welcome index register

Leon's Productions
Alice In Wonderland
The Hairy Ape
Martini Ceremony
Moby Dick (Norfolk)
The Sea
The Grapes Of Wrath
Moby Dick (Alaska)
The Tempest
Moby Dick (Japan)
THE HAIRY APE Eugene O'Neill
The Stables Theatre, Norfolk VA. April 20 - 27, 1997
Directed by Leon Ingulsrud
Set by Konrad Winters
Lights by Phil Watson
Sound by Leon Ingulsrud
Costumes by Stephanie Davis

This was the first of what was to be many productions at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. It was also the first production in an ongoing investigation of the nature of America, and American culture. As in many productions that I direct, we made no cuts in the text, not because of an exagerated sense of reverence for Eugene O'Neill, but rather out of an interest in hearing music of the text.
Director's Note:
The Sea has an intrinsic and elemental link to the American psycie. For all but the indigenous inhabitants of North America, crossing an ocean was the only way to get to America. An ocean voyage is the prelude to any American adventure. With this in mind, it shouldn't surprise us that for many of the artists who laid the foundation of American cultural heritage, the sea was a fertile setting if not an image all to itself. O'Neal, like Melville before him, knew the sea from first hand experience of life aboard ship. The young O'Neill had found, when he first felt a ship rolling under him, the first profound sense of “belonging” in his life.
There is something in this “belonging” to a place that is neither here nor there, a point of reference in the vast abstraction of the sea, that is deeply American. Never quite at peace with the ground under our feet Americans have always pushed westward or upward or wherever the status quo isn't.
The positive manifestation of this has been things like the “Frontier spirit” and the “Spirit of innovation”. The flip side is that we find ourselves with little material with which to construct a cohesive identity.
Inspired by a suicidal stoker who O'Neill actually met, Yank is O’Neill’s everyman. His nickname suggests it, his real name (Bob Smith) hammers it home. O'Neill is talking about all Americans. Yank begins the play with a place in the world order. He belongs. He is integrated into, and in fact dominates, what he sees as the lifeblood of his universe. He is potent, proud and powerful. It is not trivial that O'Neill has set Yank’s universe in the bowels of a ship in the Atlantic.
But when Mildred Douglas sees him in the height of this essence, she sees him for what he is: A stoker at best, if not, a filthy beast.
The simple act of observation acts on Yank as on a subatomic particle: he is irrevocably changed. He no longer belongs. Like Adam he is aware of his own nakedness and must leave the garden. The illusion of belonging drops away and he becomes aware that he is fatally caught between earth and heaven. Unable to deny his animal self and incapable of reconciling with society he is destroyed.
The play is not a political play. It is a morality play without a moral. It has no lesson. It is a meditation on the state of humankind as epitomized in the struggle of this quintessential American.
The Hairy Ape is not a tragedy. In the classical sense, a tragedy requires a hero of high standing. Since Yank is an everyman, O'Neill has accurately, however ironically, designated the play as a comedy.

Please feel free to contact Leon if you have any comments or questions.


© 2002 Leon Ingulsrud. All rights reserved. Site hosted through Third Culture Enterprises.