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Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. VII, No. 1
Spring, 1983



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Sheila Ferrini (Josie) and Ron Ritchell (Jim) in Boston's Lyric Stage production of A Moon for the Misbegotten. Photo (c) 1983 by Ann McQueen. Reviewed in this issue.

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Eugene O'Neill may have been "born in a trunk" on Broadway, but he was a poet and author of short stories before he turned with any sustained interest to the writing of plays. Even after he had rejected the two earlier genres--especially poetry, which in his hands arouses (in one mind, at least) mingled feelings of incredulity and embarrassment--he clung tenaciously to the prerogatives of prose fiction--the examination of major philosophical issues and the use of a central, guiding narrative voice. His plays abound in "big ideas," and he grew increasingly novelistic in fleshing out, with detailed italicized comments, the published texts of his plays. Indeed, he frequently provided, as early as the last words of The Hairy Ape (with their hint of ultimate beautitude for the play's protagonist), many moments that would defy even the most expressive of actors in any medium.

But he wrote, above all, for the stage--and, though with understandably increasing reluctance, for what his father called "the flickers." However great the influence of Freud, Jung, Nietzsche, Strindberg & Co. on the themes and ideas he plumbed in his writing, the plays are first and foremost plays--shows. And they must ultimately be tested--be given the chance to succeed or fail--in the realm for which they were intended, that of performance. Many essays in previous issues have anatomized the ideas and influences discernible in O'Neill's mind and art; but if a play doesn't "work" as a dramatic vehicle, if it doesn't entertain and arouse its audience's emotions as well as their intellects, no amount of philosophical underpinning can save it.

And so it is particularly gratifying to offer an issue that, while its two main articles remain as scholarly as their predecessors, concentrates on film and stage treatments of O'Neill's plays: two essays on movie adaptations (both written for the special session on "O'Neill and Film" directed by Eugene Hanson at last December's MLA convention in Los Angeles), and five reviews of recent productions of four major plays. (Professor Ben-Zvi's essay is particularly interesting in its coverage of unproduced film versions that have never before been discussed--coverage that is a Newsletter "first" because the author was prevented by a snowstorm from getting to MLA to present it!)

Special thanks to Michael Hinden for persuading Alvin Gordon to share with the Newsletter's readers the memories of his long-ago meeting with O'Neill at Tao House. His vignette is touching and vivid--especially in its evocation of O'Neill's ,exceptional eyes--and I hope that others who met or knew the playwright will follow Mr. Gordon's illuminating lead.

The Eugene O'Neill Newsletter, Vol. VII, No. I. ISSN: 0733-0456. Copyright (c) 1983 by the Eugene O'Neill Newsletter. Copyright 2011 by Harley J. Hammerman. Editor: Frederick C. Wilkins. Assoc. Editor: Marshall Brooks. Subscriptions: $6/year for individuals in U.S. & Canada, $10/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 @ $3 each. Address: The Eugene O'Neill Newsletter, Department of English, Suffolk University, Boston, MA 02114 U.S.A.


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