LAZARUS LAUGHED

by Eugene O'Neill

From Travis Bogard: Contour In Time

"Lazarus is O'Neill's deeply-felt attempt to create a serious religious play, expressing a view, a belief, that would serve both the scientific and religious concerns of the modern world. He called it "a play without a plot". It is rather an apocalyptic journey. Lazarus is risen from the dead by Jesus, bringing to the world a message, that there is no death. But he also brings a laughter which effects those who hear it, leading them away from all institutional life and its values. In Athens, Lazarus is acclaimed Dionysus, newly risen from Hades. Caligula, sent to escort him to Tiberius Caesar, is captivated and writhes in love and hatred. But once inside the palace of Tiberius the odyssey climaxes in a long day's journey into inferno."

"Even after O'Neill relapsed from the religious beliefs of his youth, he continued to feel the need of a God to center the chaos of human affairs. In Lazarus what he offers as the core belief for modern man appears to be based on the idea that matter cannot be destroyed, that energy is eternal. O'Neill found intimations of immortality and made it the basis of Lazarus' doctrine: "As dust you are eternal change and everlasting growth".

"O'Neill discusses the meaning of the work in a letter to Arthur Hobson Quinn: "The fear of death is the fear of all evil, the cause of all man's blundering unhappiness. Lazarus knows there is no death there is only change. He is reborn without that fear. Therefore he is the first and only man who is able to laugh affirmatively. His laughter is a triumphant Yes to life in its entirety and its eternity. His laughter is too noble to desire personal immortality, it wills its own extinction, it gives its life for the sake of eternal life. His laughter is the direct expression of joy in the Dionysian sense, the joy of a celebrant who is at the same time a sacrifice in the eternal processes of change and growth."

Eugene O'Neill completed Lazarus in May, 1926. He regarded it as "the highest writing up till that time of which he was capable". He subtitled the work, "A play for an imaginary theatre" and until now it has remained, largely imaginary. It has never had a professional production. There were a few incomplete college productions which omitted many of his theatrical requirements, but the full resources of the professional theatre have never been given to it. O'Neill called for the most staggering technical requirements imaginable, requiring at least 160 actors, crowds, several choruses, in which the audience "could be caught up enough to join in the responses-- the laughter and chorus." Thus participating in the play as they would in a religious ritual.

Directed by: Ed Hastings
Sound Design and Technical Production: James McKee
Chorus Director: Barney Jones
Artistic Director: Travis Bogard
Music composed & Directed: Lou Harrison
Producer: Erik Bauersfeld

Cast

Lazarus: Robert Foxworth
Caligula: René Auberjonois
Tiberius: Sydney Walker
Miriam: Barbara Bain
Pompeia: Fredi Olster
Crassus: Ray Reinhardt
The Father: William Patterson
The Priest: Will Marchetti
The Jew: Luis Oropeza
Mary: Joy Carlin
Marcellus: Rick Hamilton
Flavius: Steven Barr
Centurian: Charles Hyman
Martha: Christianne Hauber
Guest: Dean Goodman
Greek: Andrew Dolan
Senator: Jack Shearer


Length: 1hr 50 Minutes

Listen: Earshot