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Thirst

1913

O'Neill's small melodrama of the Dancer, the Gentleman, and the Sailor cast away on a raft surrounded by sharks on a tropical sea was an early attempt at a mood piece in the style later perfected in The Moon of the Caribbees. The mood is reduced to absurdity as the three characters in turn fall off the raft's edge to become shark bait. What little interest the play has is in the use of a chant a charm against the sharks hummed by the West Indian sailor. The role in the first production of the play at Provincetown in 1916 was taken by O'Neill himself. (Legend has it that he was cast because he had an adequate tan for the role.) What song he sang is unknown. He also required himself to sing "A happy Negro melody that mocks the great silence" of the deserted sea. The Dancer is required to sing a fragment of a British music hall song.

The chant suggested for The Moon of the Caribbees will serve for the Sailor's chant. "Knocked 'Em in the Old Kent Road," called for in The Iceman Cometh, is a British music hall ballad.

 

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