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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. XI, No. 1
Spring, 1987



In the summer of 1970 I wrote to Karl Ragnar Gierow to request an interview in Stockholm where I planned to spend a few days in the fall. My letter was forwarded to him at the Rotisserie de la Residence in Normandy. "I'11 be in Stockholm in October, from beginning to end," he replied. "Just ring me up when you arrive. Of course you know already, that in Germany you should, maybe first of all, contact Dr. [Oscar] Fritz Schuh in Hamburg, whose presentations have. I believe, been almost decisive for the appreciation of O'Neill in that country."

On the morning of October sixth I telephoned Dr. Gierow's office. His secretary expressed regrets that it would be impossible to see Dr. Gierow because he was confined with a very sore throat and his doctor had ordered him not to talk. When I said that my time in the city was short and that I had come to Sweden especially to meet the man who had dune so much fur Eugene O'Neill, the secretary promised to convey my message. In a few hours I was told to meet Dr. Gierow at his office in the Swedish Academy at two o'clock. He would not. be able to speak but, if I had written questions, he would answer them.

Dr. Gierow was expecting me and ushered me into his roomy office with a choice decor of antiques, mostly presents from his admirers---one piece was a gift from the Queen, he whispered proudly. Then he pointed to a seat beside his desk in the center of the room and sat down himself, armed with slips of paper and a pen with red ink. Like a schoolboy doing a written test. Dr. Gierow wrote out the answers to my questions. I offer the full conversation of October 6. 1970. on the assumption that the reactions of the theater manager who put O'Neill on the map of the theatrical world--and kept him there despite Eric Bentley's critical acumen--may be of interest to many students of O'Neill.

--James P. Pettegrove

Q. Is it true that Stockholm {i.e.. the Royal Dramatic Theater) has produced more O'Neill plays than New York?

A. It depends on----at what period. I suppose that in the late 20'ies and in the 30'ies O'Neill was just as well received in New York as over here: the difference is, that in Stockholm Dramaten [the Royal Dramatic Theater] continued producing his plays, (when he was ill and. I think, partly forgotten or neglected at home).

Q. Do you attribute the success of O'Neill productions in Stockholm to the systematic attention to O'Neill on the part of the Dramaten ensemble?

A. It might be true; if so maybe partly due to their "Strindberg-training." I didn't see Quintero's Moon [for the Misbegotten]; the production over here (the spring of '53) was, I believe, a bit of a miracle.

Q. Has Dramaten produced more plays of O'Neill than New York?

A. I don't think so. Dramaten has produced, if my memory is correct, Anna Christie, Days Without End, Strange Interlude. Desire Under the Elms, Mourning Becomes Electra, Ah, Wilderness!. The Iceman Cometh, [All] God's Chillun Got Wings. A Moon for the Misbegotten, Long Day's Journey, A Touch of the Poet, Emperor Jones, Hughie, and More Stately Mansions, approximately in this order.

Q. Would you say that O'Neill's best work is in his late plays?

A. I wouldn't say that; Desire Under the Elms is, I think, one of his strongest realistic plays, and Mourning Becomes Electra certainly is one of his masterpieces.

Q. Have you ever considered producing Lazarus_ Laughed?

A. Of course I did, but the play is exceedingly difficult--and the "new" plays were more urgent, I found.

Q. Do you think translation into Swedish has weakened O'Neill's plays?

A. Dialects always are very difficult, but most of O'Neill's plays have been translated by a very good man, an excellent writer in his own right, and I don't think he [Sven Barthel] has missed much.

Q. Do you agree with Frederic Fleisher* that O'Neill is now a dead issue in Stockholm?

A. As far as I know Fleisher is usually wrong. There have been several O'Neill revivals in Sweden in the last decade, amongst others Mourning Becomes Electra a couple of years ago. But Dramaten might be a little shy just now, to put itself in the shadow of its recent achievements (above all, Long Day's Journey)

Q. Did you correspond with O'Neill regarding his plays?

A. No, I haven't. I never met him. (But Carlotta O'Neill has become one of my dearest friends.) [Breaking his doctor's orders, Dr. Gierow told me orally that his introduction to Carlotta was facilitated by Dag Hammarskjöld. Secretary General of the UN.] I know that Donald Gallup in the Foreword of More Stately Mansions says that I knew O'Neill, but that is a distortion, or just an error.

Q. Did you see the Viennese Burg Theater production of More Stately Mansions with Paula Wessely and Attila Hörbiger?

A. I saw the production here, a couple of weeks ago.

Q. Who is the outstanding O'Neill scholar in Sweden?

A. There is a fine O'Neill specialist al Dramaten, Stig Torsslow by name. But of course you can always write to me, if I can be of any help.

*See Frederic Fleisher, "Eugene O'Neill and the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Stockholm: The Later Phase," Modern Drama, X (1967), pp. 300-311.



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