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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. XII, No. 2
Summer-Fall, 1988



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I hardly have space, in an issue as packed as this, to get in my traditional introductory greeting, partly because the list of contents is so long. Twelve books and seven productions: that must be a Newsletter record--indicative, of course, of the renewed interest in the playwright generated by the arrival of his centennial.

What's particularly interesting is that, of the seven productions, only one took place in the United States. Add the sad, early closing of the centennial double-bill on Broadway, and a question inevitably arises: is Eugene O'Neill more revered and respected in England, Czechoslovakia, France and Sweden (and in China, Belgium, Japan and Germany as well, as later reports and news items may suggest) than he is in his homeland? Why do American audiences stay away from productions of plays that theatregoers flock to in other lands? Granted, Broadway prices are astronomically high; it may have been unwise to open the shows just before summer, even under the rubric of the International Festival of the Arts; and the combining of two plays in one run at the same theatre may have dizzied showgoers unfamiliar with the repertory system. Still, if Robards, Dewhurst, Quintero and Brown can't bring 'em in, who can?! Let us hope that the many centennial productions soon to appear regionally will be more fortunate, and that they will spark a revival of interest in O'Neill's plays where their greatness is most apparent--on the stage.

The publishing scene in America is more hope-inspiring. The publication on October 16 of the complete plays (by the Library of America) and of the selected letters (by Yale University Press) are milestones in the history of O'Neill studies. Never before have we had such clear pictures of the man himself, and of his works in toto; and the results should be galvanizing well beyond the blowing out of the last candle on the last 100th birthday cake.

It is an honor to print the second of three sets of papers from the 1984 and 1986 Boston conferences--the Newsletter's own contribution to the festivities; and, thanks to some tireless notetakers, to bring you detailed reports of the summer conferences in Belgium, Sweden and China. I can attest to the exhilarating effects of the first two; and veterans of the scholarly and theatrical events in Nanjing and Shanghai report that they comprised a once-in-a-lifetime experience that they will never forget. O'Neill may be "dead on Broadway," as I'm told Variety opined after the recent fate of Long Day's Journey and Ah, Wilderness! But he sure is alive elsewhere! I prefer to believe that the Variety obit is "greatly exaggerated," and that there's still a place even in the crassest of "show-shops" for serious American drama, of which Eugene O'Neill was the greatest creator yet. Perhaps what we must do is challenge and overthrow the standard, false picture of him and his works as unrelievedly dour and gloomy. It's interesting that the jacket of O'Neill's selected letters features a photograph of the playwright smiling. It may be forced, or arch, but it's a smile. If we can just get O'Neill back on major American stages, and keep him there, we can all smile with him! --FCW

The Eugene O'Neill Newsletter, Vol. XII, No. 2, ISSN: 0733-0456. Copyright (c) 1988 by the Eugene O'Neill Newsletter. Copyright 2011 by Harley J. Hammerman. Editor: Frederick C. Wilkins. Assoc. Editor: Marshall Brooks. Subscriptions: $10/year for individuals in U.S. and Canada, $15/year for libraries, institutions and all overseas subscribers. Only one-year subscriptions are accepted. Members of the Eugene O'Neill Society receive subscriptions as part of their annual dues. Back issues available @ $5 each. Address: The Eugene O'Neill Newsletter, Department of English, Suffolk University, Boston, MA 02114 U.S.A.


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