Written by renowned playwright Eugene O'Neill in 1920, "Chris Christopherson" hasn't been performed in its entirety since then.
Whoa -- I learned this with some trepidation since I already bought a $100 Eugene O'Neill Festival ticket and plan to attend various festival functions scheduled this month in honor of his 125th birthday, including this play and O'Neill's "Anna Christie."
Christie was a far more successful 1921 rewrite of "Chris Christopherson" that won O'Neill his second Pulitzer Prize. "Anna Christie" was produced as a silent movie in 1923 and remade in 1930 starring Greta Garbo in her first talking picture.
So why have nearly 100 years passed since "CC" has been performed? "Is it a big yawner?" I wondered. The eponymous Chris C., a seafaring captain, is Anna's father. Looking over brief descriptions of the two plays, it appears that the first version is told in a 19th-century style, with Anna an innocent heroine who was abandoned by her father and had to make her own way in the world, while the rewrite portrays her bluntly as a former prostitute trying to turn her life around.
"This is the first time the two plays have been performed side-by-side. It's the same story in two different worlds of time," said Kari Doolittle, administrative manager of the Eugene O'Neill Foundation, based in Danville. "The joint program with Role Players Ensemble is generating a lot of interest."
Adding to the mix, the same cast members are performing in both plays. Doolittle said some festival attendees are traveling from as far away as Santa Barbara. Last year, the foundation celebrated the 75th birthday of Tao House, O'Neill's home in the Danville hills between 1938 and 1944, now called the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site. He lived there with his third wife, Carlotta Monterey, and wrote some of his most famous plays there, including "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and "The Iceman Cometh." He was not well enough to continue writing after he left Danville.
Site tours of the property must usually be arranged by appointment, and visitors arrive at the property by prearranged shuttles from the Museum of the San Ramon Valley. However, festivalgoers will get an opportunity to take a self-guided tour of Tao House on Sept. 26 and Sept. 29 before "Christopherson" performances in The Old Barn. The first shuttle departs at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 26, with the performance beginning at 8 p.m., and the house will be open from 1:30 p.m. Sept. 29, when the play begins at 3 p.m.
On Sept. 22, Tad Shay, a National Park Service lead ranger, will give a short guided tour of Tao House at 1:15 p.m. before a playwright/director's panel discussion of the two plays to be moderated by KQED's Michael Krasny at 2 p.m. (suggested donation is $10). Shuttles will begin at 1 p.m.
Performances of "Anna Christie," produced by Role Players and directed by George Maguire, are at 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sept. 20-21 and 2 p.m. Sunday and Sept. 22 at the Village Theater, 233 Front St. in Danville. Some tickets, priced from $20 to $28, were still available at press time. For further information, call 925-314-3466 or go to http://roleplayersensemble.com. And you can catch a screening of the 1930 film, "Anna Christie," at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Village Theater. Cost is $5 at the door.
O'Neill's "Chris Christopherson," directed by Eric Fraisher Hayes, is being performed in The Old Barn, with its new risers and seating, at the Tao House property, at 8 p.m. Sept. 26-28 and at 3 p.m. Sept. 29. Two gala champagne/dessert receptions on Sept. 27-28 are also slated. For further information, go to www.eugeneoneill.org or call 925-820-1818.
Contact Georgia Lambert at around- firstname.lastname@example.org.