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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. IX, No. 3
Winter, 1985

 

IN THIS ISSUE:

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Jason Robards exhorts the "boys and girls" as Hickey in the 1985 Broadway revival of The Iceman Cometh, reviewed in this issue. (Photo by Martha Swope.)

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EDITOR'S FOREWORD

It is a pleasure to conclude the Newsletter's ninth year with another of the periodic "focus" sections in which a number of subscribers take special delight. [Readers with specific interests might like to know of seven previous focus sections: on The Hairy Ape (January 1978), on Hughie (September 1978), on The Hairy Ape a second time (January 1980), on O'Neill's plays in performance (Spring 1981), on Jose Quintero's production of Welded (Summer-Fall 1981), on O'Neill's women (Summer-Fall 1982), on one act plays (Winter 1982), and on the subject of dependency, both chemical and filial, as it relates to the playwright's life and later plays (Spring 1985).]

As in the past, the special section cannot be credited to editorial ingenuity but to the fortuitous confluence of thoughtful submissions. In the present case, however, the cause is not hard to find: the 1985 production of The Iceman Cometh has spurred a great revival of interest in the play and its author. (Indeed, the recent production--as I'll have occasion to say at greater length later in this issue--was itself a "great revival"; and its summary demise on December 1st says less about the merits of the play and its interpreters than it does about the tastes of current Broadway theatergoers, who corroborate Eliot's dictum that "human kind cannot bear very much reality.")

William Hawley surveys critical responses to the three previous major productions of Iceman in New York City--a service to theatre history that I hope we will see much more of in future issues. (His paper was delivered, in slightly different form, at the American Theatre Association convention in Toronto last August.) Gary Vena provides a telling and splendidly detailed study of the textual tamperings, and O'Neill's renowned reaction thereto, during rehearsals for the Theatre Guild production in 1946----a segment of his 1984 New York University dissertation on that production. Sheila Garvey, who traveled to Washington last August to attend rehearsals and early performances of the "new" Iceman at the American National Theater, offers revealing comparisons between it and its 1956 predecessor and shares comments she gathered in an interview with two stars of both of those Quintero-directed productions, Jason Robards and James Greene. The editor
offers his thoughts on the new production after its transplantation to Broadway. (A somewhat different response is presented by Robert Einenkel in a letter later in the issue.) And the portfolio of 1985 production photos by Martha Swope permits the Newsletter to emulate its glossier kin by featuring a "centerfold"--one that is offered as a tribute to a memorable production. Its good to have pictures again--and such fine ones--after the last issue's illustrationlessness.

A flyer and registration form for the Boston conference on "Eugene O'Neill--the Later Years" (May 29 -June 1) is included with this issue. But as it is not a part of the Newsletter itself, a word here about current planning for the conference may be appropriate. Aside from the daytime hours on the 29th, which will be devoted to working sessions for invited scholarly and theatrical O'Neillians who are engaged in current or imminent projects, the format will follow that of the 1984 conference: paper sessions, films and panel discussions in the daytime and "live" performances in the evening, beginning with a banquet on the night of the 29th and ending with a brunch on Sunday the 1st.. Filmmaker Perry Miller Adato will host a discussion of her 2 1/2-hour documentary film on O'Neill's life and work, which conference-goers will be the first public group to see (and on large screen at that!), as its PBS airing date follows the conference. Among the international O'Neillians planning to participate are Peter Egri from Budapest, Haiping Liu from Nanjing, Marc Maufort from Brussels and Tom Olsson from Stockholm. Domestic participants will include Thomas Adler, Judith Barlow, Normand Berlin, Albert Bermel, Stephen Black, Steven Bloom, Travis Bogard, Martha Bower, Jackson Bryer, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Joyce Flynn, Donald Gallup, James Harris, Michael Hinden, Richard Hornby, Ellen Kimbel, Ward Lewis, Lois McDonald, Bette Mandl, Michael Manheim, Jordan Miller, Sally Pavetti, John Peters, Laurin Porter, .John Henry Raleigh, James Robinson, Yvonne Shafer, Edward Shaughnessy, Lowell Swortzell. Gary Vena, Marvis Voelker. Paul Voelker and Jean Anne Waterstradt. Even at this early, tentative stage, the roster is impressive indeed, and the above list is by no means a final one. (Special apologies to those whose names I have inadvertently omitted: I still have a mountain of mail to get through and answer.) Anyone else who is interested in participating, whether as paper reader, panel member, moderator or recorder, should contact the editor as soon as possible. Especially welcome will be submissions on Hughie. the late cycle plays (completed and uncompleted), the relation between O'Neill's life and the art he produced, the influence on him of other writers and the times he lived in, and his own influence on his artistic successors.

A word about two of the aforementioned roles that participants can play--especially those who can gain institutional assistance in funding their trips to Boston if their names are on the program. The great success of the "Teaching O'Neill" panel discussion in 1984--many felt it was one of the most valuable of the four days' events--suggests to me that that discussion should be continued in 1986, and that other comparable discussions be added. I won't be so pushy as to suggest panel topics, but I welcome readers' ideas for others and volunteers for the 1986 "teaching" panel. The other role, that of recorder, was not utilized in 1984--a great misfortune, as the book of conference papers has yet to appear, and so only conference participants actually know what took place. So I solicit the names of individuals willing to serve in that capacity this time. Each's role will be to take notes at one or more sessions (papers or discussions), secure copies of readers' papers, and prepare a summary (approximately 1 1/2 to 2 pages per session) for printing in the Summer-Fall 1986 Newsletter. Then, even if no book ever appears, posterity will have a record of the proceedings. I hope to hear from volunteers, and I hope that the promise of publication will make their task more gratifying.

Actually, I expect that a book will appear---one that will combine the best papers from both conferences. And I plan to ask the Eugene O'Neill Society if it will sponsor the undertaking as one of its activities commemorating the O'Neill centennial in 1988. If it will select a commitee to choose the papers to be included, and secure the necessary funding for publication, I will happily serve as editor or introducer. But let's have the second conference before planning for its preservation in print!

A note to participants who have published books on or including O'Neill. Our salesroom did a booming business in 1984. making available (many at a special discount price) important volumes that general bookstores don't stock. What. I ask is that authors of appropriate works make arrangements with their publishers to send me multiple copies or special-rate order blanks. We will handle sales, remit to the publishers the funds we receive, and return all unsold copies if return is requested. There is no local profit in this endeavor: it is simply, like the "media room," an added service for conference members---and of course for yourselves as well.

To all who have already waited long for answers to their letters, I promise to respond as soon as I can--certainly by early January if not earlier. Interest in the conference has been extraordinary. and I've been (figuratively) as snowed--under as my friends in the middle west have recently been in sleety fact. But the snows will melt, the letters will be answered, and Boston in late May promises to be restoratively floral and balmy. I look forward to completing plans for a memorable get-together and to welcoming you all to Beacon Hill in the sunny springtime.


The Eugene O'Neill Newsletter, Vol. IX, No. 3. ISSN: 0733-0456. Copyright (c) 1985 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. & 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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