header top_gradient

Brian Dennehy

Brian Dennehy at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s Festival,
“Eugene O’Neill: The Irish and the Yankees,” Waterford, CT, October 17, 2009.
Courtesy of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center

Dennehy: I can’t stand up to do this anymore, and I sure as hell can’t do it from memory, so you’re going to have to bear with me. The acoustics are not sensational in here, so I’ll try to make it up. Now, for those of you who may not know, Long Day’s Journey, which has been called by many, including Tony Kushner and Arthur Miller, the greatest American play… [Theater Center Executive Director Preston Whiteway: And if we could not have flash photography while he’s doing his reading—we’ll be doing some talk-back afterwards, so we can do it then.]

Dennehy: It doesn’t bother me. I mean if you can stand it, I can stand it. Anybody who wants to take my picture has definitely got some problems of…self-hatred, I would think. Anyway, O’Neill….This was about O’Neill’s family and about events which took place probably two miles from here at Monte Cristo Cottage in the summer of …1912? [Audience: Yes.] August, 1912. And, of course, it was written some, probably some ten years before he died. Unfortunately, he was stricken with this mysterious disease which probably had a lot to do with his very severe drinking, which had gone on many years before. Stephen Black, one of his biographers, has an interesting idea that it wasn’t so much the amount of drinking, although there was a great deal of that, but the fact is in the turn of that century—1900, 1905, 1910—in the circles in which O’Neill was hanging out, a place called Jimmy the Priest’s, a bar down the lower West Side of Manhattan, pretty close to where the Twin Towers were, he spent a few years drinking—and this probably has some significance in his disease in later years—very very bad whiskey. And one of the most prolific shorteners of lives in those days was acute alcoholism. It actually killed people, people died from alcohol poisoning. And the theory is that that was part of his problem later on. It was a version of Parkinson’s Disease. He was stricken, for example, with Micrographia, which is a disease which makes it impossible to write except in very very small, tiny print. And, of course, he had to write longhand, he could not narrate his plays, and he couldn’t type them. And so he spent the last ten years of his life not writing at all, in increasing misery with Carlotta [Carlotta Monterey O’Neill, his third wife].