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2015-2016 Season

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: Designer Statements

Posted on: June 3rd, 2016 by Roundabout

 

Tom Pye's set design for LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT

Tom Pye's set design for LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT

Tom Pye — Set Designer

Good research is always the best foundation for any design. In taking up the invitation to work with Jonathan Kent on Long Day's Journey Into Night, I felt compelled to go to the house that inspired Eugene O'Neill to write this play. I happened to be working in Boston at the American Repertory Theatre at the time, and so I travelled down the coast and spent a weekend in New London, Connecticut. It was a great opportunity to really soak up the atmosphere and architecture of the house and the town it is located in.

While I was there, I was extremely fortunate to be able to spend time with Robert M. Dowling and Robert A. Richter, two leading experts on O’Neill’s work and life, who generously shared their knowledge of O’Neill’s writing and its relationship to the house. The process of interpreting and reflecting on as much information as possible is always an important way for me to gain an understanding of the writing I design for.

Returning to my studio in the UK to work with Jonathan, it turned out to be very useful that one of us had seen O’Neill’s house and the other hadn’t. Jonathan responded to the text from a theatrical perspective, while I responded to the piece with the place in my mind. This enabled us to find a visual language to serve our staging that balances being “free” with the truth and at the same time reflects characteristics of the real building.

Perhaps this is most amplified in the final act where we explode the idea of the encroaching fog as a metaphor for the state of mind of the family and their descent into the numbing effects of alcohol and drugs. Their descent into dysfunction is echoed by the hazy disintegration of the house onstage.

Costume sketch for Mary Tyrone

Costume sketch for Mary Tyrone

Jane Greewood — Costume Designer

This is the fourth time I have designed costumes for Long Day's Journey Into Night. Each time, the process has been unique, but the challenge is the same: the characters need to look right for who they are, what they are doing, and where they are going. The story follows James Tyrone's family during the course of one day. During this day, the family's dirty linen is ultimately looked at from the point of view of each character.

For this production, the director Jonathan Kent and I discussed a desire for simplicity in the clothes, as a way to really focus attention on these characters. I pared away many of the decorative elements of the period and kept the color palette neutral to reflect the gray atmosphere of the day. In Act IV, the fog comes in and takes over. In a similar fashion, I thought of these clothes as a play on shadow and light; strong, simple silhouettes in the fog.

Natasha Katz — Lighting Designer

I’ve always dreamed of designing the lighting for Long Day’s Journey into Night. Just the title alone is filled with lighting imagery. One of many ways that Eugene O’Neill immerses us in this profoundly moving play is through light and darkness, which affects the characters’ emotions and behaviors. This play takes place within one day, from 8:30 in morning until late into the night. Tom Pye has designed a beautiful set where we see the interior and exterior of the house while also seeing the outdoors.

At the beginning of the play, we see light streaming through the windows, breathing warmth, life, and optimism into the Tyrone family. As the day progresses and dwindles into night, shadows form inside and outside the house, making it harder for the characters to find their bearings. This is a family whose life secrets, memories, dreams, and addictions are hidden in the shadows of their minds. As the day fades into a foggy night, where the optimism of sunlight disappears, all these feelings become more apparent. My hope is that the lighting will not only guide the audience through time of day and weather but will also underscore the emotions of the characters as the day progresses and dwindles to night.

Gabriel Byrne and John Gallagher, Jr. in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT

Gabriel Byrne and John Gallagher, Jr. in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT

Clive Goodwin — Sound Designer

The cycles of addiction and disease, of a family constantly revisiting old fights and opening old wounds left by the past, which they are always unable to forget.
The repetitive mournful sound of the foghorn serves as a fitting reminder of these cycles that are created out of loneliness, even in the midst of a loving but bickering family. The footsteps heard overhead, echoes of a past that has walked back into their lives.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night seems to call for very little sonic embellishment, being instead focused on the familial interactions. This led me to realize that I had to concentrate on conveying the dialogue with an accuracy, clarity, and fidelity that would allow the audience to absorb themselves in the story as if they were invisible guests eavesdropping on the family.

