O'Neill over A Tale of ...

This country is going to get it - really get it. We had everything to start with - everything - but there is bound to be a retribution. We've followed the same selfish, greedy path as every other country in the world. We talk about the american dream, but what is that dream, in most cases, but the dream of material things? I sometimes think that the united states, for this reason, is the greatest failure the world ever seen. We've been able to get a very good price for our souls in this country - the greatest price perhaps that ever been paid - but you'd think that after all these years, and all that man has been through, we'd have sense enough - all of us - to understand that the whole secret of human happiness is summed up in a sentence that even a child can understand. The sentence: "for what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

en uit een brief:

As to the new project, I’ll sketch it briefly for you. . . . It’s a cycle of seven plays portraying the history of the interrelationships of a family over a period of approximately a century. The first play begins in 1829, the last ends in 1932. Five generations of this family appear in the cycle. Two of the plays take place in New England, one almost entirely on a clipper ship, one on the Coast, one around Washington principally, one in New York, one in the Middle West. As to titles, the “Electra” pattern will be followed—a general title for the cycle, and one for each play. Each play will be, as far as it is possible, complete in itself while at the same time an indispensable link in the whole. (A difficult technical problem, this, but I think I can solve it successfully.) There will, of course, be much less hang-over of immediate suspense from one play to another than in “Electra,” Each play will be concentrated around the final fate of one member of the family but will also carry on the story of the family as a whole. In short, it is a broadening of the “Electra” idea—but, of course, not based on any classical theme. It will be less realistic than “Electra” in method, probably—more poetical in general, I hope—more of “Great God Brown” over and undertones, more symbolical and complicated (in that it will have to deal with more intermingling relationships)—and deeper probing. There is a general spiritual under-theme for the whole cycle and the separate plays make this manifest in different aspects.

And so on. I won’t give you more of that nature because prophecies on that score at this stage are subject to contradiction when actual writing comes. I’m only telling you from the way it shapes up in scenario. I’ve written detailed scenarios running to 25,000 words each of the first three plays, finished the outline but not the scenario of the fourth, and am now working on the outline of the fifth. I won’t start actual dialogue on the first play until I’ve completed the scenarios of all—that means late next Fall at the rate so far.

No religion to any of the plays except very incidentally as minor realistic details.

The family is half Irish, half New England in its beginning. But the New Englanders are a bit different from any I’ve tackled before—and so are the Irish.

How to produce? Nothing decided yet. The best scheme might be at the rate of two per season, keeping the past ones going, along with the new ones, in some sort of repertoire arrangement. A strictly no star company. The idea would be to build a repertoire company for this cycle. . . . I probably won’t let the first play be produced until I’ve got three plays finished and a first draft written on the remaining four.


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