THE MOON OF THE CARIBBEES AND SIX OTHER PLAYS OF THE SEA
New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919
|NOTES: Pencil drawing
by O'Neill of set for IN THE ZONE on cast of characters page. David Belasco's copy, with
Bolasco's bookplate and annotations by Belasco on first pages of IN THE ZONE. Signed
presentation copy to Robert Sisk.
INSCRIPTION: (On front free endpaper)
For Bob Sisk / All friendship! / Eugene O'Neill
David Belasco's attraction to IN THE ZONE might at first appear paradoxical. Belasco, the dean of the old-time Broadway managers, resented the attention being paid to experimental groups like the Provincetown Players. On January 7, 1917, the New York HERALD ran the headline, "David Belasco sees a menace to true art of the stage in toy playhouses and little repertory theatres." He stated that the "so-called new art of the theatre (was) but a flash in the pan of inexperience," and that it was "the wail of the incompetent and the degenerate." However, Belasco's interest in O'Neill's one-act play is not as strange as it might seem.
IN THE ZONE was first presented by the Washington Square Players on October 31, 1917. The play received good reviews, and O'Neill was approached with an offer to book the play on the Orpheum Circuit. Although he initially felt the vaudeville proposition was degrading, he finally accepted, deciding the money was too good to turn down. O'Neill received a $200 advance, and $70 a week in royalties, which he split with the Washington Square Players. IN THE ZONE was an immediate success and toured for thirty-four weeks. It was the first "big" money that O'Neill had made. While his play had started out as "new art" in a "toy playhouse," it ended up on an "old-time" tour making "old-time" money -- an item that would not have escaped David Belasco. In fact, IN THE ZONE toured the Orpheum Circuit at the same time that a Belasco production was touring the country. The play was THE WANDERER, and it starred an aging actor in his last role -- James O'Neill, Sr. -- O'Neill's father.
O'Neill may have made the pencil drawing in Belasco's copy of MOON OF THE CARIBBEES when he spent an afternoon with the manager early in the summer of 1925. (O'Neill was hoping to talk Belasco into producing MARCO MILLIONS.) Robert Sisk obtained the volume at a later date, with the O'Neill inscription to Sisk penned in the 1930's.
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