THE EUGENE O'NEILL SOCIETY SECTION
I. Minutes of the Eighth Annual Meeting.
The Eighth Annual Meeting of the Eugene O'Neill Society was held at 12:00 noon. December 30, 1986, in the Gotham Room of the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City. President Fred Wilkins presided. The minutes of the Seventh Annual Meeting were approved as distributed in the Spring 1986 Newsletter (pp. 37-39). Reports from the Secretary and Treasurer were presented and accepted. (See Sections II and III below.)
Fred Wilkins reported on actions of the Board of Directors. (1) He will write a New Year's letter to Virginia Floyd expressing regrets at her resignation as Treasurer and offering her a permanent honorary membership on the Board of Directors. (2) Jordan Miller will remain as Acting Treasurer until the next Society elections. (3) For an additional $10 over and above Society annual dues and over and above joint membership in Tao House, Society members may become Friends of Monte Cristo Cottage. He reminded attenders that taking the joint membership is one-way: i.e., there is as yet no reduced rate on Society membership for Tao House members or Friends of the Cottage.
1988 Centennial Plans. Fred Wilkins will lead the Special Session in New Orleans. No definite subject except "Centenary Essays on Eugene O'Neill" has been chosen. Mention was made of the possibility of a special double session with the MLA Drama Division in order to operate within the existing MLA rules for number of permitted sections.
The Society has received various requests for financial assistance in Centennial activities. It will entertain such requests, but contributions will have to remain small. The Society will contribute to organizations and individuals planning centennial projects in amounts of $50 to $100 with the approval of the President and Secretary.
Marc Maufort announced plans of the Belgian American Studies Association to devote its 1988 annual conference (May 20-22) to O'Neill. Because O'Neill is not especially well-known in Belgium, this is a good opportunity to increase the awareness. The conference will include a series of lectures by American and European scholars, and there is a possibility that some scenes from O'Neill will be presented in French and Dutch.
Ouyang Ji from Shandong University, People's Republic of China, reported on the popularity of O'Neill in China. A center for the study of O'Neill was established in China in 1985, and presently has more than 40 professors and students from around the country in its membership. There will be a meeting presenting papers about O'Neill in Beijing on February 20-23. 1987. 37 O'Neill plays are being translated into Chinese and will be published in four volumes, possibly by 1988. Desire Under the Elms was presented during the last year in four cities including Shanghai and Shandong. Beyond the Horizon and Marco Millions will be done in the near future. Professor Ji extended a welcome to all members to the China center.
Gene Hanson reported on O'Neill activities on the West Coast. The O'Neill Theater Festival mounted its first productions at the Melrose Theatre in Hollywood last year, opening on O'Neill's birthday (October 16, which Mayor Tom Bradley declared Eugene O'Neill Day in Los Angeles) with a production of A Touch of the Poet, followed by a double-bill of Before Breakfast and Hughie. They ran in repertory until the 8th of December. The Festival is the brainchild of Society members Tom McDermott and Stan and Judith Weston. It is planned as an annual festival in the Hollywood area. The initial productions were an artistic success--critically acclaimed but weak at the box office. But it was a fine first step that bodes well for the future. They are doing school performances and hope to come to the 1987 Annual Meeting in San Francisco this December.
The next item of business was the formal presentation for adoption of the amendment to the by-laws given tentative approval at the 1985 meeting in Chicago:
V. 6. d). International Secretaries. The Board of Directors shall be authorized to appoint International Secretaries as the need arises. These International Secretaries shall assume responsibilities identical with the Secretary for those portions of the Society's membership outside the United States. In addition, the International Secretaries shall.... (All further portions of this section remain as before in the by-laws.)
The amendment was unanimously approved. Normand Berlin moved that Haiping Liu, current Acting International Secretary for the Orient, be made permanent. So voted.
Normand Berlin announced a series of productions of O'Neill plays at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst beginning on October 16, 1988, the centennial of the playwright's birth.
Paul Shyre, who wrote the O'Neill film Eugene O'Neill-- A Glory of Ghosts, was introduced to his fellow members, whose applause expressed their congratulations for the success of his project. Jordan Pecile announced that the film on which he has been working, concerning O'Neill's early life at the Hell Hole and elsewhere, will be put into production this coming spring, and it is hoped that it will be available in 1988. It is in the form of "reality theatre" with actors portraying the various characters in O'Neill's life between 1904 and 1920. Calvin Skaggs is the producer.
The editor of Studies in American Drama, 1945-Present is looking for manuscripts. Desired are careful, documented studies of the influence of O'Neill on subsequent American playwrights. Anyone interested should write to the editor, Philip C. Kolin, or contact Fred Wilkins. The Society was also reminded that UMI Research Press is doing a series of O'Neill monographs and welcomes submissions, especially those of monograph length.
It was announced that on Friday, April 3, 1987, at the Northeast Modern Language Association Convention in Boston, there will be a session on "Games People Play: Family Relationships in O'Neill's Plays." The speakers, all Society members, will be Paul Voelker. Bette Mandl, Marc Maufort and Stephen Black. Fred Wilkins will chair the session.
