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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. XI, No. 1
Spring, 1987


(IN THIS ISSUE)

COUNTDOWN TO CENTENNIAL:
REPORTS OF MEETINGS WEST AND EAST

[As we approach the centennial of O'Neill's birth on Sunday. October 16, 1988, many plans are being formulated to see that America's greatest dramatist gets a celebration commensurate with his genius. As the news items in this issue will reveal, the plans are many and extremely varied. And not just in the playwright's homeland but around the world: 1988 O'Neill productions and conferences are already scheduled in Belgium. Japan. Sweden and the People's Republic of China. The problem confronting the various celebrants is some way of coordinating their efforts to avoid unnecessary duplication. unfortunate scheduling, and gaps in communication. What. follows are the reports of two conferences that sought, last fall, to pool ideas and achieve some degree of coordination among them. The first, at Tao House on September 20, was chaired by Travis Bogard. The second, at Monte Cristo College. was directed by George C. White. Both reports suggest the enthusiasm that is growing as the centennial nears, and the obstacles that must be met and overcome. It is hoped that reading them will inspire many other individuals and organizations to join in future planning. For further information, contact George White at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, 305 Great Neck Road, Waterford, CT (tel. 203-443-5378), or Travis Bogard, Department of Dramatic Art, University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720 (tel. 415-642-1677). --Ed.]

I. The Tao House Conference. 9/20/86.

After a Lour of Tao House, Chairman Bogard thanked the L.C. Scaggs and Mary Scaggs Foundation for its generous grant which made the conference possible, and the Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Tao House for additional funding and logistical support. He also acknowledged the assistance of the National Park Service in readying the conference rooms. He stressed that the meeting was "agenda-less" with open discussion, centering on the ways that West Coast professional theatres might celebrate Eugene O'Neill during the centennial year of his birth on October 16, 1888. The following matters were raised for discussion throughout the day.

1. Eric Bauersfeld, of Bay Area Radio Drama in Berkeley, set forth the project he heads to record on audiotapes for radio and individual use all the plays of Eugene O'Neill. The project has been developed with Josť Quintero, who will direct the plays; Travis Bogard, who will serve as artistic director; and Randy Thom of Lucasfilm, who will design and record the sound. Funding sufficient to complete the initial planning, submit major grant requests and record the voice track but not complete the final production of the "S.S. Glencairn" series has been received.

2. Discussion centered next on what appear to be exorbitant royalties and sharply restricted release privileges set by the William Morris Agency, which controls professional rights to the O'Neill corpus. If a professional New York production of a major play means that it cannot be presented in another remote area, the restriction will make a fitting celebration of O'Neill all but impossible in the country at large. George White offered to take the matter in hand and consult with the lawyers of the O'Neill estate, the Yale Committee and the Morris Agency, and will report back to the group on his findings. Travis Bogard will accompany White on his initial visit to the controlling persons.

3. The possibility of developing conferences within regions on the West Coast was raised by Elizabeth Huddle of the Intiman Theatre in Seattle, who felt it would be profitable to discuss the question of O'Neill presentations with theatre managers in the Seattle region.

4. It was decided that for the West Coast, the O'Neill centennial year would run from July 1987 to the end of the season in 1988. But see the next item.

5. George White, President of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, mentioned a plan developed on the East Coast whereby, within a region, the resident theatres and schools would undertake to present all of O'Neill's plays as concert readings in a period close to the birthday, October 16. The idea was received with interest, but it was felt that one person should serve as the center of a network to coordinate such an event. Mary Henderson, former curator of the Theatre Collection of the Museum of the City of New York, might be available if funding could be found to provide her with a salary.

6. Bogard described the uncertain future of the major exhibit planned for opening in 1987, concerned with O'Neill and his limes. Turned down for funding by NEH, the application has been re-submitted.

7. John Schwab and Jerry Turner, of Seattle's Empty Space Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival respectively, taking into account the considerations of funding and rights, spoke forcibly about the importance of the celebration. Turner said that what the group was discussing was more than a "theatrical" event. It was one which had "national" importance. O'Neill as an American artist was worthy of more than a superficial honoring. The stress on the American images created by O'Neill was repeated frequently. In this connection, Bogard suggested that O'Neill was not generally known in the middle western states, despite worthy productions of his plays by regional theatres.

