Posted by Robert Falls
Welcome to the Goodman’s blog for A Global Exploration: Eugene O’Neill in the 21st Century, a celebration of the greatest American playwright.
I am thrilled to curate this exploration of Eugene O’Neill which includes more than 100 artists from six theater companies around the world. The Wooster Group (New York City), Companhia Triptal (Brazil), The Hypocrites (Chicago), Toneelgroep (Amsterdam) and The Neo-Futurists (Chicago) bring their highly contemporary, inventive interpretations of O’Neill’s dramas to the Goodman’s Exploration through March 8. The centerpiece of the Exploration will be my production of Desire Under the Elms starring Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino and Pablo Schreiber.
This is a project that no other theater in the country would ever do or has thought of doing or would be crazy enough to even contemplate. We are able to do this exploration because we have more than 20 years of experience producing the work of Eugene O’Neill, who I think of as the American Shakespeare. He is America’s most influential and greatest playwright and we have had tremendous success with our productions of O’Neill’s difficult and complex plays. I wanted to force myself to think in new ways, so this production of Desire Under the Elms is a bit more extreme than some of my other work with O’Neill.
In my travels throughout Western Europe, I found theater that is a little more adventurous and less conservative and continues to push the envelope in directing, in design and in playwriting. What I wanted to do was to work with some of the artists who I think are the most interesting artists around and invite them to make the exploration with me about what Eugene O’Neill means in the 21st century.
I’m tremendously excited about the artists who will be visiting. From Amsterdam, Toneelgroep presents their production of Mourning Becomes Electra, directed by Ivo van Hove. This is going to be very exciting show for our audiences—it’s a unique chance to see the original Dutch actors working on a great play under a celebrated director. I also think that Companhia Triptal from Brazil is an extraordinary group of artists who have never performed outside of their native country. They have been committed to making the work of Eugene O’Neill for a number of years. They have presented their work in a variety of found spaces: garages, warehouses, lofts and alleys, and they have a profound, moving relationship with Eugene O’Neill that I think is extraordinary.
None of this would be possible without Elizabeth LeCompte and The Wooster Group, who is one of the premier American theater companies and a world-class theater devoted to avant-garde work. I think O’Neill would love Elizabeth LeCompte’s production of The Emperor Jones—and her work with Eugene O’Neill in general. She has been completely faithful to what he was trying to do, while bringing his plays into the 21st century using the experimental spirit of his work.
I thought it was very important to commission our own theater companies in Chicago to respond to the work of Eugene O’Neill. I am thrilled that Sean Graney of The Hypocrites and Greg Allen of The Neo-Futurists will be producing plays as part of the exploration. Their participation came out of a conversation with each director where I asked, “Which Eugene O’Neill plays do you love?” Sean Graney said, “I really, really love The Hairy Ape” and I said, “Fantastic, let’s work on The Hairy Ape together.” And much to my shock and horror, Greg Allen wanted to work on Eugene O’Neill’s longest and most difficult play, Strange Interlude, which is hysterical on every level. It’s really funny and it’s really over the top.
I hope to see you at the theater!
Goodman Artistic Director
For more information about A Global Exploration: Eugene O'Neill in the 21st Century, click here or call the box office at 312.443.3800.