THE EMPEROR JONES

by Eugene O'Neill


Artistic Director Travis Bogard from his volume Contour In Time: "The Emperor Jones parallels Ibsen's Peer Gynt; both plays are about fugitives, running in desperation through the shards of their lives toward a dimly seen salvation whose discovery depends on their learning their essential nature. Jones had risen by his own initiative from a lowly Pullman porter to the Emperor of a Caribbean island. But his rise ultimately involves his downfall. Jones has convinced the islanders that he has certain supernatural powers and that only a magical silver bullet can destroy him. But the islanders turn on him, using their own magic. In the course of Jones's escape to freedom he is haunted by visions of his personal and racial past. Finally he is forced to confront and destroy the ancient gods that claim him, using the silver bullet he meant for himself. When he is killed by the pursuing natives, he dies "in the height of style.

The Emperor Jones first opened at the Provencetown Playhouse in New York November 1, 1920. Charles S. Gilpin played Brutus Jones, the role subsequently taken over by Paul Robeson. It was the first important part written for a black actor in the American theatre.

 

Directed by: José Quintero
Recording & Sound Design by: Randy Thom
Artistic Director & Consultant: Travis Bogard
Produced by: Erik Bauersfeld

Cast

Brutus Jones:
  Joe Morton
Henry Smithers:
  Richard Riehle
Old Native Woman:
  Francine Martin
Jeff:
  Ronald William Martin
Lem:
  Abdul Salaam El Razaac
Ensemble:
  Steve Barr
    Doug Kelly
    Laurie Kempson
    Ronald Lawrence
    Bob Poynton
    Richard Riehle
    Debbie Tilton
    Yosheh

Length: 1hr. 28 minutes

Listen: Earshot

 

Review: Los Angeles Times by Ray Loynd:

Jones is powerfully rendered by Joe Morton. What's stunning about the production is the sound design by Academy Award winner Randy Thom. The crew went on location recording the show for desired acoustical effects among the boulders in the desert of Joshua Tree National Monument. You feel the presence of the jungle in a steamy way that not only separates the experience from a stage production but also enhances it until you're ready to jump into a war dance. Here's radio at its peak. It doesn't get any better than this.