Lost Plays of Eugene O'Neill

Lost Plays of Eugene O'Neill

Lost Plays of Eugene O'Neill

Lost Plays of Eugene O'Neill

Excerpt

Eugene O'Neill, the playwright, first came into view in 1916, at the Wharf Theatre in Provincetown, Mass. The story, often retold, is that someone had mentioned to Susan Glaspell, one of the group, that a young man had come to town with a trunkful of plays and she retorted: "We don't need a trunkful, but if he's got one good play, bring him around." "Bound East for Cardiff" was the immediate result. Other O'Neill productions quickly followed. Remaining manuscripts - the very bottom layer of the "trunkful" lay hidden away through the years. And here they are, brought to light at last, exactly as they were originally written and tossed into that magical trunk almost four decades ago.

We are not, like latecomers to a rich banquet, gathering leftovers from the table. Rather, we enjoy, from the vantage point of the plays here presented an Alice in Wonderland-like serving of the hors d'ouvres, the first course on the menu, last.

Every circumstance favored O'Neill beyond the good fortune of most writers. He had early served apprenticeship in the old theatre. He could sift and cull elements essential for his historical mission to remold the very face of our theatre in his own image.

Theodore Dreiser, earlier in the century had fought the first great round for realistic interpretation of the American scene. His "Sister Carrie" was throttled "aborning." But the indomitable warrior had bided his time and after ten years of enforced silence, was once more in the van of the struggle.

It was an impelling movement, more significant than any that preceded it, and would outlive the whole procession of literary fashions yet to come, dada-ism, futurism, impressionism, expressionism, existentialism, and all the other obscure isms, parasitic air-plant cults without roots anywhere, precious and perishable. The Dreiser school was an expression of ideals based on a collective American conscience - and since it had as its chief . . .

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