The sound needed to be…well, almost silent! It needed to be unnoticeable, unobtrusive, and only transport what was already there—nearly always the goals of the sound design of a play—but careful enhancement, punctuated by our mournful foghorn and distant footsteps, would be how our family would be presented as they slowly disintegrate.

We shall have to see if the aim was true.


Related Categories:
2015-2016 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Upstage


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Edmund Tyrone: Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Pet

Posted on: May 31st, 2016 by Ben Hoover

 

EDMUND: It was a great mistake, my being born a man, I would have been much more successful as a seagull or a fish. As it is, I will always be a stranger who never feels at home, who does not really want and is not really wanted, who can never belong, who must always be a little in love with death!

Gabriel Byrne and John Gallagher, Jr. in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Gabriel Byrne and John Gallagher, Jr. in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (Photo by Joan Marcus)

As youngest son and inheritor to a family whom he neither wants nor wants him, Edmund believes his greatest mistake was being born a Tyrone. Guilty from birth, it would have been better to be born as anything other than a replacement for his deceased brother. But rather than a simple character, we are to believe Edmund as a cipher (meaning, a character who is a thinly veiled metaphor, or stand-in) for Eugene O’Neill. In this way, Edmund allows Eugene to absolve himself of guilt that he associates with his family. Through writing Long Day’s Journey Into Night, O’Neill seeks to pity his family, come to understanding them and his role within them, and ultimately forgive "all the four haunted Tyrones." In which, of course, O’Neill includes himself.

In one of O’Neill’s only comedies, Ah, Wilderness!, he writes a different cipher named Richard, who reads like a younger Edmund. Both plays, Long Day’s Journey and Ah, Wilderness!, are plays of reminiscence; however, the latter presents a version of childhood that O’Neill himself never experienced. With Wilderness!, Richard begins walking the long road to the bitter sorrow that Edmund continues to travel in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. But, undoubtedly, these characters are different versions of Eugene O’Neill, each an attempt to reconcile his life through his art.

In Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Edmund is home to spend the summer with his family after learning that he has contracted tuberculosis, or what was then known as "consumption." Beginning in the late 1870s, doctors were treating tuberculosis in facilities known as sanatoriums, located above sea level where atmospheric pressure was less. The then current medical rationale was that the lower the pressure was, the better the heart would be able to function and clear the lungs. After the discovery in 1943 that tuberculosis is caused by a bacterial infection, sanatoriums began to close. In 1912, when Long Day’s Journey Into Night is set, sanatoria were common throughout the United States, though the treatment was far from certain. Whether Edmund lives or dies in the future beyond Long Day’s Journey would have been a true unknown, making the future of the Tyrones equally uncertain. (Of course, we know that Eugene O’Neill lived beyond his own stint in a sanatorium and died from cortical cerebellar atrophy at the age of 65, without any pathological evidence of the Parkinson’s disease many others have claimed.)

Long Day’s Journey Into Night was written late in O’Neill’s life, shifting the focus from judgment to forgiveness. Can Edmund (Eugene) forgive his family? Does his family forgive him?

The above dramatic questions result in significant amount of blame being shared by the Tyrones, as each family member attempts to shift their guilt onto others. By the end, as each family member has revealed their sins to Edmund, we see the role that Eugene believes he has played in his life: that of a spectator and confessional, as vessel for his family’s unfortunate legacy.


Long Day's Journey into Night is now playing at The American Airlines Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit our website.


Related Categories:
2015-2016 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Long Day's Journey Into Night


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Gabriel Byrne and Jessica Lange in Long Day's Journey into Night. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Gabriel Byrne and Jessica Lange in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

 

On April 16, 2016, Rob Richter spoke about Long Day’s Journey into Night with education dramaturg Ted Sod as part of Roundabout Theatre Company’s lecture series.