8. There was a general discussion of ways in which the West Coast O'Neill year could be publicized. Although it was recognized that at this juncture no definite planning could be done, the following suggestions had consideration:

Public relations through such magazines as Sunset and the magazine sections of major newspapers.

Contact to be established with Visitors Bureaus and Convention Centers. Sharing productions.

Organizing tours from theatre to theatre.

Developing educational materials that will relate productions to school curricula; developing master classes with such persons as Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst for advanced theatre students; providing dramaturgical expertise for schools and for professional theatres that may request such services.

Using the present group as an informal "collective" to work on fund-raising projects together.

9. George White spoke of a conference similar to this one which he has organized for October 9 at Monte Cristo Cottage in New London. The need of organizing a similar conference in the mid-west--perhaps through the Goodman Theatre in Chicago--was suggested.

10. Representatives of the theatres present described such plans as they have already formulated to present O'Neill works in 1987-8:

Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles:

A Moon for the Misbegotten in 1987 -- to be taken to Japan.

To develop symposia and workshops to help educate the Los Angeles community about the playwright.

To serve as a networking center of scholars and performers.

Intiman Theatre. Seattle:

To present Long Day's Journey Into Night and A Moon for the Misbegotten.

To develop cooperative projects in the Seattle area, such as a production by three theatres, each doing one play of the trilogy, Mourning Becomes Electra.

Los Angeles Theatreworks:

No production plans as yet, but desirous of developing educational programs to enhance school curricula.

La Jolla Playhouse:

Plans not yet formulated. Interested in less well-known plays.

Berkeley Repertory Theatre:

To produce Long Day's Journey Into Night and Ah  Wilderness! in repertory. Considering also The Hairy Ape.

Jason Robards and Jose Quintero:

A production of Ah, Wilderness! with Colleen Dewhurst for New York City and subsequent tour; and participation in the celebration planned by the Theater Committee for Eugene O'Neill on the birthday in 1988.

The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center:

Expect to receive 5100,000 from the Connecticut State Legislature to support a variety of projects during the centennial, including the reading of the canon, an exhibition, and the installation of a statue of the boy O'Neill on a rock at the mouth of the Thames River, near Monte Cristo Cottage.

Eugene O'Neill Theatre Festival, Los Angeles:

Regularly producing O'Neill in repertory. Hughie and A Touch of the Poet available for touring.

One-Act Theatre Company. San Francisco:

To produce a play based on the short story Tomorrow, and to stage the one-act sea plays, S.S. Glencairn.

Civic Arts Repertory (Walnut Creek, CA):

A Touch of the Poet, Diff'rent, and James O'Neill's Monte Cristo; and the development of O'Neill-related educational activities throughout Contra Costa County.

Empty Space Theatre, Seattle:

Hughie paired with another short play.

CitiArts (Concord, CA):

Days Without End and some of the sea plays.

Diablo Valley College:

Participate in the readings of the canon; productions of The Emperor Jones and possibly Take Me Along, the musical version of Ah, Wilderness!

American Conservatory Theatre, San Francisco:

Strange Interlude, The Iceman Cometh, and if there is a second stage developed some short plays to aid in their out reach program.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival:

The Iceman Cometh, Ah, Wilderness!, Long Day's Journey Into Night, and A Moon for the Misbegotten all under consideration.

The development of an American season of O'Neill and his contemporaries, plus programs of O'Neill scenes on "dark" nights to bring in young audiences.

II. The Conference at Monte Cristo Cottage, 10/9/86.

I. Plans and Funding.

George White began the day with a summary of the September 20th Conference at Tao House. He opened discussion of the need for a committee for the Centennial year, October 16, 1987 -- October 16. 1988. It was decided that there should be a National Eugene O'Neill Centennial Committee with an Executive Director whose job it is to coordinate committee plaits, to "traffic cop," and to serve as a "central clearing house"--includes knowing who has O'Neill on film (and where), making information available to community theaters and high schools among others. Also, the committee is to serve as a clearing house for grant applications to avoid duplication and overlapping. There is a need for seed money for salaries, office space. and mailings.

