could both act and sing it and the script might be wasted completely if
you were not available.
Robeson ( 1898-1976), singer and champion of Negro rights, came to
prominence as an actor in a revival of O'Neill The Emperor Jones in 1925. Hoping to
secure him as the lead, Anderson here outlines a play based on Eneas Africanus ( 1919)
by Harry Stillwell Edwards ( 1855-1938), editor of the Macon (Georgia) Telegraph and
friend of Joel Chandler Harris. In Edwards's story Eneas, a former slave, wanders
through the southeastern states for eight years after the Civil War trying to locate his
home plantation, which is just south of Atlanta, supporting himself the while by
preaching and horse racing. His exploits are given in letters and newspaper accounts
sent to his former owner by people who have encountered Eneas, and the last episode
shows his happy arrival at the plantation with the owner's silver, including a wedding
cup that has been in the family since colonial days, on the wedding day of the owner's
Robeson rejected the play, saying he did not wish to perpetuate the stereotyped
image of the Negro as an Uncle Tom (letter to Anderson from Robeson's wife, March
29, 1939;T). Anderson and Weill worked on the play in 1939, then resumed and
completed it in 1945, changing the title to Ulysses Africanus. For the play, unpublished,
see Catalogue, pp. 78-79.
DEAR SIDNEY IT'S AN ENCHANTING SCRIPT PACKED WITH MORE SHEER
INTELLIGENCE THAN ANYTHING I'VE READ IN YEARS. IT SUFFERS A
LITTLE BUT LESS THAN YOU MIGHT THINK FROM BEING AN IDEA PLAY.
IT SEEMS TO NEED MINOR CLARIFICATIONS AND ON THE STAGE ITS
PROBABLY DEPENDENT ON BRILLIANT ACTING BUT IT'S CERTAINLY
WORTH THE INVESTMENT AND A PIECE OF WORK TO BE PROUD OF
Howard was the only one of the playwrights who had no play during the first
season of the Playwrights' Company, and to the relief of all the members he had just
finished a play for the second season, Madam, Will You Walk?
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Dramatist in America:Letters of Maxwell Anderson, 1912-1958.
Contributors: Laurence G. Avery - Editor, Maxwell Anderson - Author.
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press.
Place of publication: Chapel Hill, NC.
Publication year: 1977.
Page number: 86.
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