An edited transcript follows:

Ted Sod: Rob, I wanted to start with some background information on how you got interested in Eugene O'Neill and his family.

Rob Richter: My first introduction to O'Neill was really as a teenager living in Westchester County. I would come into New York and see productions. I saw Liv Ullmann play the title role in Anna Christie; I saw Jason Robards perform in A Touch of the Poet. My father, who was a journalist, at one time thought he might be a theater critic and he loved O'Neill, so he gave me a paperback of O'Neill's seven one-act sea plays when I was studying theater as an undergraduate. I went to school at Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut, where Long Day’s Journey into Night is set. It's funny, during those school years I don’t really remember making a connection or going to the house or anything.

Fast forward a number of years and I was working at Mystic Seaport Museum, the maritime museum, in 1988, which was the centennial of Eugene O'Neill's birth, and naturally there was a lot of programming going on around O'Neill, and I was asked if I'd direct some of his sea plays at the museum. I chose Bound East for Cardiff, which is set in the crew quarters of a ship. And we did it in the crew quarters of a ship. I directed The Long Voyage Home, which is set in a sailors’ tavern, and we did it in a tavern. As I was reading those plays again, now with a background in maritime history, I thought, this guy knows what he's talking about. What I think theater practitioners would see as jargon, was hardcore detailed information.

Eugene O'Neill

Eugene O'Neill

I then became fascinated with how O'Neill came to know this information about the maritime world and be so detailed in his plays. I started work on a master's degree at Wesleyan University in American Studies and I decided my thesis would be the maritime influence on Eugene O'Neill.

And when you think about O'Neill's plays -- there are about 45 plays he authorized for publication and 20 or so of those deal in some way with sailors and the sea. Even in Long Day's Journey Into Night there is a monologue that the character Edmund has, in which he has a very strong connection with the sea.
After finishing my thesis, I thought I'd write a book. And so I started another year of research and writing and then I published Eugene O'Neill and Dat Ole Devil Sea. It's a title that just rolls off your tongue.

TS: What can you tell us about the Monte Cristo Cottage which is the setting for the play, Long Day’s Journey into Night?

RR: The Monte Cristo Cottage is in New London, Connecticut. It is right across the street from the Thames River and has a view of the harbor.

It was a house that James O'Neill cobbled together in a sense. It was originally used as a store on the first floor with living apartments on the second floor. And on the property there was also a one-room schoolhouse that he had moved and abutted to the main structure of the house. The action in the play actually takes place in that room, which was the schoolhouse.

The Monte Cristo Cottage

The Monte Cristo Cottage

In order to make it grand, James O'Neill had the ceilings raised on the first floor. And there are lots of windows. But on the second floor, he didn’t raise the roof so the living quarters are claustrophobic and cramped.

And if you read the stage directions in Long Day's Journey Into Night – O'Neill's stage directions are very detailed in all of his plays – he talks about the movement of the sun. The house faces the east, so it gets the morning sun. But there are really no windows on the back or west side of the house, so come midday it starts to go into shadow and by early evening, when it's still light outside, it's a very dark place.

TS: You mentioned Bound East for Cardiff earlier, which was really the first play of O’Neill’s to be produced – correct?

RR: It was produced 100 years ago in 1916 in Provincetown. And that play is really thought to be the beginning of a new American theater, a theater of realism. Prior to that, there was much more melodrama being produced. When I work with students today they think, what's the big deal with O'Neill? This type of theater and this realism is what we're just so familiar with nowadays. But he was really revolutionary and Bound East for Cardiff was the beginning.

TS: He was influenced by Chekhov, Ibsen and Strindberg. In fact, the Swedes adored him as I understand it?

RR: Chekhov, Strindberg and Ibsen were huge. A man by the name of Doc Gainey, who was very well traveled internationally, picked up that dramatic literature overseas and brought back with him. He shared that literature with O'Neill. That was O'Neill's first exposure to it. There was a group of young men, O'Neill and his contemporaries that was called the Second Story Club. They would gather at Doc Gainey's house on Main Street in New London, which is now Eugene O'Neill Drive; and they would play cards and smoke cigars, drink and talk. It was during these visits that O'Neill borrowed the literature.

