Josey Wales: You a bounty hunter?
Bounty hunter: A man’s got to do something for a living these days.
Josey Wales: Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy.
Richard Nelson confesses he doesnâ€™t have a philosophy for teaching playwriting. Instead he offers as the criteria qualifying him as chair of the playwright program, the fact that he believes he is the first â€œworking playwrightâ€ in that position.Nelson begins his video presentation for the Yale School of Drama with a personal rendition of its legacy. Citing the playwriting program as the oldest in the country, he emphasizes that the founder, George Pierce Baker, was the teacher of Eugene Oâ€™Neill. He then singles out Oâ€™Neillâ€™s wife Carlotta and her bequest of the playwrightâ€™s papers, specifically the publication rights of Long Days Journey into Night, as the gift that keeps on giving to the program.
The infomercial is an enthusiastic mixture of hype, flimflam, and self-delusion with the implicit message that the young playwright enrolling for study at the School of Drama will be taught how to make his living writing plays. And like the schoolâ€™s patron, Eugene Oâ€™Neill, the playwright need not sacrifice his art to achieve this.
The ironies of using Oâ€™Neill as Yaleâ€™s patron abound. Although Oâ€™Neill did study playwriting under George Pierce Baker, it was at Harvard, and a full decade before the program at Yale began. But more, whatever talent Oâ€™Neill possessed in 1914, was negated by his submission to the jejune â€œdramatic techniqueâ€ of Bakerâ€™s teaching.
With the appointment of Richard Nelson and the institutionalization of his new product-oriented vision of playwriting, the biggest irony in flaunting Oâ€™Neill as patron is no longer simply an irony. The unpleasantness of Yaleâ€™s complicity in the bad faith exploitation of the playwrightâ€™s masterwork Long Days Journey into Night has never been called to task. Only with the help of Yale was Carlotta Oâ€™Neill able to usurp the playwrightâ€™s intent that the drama not be published until 25 years after his death and never be produced.
With this attitude and policy shift, the School of Drama flips completely on end the notion that the legacy of authors and dramatic literature is an act of commerce essentially within the realm of art and ideas. The â€œbountyâ€ of future playwrights will now be abridged into its most pede$trian value.