Sunday, May 23, 2010

Eugene O'Neill playbill

I've got about half-a-dozen drafts of blog posts cooking here and none of them ready to serve up. I wanted to post something and keep the blog alive, so I reviewed some of my old posts on another ephemera blog and found something appropriate.

This is a 1963 playbill for Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night, which I found tucked away inside a worn copy of the book of the same title. The play was being performed at the McCarter Theatre of Princeton University during October and November of that year. As a playbill, there's nothing remarkable or interesting about it, except it features an up-and-coming young actress in the play and a concert ad for a young singer-songwriter beginning to make his mark in the music world.

First, the ad. Flipping through the program I came across a concert ad for Bob Dylan, "America's newest folksong sensation" appearing in person November 16th, his only college appearance that fall. And shouldn't that be "America's newest folksinging or folksinger sensation?"

Grammatical correctness aside, as I flipped through the pages, I also found the star of the play, whose photo on the front cover I hadn't recognized... Olympia Dukakis. Ahh, I thought she looked familiar.

So what else might be in this playbill? More plays that Ms. Dukakis was starring in, plus an ad for a famous Russian puppeteer, Sergei Obratsov.

A good bit of celebrity packed into this little college playbill. But I'm intrigued most by the Bob Dylan ad, being a big fan of his music. Trying to find some cosmic coincidence of fate for pairing Dylan with this early '60s playbill, one has to look no further than the play's 1912 character, Mary Tyrone (Olympia Dukakis) and her drug addiction (morphine). And it was drug addiction, or the drug culture and drug usage, that permeated and partially characterized the artistic, political, and philosophical counter-cultural movements of the 1960s.

Maybe that's a stretch, but, at any rate, the Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, who became a somewhat reluctant icon for his generation, had recently recorded his second album. His appearance at Princeton, one of the earliest solo concerts of his brief career at that point, would occur a mere six days before President Kennedy's assassination. The seeds of his enormous success and cultural influence and the wave of counter-culture revolution were, at that time, blowin' in the wind.

1963 album cover for Dylan's second album

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