October 18th, 2011 | Culture

Beinecke acquires only known copy of lost O’Neill play

Portrait_of_Eugene_ONeill_3
Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

To its vast collection of Eugene O’Neill documents, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library has added another treasure – “Exorcism,” a one-act play that has been missing for over 90 years, according to a Tuesday afternoon press release.

The play, which was inspired by O’Neill’s 1912 suicide attempt in a New York boarding house, debuted in 1920. The playwright cancelled the production after only a few performances and tried to destroy all known copies of the script, possibly out of concern for the emotional health of his parents.

But “Exorcism” would not be exorcised. O’Neill’s second wife, Agnes Boulton, preserved a copy of the script and gave it as a gift to the writer Philip Yordan. A researcher working in Yordan’s papers found the typescript together with the envelope in which it had been given to Yordan.

The play will be published in book form by the Yale University Press and is currently being serialized by the New Yorker. The New Yorker has also produced a video of actor Tommy Schrider reading from the play.