|Bound East for Cardiff
By Eugene O'Neill
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Drama, one act. Originally titled "Children of the Sea," one in a series of four one-act plays known as "S.S. Glencairn." The other three plays are "Moon of the Caribees," "The Long Voyage Home," and "In the Zone."
First production of the Provincetown Players at the Wharf Theatre on Cape Cod, Provincetown (MA.) Playhouse, July 28, 1916.
|Eugene O'Neill and wife.|
YANK (George Cram Cook)
THE SECOND MATE
Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) was born in New York on West 43rd and Broadway. He spent his early childhood accompanied by his mother and brother in following his father, actor James O'Neill, to different cities. O'Neill attended Princeton but left to prospect in the Honduras. In 1909-1910, he contracted malaria, and arrived back to the United States, working at a theatrical touring company. He later returned to the sea and journeyed to locales such as South America and South Africa. He obtained a job at his father's theatrical company, but then left to work on a newspaper.
In 1912, he was afflicted with tuberculosis and he wrote plays while recuperating in a sanitarium. After leaving the sanitarium, he enrolled in Professor George Pierce Baker's Harvard playwrighting class, an innovative course during this time. In 1916, he joined the Provincetown Players, a theatrical group that encouraged new ideas and noncommercial theatre.
O'Neill wrote at least 13 major short plays and 24 major long plays, excluding the works he left undone or that he destroyed. His first play was "Wife for a Life" in 1913, which was categorized as a vaudeville sketch. Other plays included "Beyond the Horizon," which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1920. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936.
O'Neill's life was apparently tumultuous, as he suffered from physical illnesses, complicated family relationships, depression, suicidal thoughts, and problems with alcohol and drugs. His desire to understand suffering is present in his theatrical works, with his focus on purpose in life and death. He wrote:
"The playwright of today must dig at the roots of the sickness of today as he feels it --- the death of the old god and the failure of science and materialism to give any satisfactory new one for the surviving primitive religious instinct to find a meaning for life in, and to comfort its fears of death with. It seems to me that anyone trying to do big work nowadays must have this big subject behind all the little subjects of his plays or novels, or he is scribbling around the surface of things." (quoted in Joseph Wood Krutch's "The American Drama since 1918," copyright 1939.)
Yank is a seaman on the S.S. Glencairn, and he is seriously injured in a fall. The others aboard offer him encouragement, not wanting him to suspect he is in fact dying. After Yank asks, "Who's that?" in reference to a "pretty lady dressed in black" no one else can see, he dies.
|K.C. Yacio's Theatre 61113 Project|
This early play presages O'Neill's long esteemed career, in its themes as well as in its exacting dialect. O'Neill was a perfectionist, which may explain why he felt compelled at times to destroy some of his works.
This play addresses the seeming futility of life and death, that nothing has any resolution. In Yank's words:
"This sailor life ain't much to cry about leavin' --- just one ship after another, hard work, small pay, and bum grub, and when we git into port, just a drunk endin' up in a fight, and all your money gone, and then ship away again...travelin' all over the world and never seein' none of it, without no one to care whether you're alive or dead. There ain't much in all that that'd make yuh sorry to lose it..."
Yank then wonders if a life on "dry land" would have been more stable and fulfilling. However, one wonders if, had Yank not lived his life out at sea, would he have questioned his life's course then also? He may have then regretted not pursuing the possible adventure that the sea could have brought him.
. Bordman, Gerald, "Oxford Companion to American Theatre," New York: Oxford, 1984.
. Bronner, Edwin, "Encyclopdia of the American Theatre 1900-1975," New York: A.S. Barnes, 1980.
. O'Neill, Eugene, "Complete Plays 1913-1920," New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1988 (notes on plays by Travis Bogard).
. Wilson, Garff B., "Three Hundred Years of American Drama and Theatre," Englewood, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982.
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