TS: Can we talk about the 1920s for O'Neill and his family? I suppose we should explain that the character of Edmund in the play this afternoon is an avatar or stand-in for Eugene. But there was a brother named Edmund. Would you like to explicate that for us?

RR: Yes. Eugene had two brothers. Eugene was born in 1888. Jamie or James, Jr., was born 10 years earlier in 1878. And another brother, Edmund, was born in 1883. He died before Eugene was born. He died from the measles that he was exposed to from Jamie. Jamie had measles and he was told to stay away from the baby. Apparently he didn’t. Ella, his mother, and James, Sr. were on tour at this point, so their grandmother, Ella’s mother, was taking care of the children.

TS: In the play, O’Neill keeps the names for his father and brother the same and he uses his mother's first name – her name was Mary Ella in fact.

RR: Mary Ellen was her name.

TS: But they referred to her as Ella?

RR: Yes, yes.

TS: His father, who was a matinee idol, made an incredible amount of money for that time period touring in The Count of Monte Cristo, which is why the home was named after it. I read somewhere he was making about $40,000 a year.

RR: He was making a huge amount. He owned the rights to the script. He tried to step away from Monte Cristo, but audiences kept wanting him to come back to it. He performed in three or four Broadway productions of The Count of Monte Cristo. It was a great vehicle for him.

Jessica Lange as Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey into Night

Jessica Lange as Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey into Night

TS: He passed away in 1920?

RR: Right and it's an interesting time. It's a very poignant time in O'Neill's life because he is beginning to make it as a playwright. At this point, he's living in Provincetown. He's doing a lot of writing. Beyond the Horizon, which was his first full-length play, had just opened on Broadway in 1920. So that, in his father's world, would certainly be a sign of success. And then James fell ill and in 1920 he passed away. Mary Ellen passed away in 1922.

One thing that I'd like to point out is that Long Day’s Journey into Night is a moment in time in his life. And, at that time, his mother was addicted to morphine. She beat that. I think because the play is so well known there's not always the revelation that she beat it and had a successful life. After her husband died, she managed the real estate and did very well. And Jamie O'Neill, his older brother, who had been an alcoholic, dies in 1923. After the father died, he was on the wagon and was really a companion for his mother. But when she died, Jamie fell off the wagon, severely, and he basically drank himself to death.

So O’Neill is this acclaimed, emerging playwright on Broadway who wins a Pulitzer Prize for Beyond the Horizon and then for Anna Christie and he's losing all of his immediate family.

TS: He wins a third Pulitzer Prize for Strange Interlude the same decade, so his success is rather phenomenal throughout the '20s. He strikes up a collaboration with Paul Robeson and writes three plays for a leading black actor, which was unheard of at the time – do you agree?

RR: It was unheard of. In his play All God's Chillun God Wings, was the first interracial kiss in the American theatre. In his play, The Emperor Jones, which came first, it was the first mixed race cast. The character of the Emperor Jones was first played by Charles Gilpin, an African-American. The producing company had wanted to do it in blackface but O'Neill refused. So Gilpin was the first black actor playing with a white theater company.

Paul Robeson replaced Gilpin in the title role in the play and film and then went on to perform in All God’s Chillun. The Klu Klux Klan threatened the production of All God's Chillun, at various points, threatening O’Neill. His play Desire Under the Elms had to be performed in court before the censors, before it was allowed to open in Los Angeles. He was pushing the envelope for the American theater, American culture.

TS: He really wanted theater to say something, as opposed to being escapist or innocuous entertainment.

RR: He was really trying to talk about issues. For American literature and American drama, he was setting the trend. There were other movements and other art forms in terms of realism in the visual arts. He was part of that whole group of artists in Greenwich Village who were part of the Ashcan School, such as George Bellows, who was painting dock workers.

