Where better to launch a monthlong retrospective on Eugene O'Neill than the Provincetown Playhouse, a venue where several O'Neill plays had their premieres?
After years of extensive renovations, New York's 80-year-old Provincetown Playhouse is becoming a working theatre again. The latest event, presented by the Playwrights Theatre, will be a major O'Neill retrospective, including readings, stagings, commentary by modern playwrights and a colloquium with O'Neill director Jose Quintero.
Starting things off, Aug. 4 and 5, will be a cabaret evening featuring Steve Ross (Present Laughter) and KT Sullivan (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). "The Eugene O'Neill Ragtime Revue" will feature popular songs used by O'Neill in 37 of his 49 plays.
Things get more serious Aug. 6-9, when such early O'Neill one-acts as A Wife For A Life, Thirst, Fog and The Web receive productions. Then, from Aug. 21-Sept. 11, O'Neill's very first completed play, Bread and Butter, will get what appears to be its world premiere staging. The piece is of special interest because it apparently has autobiographical elements that would later crop up in Ah, Wilderness! and Long Day's Journey Into Night.
A teaching forum with director Quintero happens Aug. 9-27, with the veteran of fifty Broadway and Off-Broadway productions discussing and commenting upon readings of passages from such O'Neill plays as The Iceman Cometh and A Moon For The Misbegotten. Another segment of the festival will offer fledgling playwrights penning their adaptations/"variations" on O'Neill plays -- to be critiqued by such major American theatre writers as David Henry Hwang (Aug. 12), A.R. Gurney (Aug. 19), and Peter Stone (Aug. 26).
The Provincetown Players were a group of American actors and playwrights founded in 1916 whose productions included the works of O'Neill and Susan Glaspell. The company spent their first season in Providence, RI, and then moved to the Playwrights' Theatre in NY's Greenwich Village (although they continued to do their summer plays in Providence). In 1918 they moved from the Playwrights' Theatre to another building on the same block -- a former stable that was thereafter known as the Provincetown Playhouse.
In 1929 the Provincetown Players disbanded -- but over the years the Playhouse has been home to diverse troupes and productions.
NYU owns the building, which is going to be used for the theatrical education of children and teens; in addition, NYU's Tisch School of the Arts plans to hold playwrighting workshops there. Young Eugene, a drama by NYU professor Lowell Swortzell about O'Neill's youth and early career, played at Provincetown in April. Ironically the drama, a production of the NYU Educational Theatre Program, took place on Nov. 20, 1920 -- the evening O'Neill's The Emperor Jones opened at the Playhouse.
For tickets ($12 for shows, $250 - $400 for the Quintero dialogues) and information on the O'Neill plays call (212) 279-4200.