Sally Pavetti reported on some of the accomplishments of the October meeting at Monte Cristo Cottage under the leadership of George White, President of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. George was unable to attend today's meeting, but had hoped to do so. Plans are under way for a coordinating committee to keep tabs on what is going on during the O'Neill Centennial. Mary Henderson has resubmitted her proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities for funding for a centennial exhibit. It is a major undertaking, but results of the resubmission are presently unknown. It is hoped that the entire canon will be presented in actual productions or readings in Connecticut during the centennial year. with participating groups from the area, particularly Connecticut College and the Coast Guard Academy, both in the New London area. George White will be part of the Lincoln Center International Festival in New York, which will involve more than just O'Neill. but O'Neill will be an important part of it in 1988. Sally also announced plans for an O'Neill Centennial Medal, something along the lines of the Franklin Mint sort of thing, and all Society members will be informed later. There will also be a dedication of the one-and one-half lifesize statue of young O'Neill at the shore in New London on the centennial of O'Neill's birth, October 16, 1988.
Jackson Bryer reported on the reluctance of theatre professionals to do O'Neill plays, something that was revealed at the October meeting in New London. One way of addressing the problem, and of increasing public awareness of and interest in O'Neill, is to seek cooperative ventures by groups of theatres near to each other. If each agreed to do a different O'Neill play in 1988, they could arrange a multi--theatre package deal for their subscribers. In that way, a subscriber to one of the theatres could, for an additional payment, attend three, four, or more O'Neill productions in the course of the year. Each theatre's O'Neill houses would be fuller, and the O'Neill cause in general would be aided immeasurably.
Jackson was asked about the proposed Centennial volume. He responded that several people have sent in ideas and manuscripts and work will be undertaken soon. It is hoped that articles can be of a scholarly nature as well as from the viewpoint of theatre practice. Fred Wilkins expressed interest in the possibility of some sort of Society-sponsored booklet that would contain a biographical sketch, brief summaries of all the plays in the canon, illustrations from productions, and a reading list. He also reported that two publishers are interested in the volume of selected essays from the two Boston O'Neill conferences. He is currently working with Yvonne Shafer to assemble the volume.
Allan Wood of the American Society for Theatre Research will be presenting O'Neill material at the ASTR meetings in Columbus, OH. Interested individuals should contact him, although O'Neill will not be the only emphasis.
The question was raised about how various theatre groups throughout the country could be encouraged to do O'Neill plays during the Centennial. Suggestion was made that Society money could be devoted to this good cause. Modern Drama and Theatre Survey both plan 1988 issues devoted to O'Neill.
Gene Hanson inquired as to whether the Newsletter might consider another name. Fred replied that changes in format and title have been under discussion. Perhaps it is something to think about for 1988, but the Newsletter will probably remain as at present for another year.
The meeting adjourned at 1:30 p.m.
II. Secretary's Report for 1986.
The Society closed the 1986 year with 180 members, a net gain of 32 or about 20% over the 1985 membership. In the seven years of our existence we have gained 118% over our initial charter membership of 82. Renewal rate was exceptionally high; we lost only 9 members from 1985. With ten foreign countries represented, our international reputation, particularly in the Orient, where we are establishing a second International Secretary, continues to grow, and Japan has contributed our first lifetime member. We have had an inquiry from a theatre group in Costa Rica named for O'Neill expressing eagerness to join.
During 1986 29 members chose the joint membership with Tao House. So far, 18 members who have sent. in 1987 renewals have taken joint membership.
The Secretary frequently receives inquiries about O'Neill's life and works, including verification of quotations. The most startling inquiry came from the White House, asking about an O'Neill statement on tragedy and life for possible inclusion in a Presidential speech. With the quick aid of Virginia Floyd the statement, quoted by Doris Falk in her Eugene O'Neill and the Tragic Tension (pp. 112-113), was located and telephoned back within minutes--but so far no further word as to its ultimate fate.
For the first time, the Society placed advertisements in two major publications: three appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education, from which at least three inquiries have already resulted: and two will appear, one in spring and one in summer 1987, in The Drama Review.
The Society supported the highly successful Boston conference on O'Neill's later years at Suffolk University in late May with cash and high membership attendance and participation.
We continue in good shape, constantly growing, financially sound. It would be nice to reach 200 members in 1987.
Respectfully submitted by Jordan Y. Miller, Secretary.
III. Financial Report, 1/1/86-12/31/86.
Respectfully submitted by Jordan Y. Miller, Acting Treasurer
IV. Looking Ahead.
Jordan Miller will chair the special session on O'Neill at the 1987 Modern Language Association Convention in San Francisco at the end of December. The subject is "Eugene O'Neill and the Orient," and the speakers are expected to include Frederic I. Carpenter, Ouyang Ji. Frank R. Cunningham, James A. Robinson and Normand Berlin. In addition to that session and the Ninth Annual Meeting, whose dates and times should be available by the next issue of the Newsletter. there will he a special, members-only visit to Tao House, hosted by Travis Bogard and the members of the Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Tao House. Members who joined in the last visit will attest that the word "special" is truly appropriate, and much additional renovation has gone on in the intervening years. The chance to Lour the birthplace of O'Neill's late masterworks is sufficient reason alone lo join the Society in 1987---or to rejoin if you haven't done so already.
At the following MLA Convention, to be held in New Orleans in late December 1988, the O'Neill session subject--if it can be called that--will be "Centenary Essays on Eugene O'Neill." Its chair, Fred Wilkins, welcomes suggestions for a happier title--something that smacks as much of the celebratory as the cerebral---and hopes that the program will be fairly evenly divided between scholarly and theatrical emphases. If pressed, he would confess an eagerness :o solicit the work of "new voices" in O'Neill studies; but naturally all submissions and suggestions will be greeted will equal cordiality. ---FCW.
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