TS: I want to get to Ah, Wilderness!, which was written in the '30s I believe. He wrote it specifically so he could prove he could write a comedy, because his métier was tragedy. That play takes place in the same location, the Monte Cristo Cottage. Is he the stand-in for the main character?

RR: The main character of Richard in Ah, Wilderness!, which is also set in the Monte Cristo Cottage -- but they don’t refer to it as that -- is part of a much larger family. Richard is a really idealistic teenager who has been exposed to the avant-garde literature of Oscar Wilde and Swinburne and he has these revolutionary ideas, but he is also very naïve. Yes, there's parallels between O'Neill himself and Richard. But the father in Ah, Wilderness! is a newspaper editor.

There were two prominent newspaper families in New London. Judge Latimer was the editor of The New London Telegraph, and the McGinley family was involved with The New London Day, which still exists. O'Neill was friends with the McGinley family. It was a very large family. Judge Latimer from The Telegraph was a mentor to him as well. And so the character of the father is Latimer, but the family is probably the McGinleys.

TS: So it's literally a hybrid of people he knew and somewhat less autobiographical?

RR: It is definitely a hybrid. O'Neill talked about how it was the family that he wished he had been born into. When it opened on Broadway, the theater world was in shock because they were used to all of his dark dramas. All of a sudden he comes out with Ah, Wilderness!, this bittersweet comedy.

TS: In the late '30s O'Neill wanted to write an 11-play cycle about a family from the 1800s to modern times. Only two pieces survive because he abandoned the project and he told his third wife, Carlotta Monterey, to destroy everything. What survived was A Touch of the Poet and More Stately Mansions.

RR: A draft of More Stately Mansions, yes.

TS: When he abandoned that project he started on the more autobiographical plays like Long Day’s Journey, Moon for the Misbegotten and The Iceman Cometh.

RR: Right, and Iceman came first, then Long Day's Journey into Night, and then Moon for the Misbegotten.

Colby Minifie in Long Day's Journey into Night

Colby Minifie in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

TS: Now he finished Long Day's Journey in '41, and puts it in an envelope. He hands it to Carlotta as an anniversary present, and says, "I don’t want this published or produced until 25 years after my death." So, is this a first draft?

RR: I would say that O'Neill would probably say it is a draft. I wouldn't say it's a first draft. He worked on it but he didn’t consider a play complete until it went through a rehearsal process and then he made revisions during that process. He gave the play to Carlotta, but he also had given the play to Random House, his publisher. And he told Random House, "Put it in the safe, lock it away, I do not want this published until 25 years after my death. And I do not want it ever produced."

TS: What is the reasoning behind that – was it because of his children? He disinherited -- or really didn’t care for his children.

RR: He had a very strong relationship with Eugene Junior. Eugene Junior was part of his first marriage with Kathleen Jenkins. And that marriage and that birth took place prior to the events in Long Day's Journey into Night. So I'll leave it there.

TS: But can we tell them what happened to Eugene Junior? He ultimately committed suicide?

RR: Right, he committed suicide in 1950. And O’Neill passed away in '53. So Carlotta felt she was in charge of the estate so she had the power to take the script from Random House. She gave it to Yale to publish, and authorized production. First in Sweden and then here in the US. She said that since Eugene Junior was no longer living there were no other relatives that it would impact. But Oona was still alive, and Shane was still alive.

TS: Shane also committed suicide -- correct?

RR: Yes, he did. He was plagued by addiction.
RR: Oona married Charlie Chaplin when Chaplin was 54 and she was 18. He had both Oona and Shane with his second wife, Agnes Bolton.

TS: And was that really the reason that O’Neill never saw her again?

RR: There was a paternity suit against Chaplin at the time. So there's good reason for O’Neill not to want his 18-year-old daughter to be hanging out with Charlie Chaplin. But Charlie and Oona had a great life.

TS: And marvelous children.

RR: And children.

