serving as Artistic Director of the Festival is Tom McDermott, a West Coast theatrical director. Actor Stan Weston is the Executive Director, and his wife Judith Johnston Weston is the Executive Producer. In addition to the fall season in Los Angeles. the Festival hopes to bring O'Neill to other locales as funding permits and interest grows.
Stan Weston, who played Erie Smith at the conference in Boston, will repeat the role in Los Angeles. He will also play Con Melody in A Touch of the Poet. Weston, who has acted in New York and San Francisco, received a San Francisco Drama Critic's Circle Nomination for his portrayal of Jim Tyrone in A Moon for the Misbegotten. Weston's interest in O'Neill was first sparked in his teens. when he saw the film of The Hairy Ape and a stage production of Desire Under the Elms. In college he played Andrew in Beyond the Horizon. He finds acting O'Neill a "searing, passionate, exalting, and exhausting experience."
Tom McDermott, the son of an acting family, has directed award-winning productions in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Recognizing that "we don't honor our artists," he felt the need to honor "such an important figure" with a festival dedicated to him, modeled after the Shaw Festival in Canada. His dreams for the Festival include the possibility of using Los Angeles' extensive park system, as New York City does in its summer festivals, to produce O'Neill in the park.
Rounding out the trio is Judith Johnston Weston, currently Vice President of the Hospital Council of Northern California, in charge of government, community, and media relations. As an amateur actress, she has learned to respect the works of O'Neill, who, she says, "rips us wide open." One of her major concerns as Executive Producer will be fundraising for the Festival.
3. O'NEILL ON BROADWAY: THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT. The fate of O'Neill during last year's Broadway season would suggest that long plays, even great long plays, are destined to have short runs--even, evidently, if they are Dickensian, and even if the director opts for polyphonic abbreviation. Give a play the time it needs to reveal its full resonance, as José Quintero did in his revival of Iceman; or try by brisk delivery and overlapped speeches to hasten the final curtain, as Jonathan Miller did in his production of Long Day's Journey; and you lose the audience, largely because critics seem equally condemnatory of both approaches. Corroboration of these views is provided by Robert Cooperman, who studied both plays with Margaret Ranald in a graduate seminar at Queens College, attended both productions, and sent us the following note last June.
4. AFTER ATA, WHAT? Evidently a lot--perhaps more than before. Not only was there a 1986 national conference despite the lamented demise of the American Theatre Association; but its proceedings included a positive and promising discussion about the formation of a new group that will be of particular interest to readers of the Newsletter.
The National Educational Theatre Conference, hosted and sponsored by New York University, was held from 17 to 20 August in New York City. From 2:40 to 4:00 p.m. on the 18th, Paul D. Voelker led the third in his series of annual panel discussions on the subject, "What Is American About the American Drama?" This year's panelists--Walter Meserve, Vera Mowbray Roberts, Rosemary Bank, and Margaret Wilkerson--addressed Professor Voelker's proposal for the establishment of an American Drama Society.
Expectations are high that such a Society, surely a much needed one, will soon become a reality. Developments will be reported in future issues; but the eager can secure speedier information from Professor Voelker, Rt. 4, Box 258, Richland Center, WI 53581.
5. CENTENNIAL PLANNING SESSION AT MONTE CRISTO COTTAGE. The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center will host a conference in O'Neill's boyhood home on Thursday, October 9. Its purpose is to coordinate east coast plans for the celebration of O'Neill's centennial year, 1987-88. Artistic directors and literary managers of the leading professional theaters in the east will join with the heads of university drama departments and noted O'Neill scholars to discuss the possibilities that the O'Neill centenary may offer to producing organizations, to educational institutions, and (perhaps most importantly) to creative combinations of the two realms. "It is our hope," writes George C. White, President of the O'Neill Center, "that, by working together in an informal way, theaters and universities will coordinate their plans for celebrating the centennial year and, by doing so, will build audiences for each other and increase not only public relations but also public awareness of O'Neill's importance to the history of American theater." For information, call 203-443-5378. The conference will be reported on in the next issue of the Newsletter.
6. O'NEILL AT SCA '86. A panel on "The O'Neill Legacy: Assessment and Assumption," sponsored by the Theatre Division of the Speech Communication Association, will be featured at the 1986 SCA convention at Chicago's Palmer House on November 13-16. (The panel will be held from 4 to 5:20 p.m. on Friday. November 14 in Sandburg Wing 1, 7th floor.) Chaired by Margaret Dunn of Kean College, the panel will have the following speakers and topics:
7. O'NEILL SESSION AT NEMLA '87. "'The Games People Play': Family Relationships in O'Neill" is the subject of the O'Neill session at the 1987 Northeast Modern Language Association Convention to be held in Boston in the first week of April. From the extremely large number of papers and abstracts he received, session chair Frederick Wilkins has selected the following four speakers and titles for the session:
Fred wishes there were time enough to include more of the excellent papers he received, apologizes to the authors of excellent papers that had necessarily to be rejected, and hopes to feature a number of their studies in future issues of the Newsletter.
