Sunday, August 5, 2007

For you, Greg

Are you reading Emperor Jones by Eugene O'Neill? It's pretty interesting, and really short as well. The play has got an interesting take on dialect, which you might find interesting (the dialect is really strange and out of place) and also a connection between african-american culture and Irishness. Jones is usually touted as the first play written by whites and performed by white theater troupes to feature a black character which is meant to be played by a black actor (not in blackface). It's got a pretty interesting run history, with Charles Gilpin being replaced by Paul Robeson when the play ran on Broadway. Anyway, this is from an article on Emperor Jones and race:
O'Neill may well have internalized the comparison between African and Irish Americans in a similar manner to the way in which Dyer feels kinship with black men on the basis of his own discrimination. O'Neill's father James certainly identified with black men in his own curious way. In 1874, just before the outburst of black-Irish satire, James O'Neill achieved what he later conceived of as the pinnacle of his career: playing Othello (in the requisite blackface) opposite Edwin Booth's Iago. Later in his life, James would directly compare his own marriage to Mary "Ella" Quinlan to that of Othello and Desdemona. Conceiving of himself as the lowly outsider marrying into beauty, money, and elite (read: white) power, James frequently launched into Othello's defense of his "seduction" of Desdemona when in the later stages of a drinking bout. 40 In his own writings, O'Neill literally cast himself in the role of the tragic mulatto figure: in All God's Chillun Got Wings (1924), the first play with an interracial couple on the Broadway stage, O'Neill named the interracial couple after his parents Jim and Ella.