TS: I saw Victoria Chaplin, their daughter, do a circus piece in Seattle and it was just brilliant. She inherited her father's physical prowess. So Carlotta decides that she's going to transfer the play to Yale and she creates a scholarship for playwrights. From the royalties?

RR: Right.

TS: And then she makes the Broadway production happen with Jose Quintero directing?

RR: Yes. Jose Quintero had directed a revival of The Iceman Cometh. The first production bombed, and then the revival was very successful. That also pushed Carlotta to say, "You know I have this piece that no one knows about." And so she summoned Jose and said, "I want you to do this play."

TS: Did he direct the revival of The Iceman Cometh during O'Neill's lifetime?

RR: No, O'Neill had passed away. If Carlotta had not released Long Day's Journey into Night, O'Neill and his work might have gone into obscurity.

TS: Because we would not have gotten to read this play until 1978?

RR: Right.

TS: The play wins the Pulitzer posthumously. The first Broadway production is in 1956 with Fredric March and his real-life wife, Florence Eldridge.

RR: And Jason Robards is Jamie.

TS: Bradford Dillman is Edmund I believe. And we always forget the names of the maids.

RR: Right there's the poor maid.

TS: Unforgiveable. Who would like to ask a question?

Audience #1: My question is, I thought that A Moon for the Misbegotten was a continuation of this play. And I just wanted to know the connection between this play and that one?

RR: A Moon for the Misbegotten is Jamie's story after Mary Ellen, the mother, has passed away. It is Eugene trying to come to terms with his brother's death. He's writing this 20 years later, but wrestling with what happened to his brother. Jamie Tyrone or Jim Tyrone is the main character in A Moon for the Misbegotten. And it is also set in that New London community.

John Gallagher, Jr. and Michael Shannon in Long Day's Journey into Night

John Gallagher, Jr. and Michael Shannon in Long Day's Journey into Night

TS: But would it be considered a sequel or prequel to Long Days Journey?

RR: It would be a sequel.

TS: Because it happens after the action of today's play, which is about 1912?

RR: Yes, 1912. The real events of Long Day's Journey into Night happened in December of 1912. O'Neill sets the action of the play in August of 1912.

TS: And the idea that's addressed in the play is about Edmund, the character based on Eugene O'Neill, being diagnosed with tuberculosis. That really happened?

RR: Yes.

TS: And right after that, correct me if I'm giving misinformation, he was sent to a sanitarium for six months?

RR: Yes. He went to the Gaylord Hospital sanitarium in Connecticut for treatment of his tuberculosis. He was encouraged by Dr. Lyman there to write about things that he knew.

TS: I believe not long after that his father arranged for him to study with George Baker?

RR: Right. Baker was at Harvard and teaching a playwriting course. It's a two-year course, so he took the first year at Harvard.

Audience #2: Was A Moon for the Misbegotten also sequestered by O’Neill like Long Day's Journey?

RR: No, it wasn’t. O'Neill finished A Moon for the Misbegotten right at the end of World War II. And he felt it was too depressing to have this play done at the end of the war when people wanted to see optimistic things. So he was against having it produced. But the Theatre Guild encouraged him and it was produced out of town. One thing I also just want to note is O’Neill is the only American playwright to win the Nobel Prize for literature, and that happened in 1936, prior to writing what we call his great plays.

TS: Long Day’s Journey into Night is often considered to be his magnum opus, his masterpiece. It's usually uttered in the same breath with A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman as being one of the greatest American plays ever written. Is there anything else you want to say that we didn’t already discuss?

RR: Long Day’s Journey is a play you should just go along for the ride with. I think it's a great play. The big question for many people is, “How autobiographical is it?” I say it's inspired by O'Neill's life, but he's a playwright and he took license with it.


Long Day's Journey into Night is now playing at The American Airlines Theatre. For tickets and more information, click here.


Related Categories:
2015-2016 Season, A Conversation with, Education @ Roundabout, Long Day's Journey Into Night


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