8. RECENT PUBLICATIONS ON O'NEILL--AND EARLIER ITEMS PREVIOUSLY UNNOTED.
Acharya, Shanta. "Beyond the 'New Woman' in O'Neill's Strange Interlude." Triveni: A Journal of the Indian Renaissance, 49:4 (1980). 57-65. (The following abstract, by David W. Atkinson, appeared in the June 1986 issue of Abstracts of English Studies.)
The "new woman," as represented by Nina Leeds in O'Neill's Strange Interlude, finds her own solutions and determines her own fate. Nina's declaration of sexual freedom is a revolt against all restrictions. Her self assertion underlines the central theme that human life has no meaning except for what the individual projects on it.
Alvis, John. "On the American Line: O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra and the Principles of the Founding." Southern Review, 22:1 (Winter 1986). 69-85.
Egri, Peter. Chekhov and O'Neill: The Uses of the Short Story in Chekhov's and O'Neill's Plays. Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1986. 183 pp. ISBN 963-05-3651-X. $18.00, cloth. Distributed in the U.S. by Humanities Press International. Inc., Atlantic Highlands, NJ 07716. To be reviewed in the next issue of the Newsletter.
Gelb, Barbara. "How Eugene O'Neill's Father Shaped His Son's Vision." The New York Times, April 27, 1986, Sec. II, pp. 1, 26.
On the occasion of last season's Broadway revival of Long Day's Journey Into Night, Mrs. Gelb surveyed the personal and professional career of the real-life model for the patriarch in that play ("O'Neill's Lear")--James O'Neill, Sr.. the playwright's father--emphasizing "how vital an influence the acting career of the father ... was to become on the writing career of the son." Not only does the elder O'Neill appear repeatedly in various guises in the playwright's works (Ephraim Cabot and Cornelius Melody are among those manifestations), but the plots and themes that the dramatist chose, even the length of his plays, all reflect "the aura and flavor of the theater of the late 19th century, James O'Neill's life's blood, that helped shape his son's theatrical genius." "James." Mrs. Gelb notes, "was a man destined to be outshone by his son, but the son--not thankless--chose to immortalize the father" in the role of James Tyrone. --FCW.
Lewis, Ward B. "O'Neill and Hauptmann: A Study in Mutual Admiration." Comparative Literature Studies, 22 (1985), 231-243.
"Love and Admiration and Respect": The O'Neill-Commins Correspondence, ed. Dorothy Commins, with foreword by Travis Bogard. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1986. xxi + 248 pp. ISBN: 0-8223-0668-9. $32.50, cloth. To be reviewed in the next issue of the Newsletter.
Manheim, Michael. "O'Neill's Early Debt to David Belasco." In Theatre History Studies, 6 (1986), available (@ $6.00) from THS, Theatre Arts Dept.. Box 8182, University Station, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND 58202.
Seidel, Margot. Aberglaube bei O'Neill. Frankfurt: Lang, 1984. 155pp.
Scarton Badino, Margareth M. "The Self-Destructiveness of an Idealist: A Study of Mary Tyrone in O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night." Estudos Anglo-Americanos, 5-6 (1981-1982), 118-136.
Sheaffer, Louis. "Eugene O'Neill, Closet Poet." The American Voice, No. 3 (Summer, 1986), 118-128.
A new literary quarterly is always welcome; and when it is as handsomely printed and packaged as The American Voice, edited by Frederick Smock and published by Sallie Bingham, it merits rejoicing. The fiction, poetry, photographs and essays are of a consistently high order, and the asking price ($12 per annum, $3.50 for a single issue) is refreshingly modest. The address for subscribers and contributors is Suite 1215 Heyburn Building, Broadway at Fourth Avenue, Louisville. KY 40202. It is of course Mr. Sheaffer's essay that earns the journal a special welcome in these pages.
I had hoped for a definitive refutation of the still-prevalent attacks on the playwright's abilities as a dramatic stylist, and Mr. Sheaffer does note that the plays "contain passages that attain the intensity and eloquence of verse," and that his "imaginative use of stagecraft" justifies his being called "a poet of the theater" (p. 128). But it is O'Neill's poetry per se that is Mr. Sheaffer's main subject--the verse that he wrote both early and late in his career, that has been masterfully compiled and edited by Donald Gallup in Poems, 1912-1944 (Ticknor & Fields, 1980), and that, had O'Neill's "hopeless hope" been granted, would constitute his supreme claim to renown. Surveying O'Neill's life-long poetic output--from the early sentimental love verse and parodies printed in the New London Telegraph, to the inscriptions to Carlotta and the particularly touching "Fragments" of 1942, Mr. Sheaffer concludes that the Gallup volume "adds nothing to [O'Neill's) literary stature" (p. 123), but that it is nevertheless "significant as autobiography, noteworthy for intimate glimpses of the inner man" (p. 124). Revealing biographical insights abound, naturally; among them, O'Neill's repeated deprecations of his own work. He was his own severest critic, and much of the verse he later rejected as "stuff" and "junk" is unquestionably weak. But Mr. Sheaffer shows that there is gold amid the dross and that O'Neill's "touch of the poet" was sometimes the genuine article. --FCW.