 

Funding for the Centennial year should come from such sources as: The National Endowment for the Arts and The National Endowment for the Humanities. George White plans to ask the Connecticut Slate Legislature for a $250.000 appropriation for a Eugene O'Neill Centennial Fund which would be allocated for projects, programs and productions throughout the state. (Realistically it was thought that an appropriation of $100,000 might be granted.) Also to be approached are the Connecticut Humanities Council and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. Corporations to be contacted include: American Express, Pepsi Cola. Hitachi. Foundations to be contacted include: Mellon, Billy Rose, Shubert.

II. Professional Rights.

There was an indepth discussion of royalties and restricted release privileges. Yale University has transferred the administration of rights to the O'Neill plays that it controls to the William Morris Agency in New York City. The Agency has been demanding unrealistically large fees for productions. Yale University, Oona O'Neill Chaplin, and the Estate of Shane O'Neill are to be asked to consider setting realistic guidelines for royalties and rights. Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft, lawyers for the O'Neill Estate, and Yale University have been approached and seem supportive of the idea of establishing special guidelines for the Centennial year. George White and Lloyd Richards will continue the dialogue with Yale University and the Estate.

III. Plans of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center and Connecticut College.

The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center has commissioned a bronze statue of Eugene O'Neill sitting on the rocks near the Thames River sketching (based on an 1893 photograph). The statue is to be placed somewhere on the New London waterfront. The unveiling is to be on October 16th, 1988, with a New London celebration.

Collaborations III - Connecticut College with the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center and the United States Coast Guard Academy. Linda Herr director, chairperson of Connecticut College Theater Department. Collaborations III plans include: performances by college theater departments, community players, readings at the Monte Cristo Cottage, combined exhibition with Monte Cristo Cottage and Palmer Library, lecture series by scholars from Connecticut College and guest lecturers; dance department planning an experimental piece based on O'Neill's Ancient Mariner. Also demonstrations to coincide with the dance film Emperor Jones, and a possible program with the Josť Limon Company doing its Emperor Jones. The Collaboration would like to sponsor, as well, the world premiere of Desire Under the Elms, which was first workshopped at the Eugene O'Neill Center's Opera Music Conference.

IV. Plans of Regional Theaters and Scholars.

Jason Robards. Colleen Dewhurst, Josť Quintero to tour with Ah, Wilderness throughout the Centennial year.

Hartman Theater (Stamford, CT)---considering The Hairy Ape; also humanist lecture series to supplement the production.

Yale Repertory Theater--interested in joint subscription series on O'Neill; i.e., for an additional fee a subscriber could see another O'Neill play at another regional theater. Or possible special subscription series to all O'Neill plays being produced in one region.

Hartford (CT) Stage--possibly Emperor Jones, The Hairy Ape, Ah, Wilderness!, or the Robards production of Ah, Wilderness!--interested in ancillary projects involving area scholars.         

Portland (ME) Stage---Long Days Journey Into Night in February 1987 with accompanying humanities scholar series. May consider another O'Neill play for 1988.


O'Neill scholars to provide background materials for productions, also panels to speak on the productions, provide dramaturgs for certain theatrical productions.

O'Neill Centennial Exhibition--grant submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities and turned down. To be resubmitted by Mary Henderson, Curator/Coordinator, December 1986. Exhibit Co be designed by Robin Wagner with a guide for teachers and a catalogue to be printed by Harry Abrams. Exhibition planning to travel to China, London, Austria, Sweden. Exhibition to use film clips, interviews, tapes, photo stills. To be visually "stunning" and appeal to a younger audience. Budgeted at $300,000.

International Festival, Lincoln Center and other New York sites. Plans to include the O'Neill Centennial Exhibition and the Jason Robards production of Ah Wilderness! The festival will have dance and concert components of which the O'Neill Centennial plans are a part.

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