9. KEMP BIOGRAPHY PUBLISHED. Harry Kemp: The Last Bohemian, a critical biography of the poet of the Provincetown dunes, has been published by the Bucknell University Press. (ISBN 0-8387-5086-9.) The author is William Brevda, who teaches English at the University of Mississippi.
10. DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS IN PROGRESS.
Fletcher, Louis. Eugene O'Neill on the Operatic Stage. New York University, Program in Educational Theatre, 1987. Dir. Lowell S. Swortzell.
Sands, Jeffrey E. Main Currents of Thought in O'Neill Criticism. University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana), 1987. Dir. Burnet Hobgood.
11. RECENT O'NEILL PRODUCTIONS.
Ah, Wilderness!, dir. Janet O'Donnell. East Coast Theater Co., Kennebunk, Lower Village, ME. In repertory. June 19 - Aug. 2, 1986.
Beyond the Horizon, dir. Joe DeGuglielmo. Nucleo Eclettico Theater, Boston, MA. Closed Aug. 2, 1986.
Desire Under the Elms, dir. David Mold. Open Door Theater. Jamaica Plain, MA. August 7 - Sept. 6, 1986.
A Moon for the Misbegotten, dir. Pam Pepper. Pennsylvania Stage Company, Allentown, PA, May 7 - June 8, 1986.
A Touch of the Poet. Detroit (MI) Repertory Theatre. May 15 - June 22, 1986.
12. GELB PLAY IMMINENT. Barbara Gelb's eagerly awaited My Gene is scheduled to begin performances at Joseph Papp's Public Theater in New York City on January 6. The one-woman play about Carlotta Monterey O'Neill (and her husband) will star Colleen Dewhurst, and will be directed by Andre Ernotte.
13. "EUGENE AND CARLOTTA O'NEILL AND THE ANIMAL KINGDOM" is the title and subject of the 1987 wall calendar produced by the Eugene O'Neill Foundation at Tao House. Purchasers of previous Tao House calendars know how beautiful the Foundation's efforts are; and this year's edition, featuring rare shots of the O'Neills with various dogs, cats, chickens, etc. (Blemie, of course, included), will be as much of a collector's item as its predecessors. And the profits will be used toward the continuing restoration of Tao House--certainly a worthy cause dear to any O'Neillian's heart. This year's price is $7.50 per calendar, plus $1.50 for postage and handling--$3.00 if one is ordering more than two. Checks payable to The Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Tao House, should be sent to the Foundation at P.O. Box 402, Danville, CA 94526.
14. IN MEMORIAM. The deaths of Norma Millay Ellis at 92 on May 14 and Blanche Sweet at 90 on September 6 saddened the O'Neill community and made still smaller the surviving circle of the playwright's personal and professional associates. Ms. Millay, the widow of painter Charles Ellis and sister of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, was an original member of the Provincetown Players; and Ms. Sweet was praised by O'Neill for her performance of the title role in the 1923 silent film version of Anna Christie, the first stage-to-screen adaptation of an O'Neill play. Viewers of the film Reds will also remember Adele Nathan, the author of children's books, who was one of the "witnesses" enlisted by director Warren Beatty. Ms. Nathan, who had met O'Neill in Provincetown near the start of his career and subsequently produced one of his plays, died on July 24 at the age of 86.
15. O'NEILL? (A note from Louis Sheaffer.)
Some time ago the Washburn Gallery on East 57th Street in New York phoned me about a certain painting in its show at the time of early works by Stuart Davis, after a few persons maintained that it was a portrait of Eugene O'Neill. The gallery thought that I could validate the subject of the oil.
As soon as I entered the gallery I found the likeness so striking--piercing dark eyes, high forehead, an expression almost Van Gogh-like in its intensity--that I was instantly ready to swear that it could only be O'Neill. Till I noticed that it was dated 1914, at least a year before the artist and the fledgling playwright could ever have met. O'Neill did not start hanging around Greenwich Village till fall 1915, and he first turned up in Provincetown in the summer of 1916.
The one who probably sat for the portrait was artist Charles Demuth, who resembled O'Neill in having a long lean face and a moustache, but the strong. brooding expression came from the artist, not his model, for Davis was at the time under Van Gogh's influence. He and Demuth became friends in Provincetown in 1914. Years later Charles Demuth and, to a lesser extent, his friend Marsden Hartley would sit as the chief models for Charles Marsden in O'Neill's Strange Interlude.
Now owned by a private collector, the Davis portrait, which is currently part of a touring exhibition, bears the cautious legend: "Stuart Davis, Portrait of a Man (Eugene O'Neill?), 1914, oil on canvas."
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