Mr. O'Neill Writes a "Revolting" Play
"Is you a nigger, Nigger? Nigger, is you a nigger?"
One adolescent Negro, in a play by Eugene O'Neill, takes another adolesscent Negro by the throat, asks those questions, and is answered in the affirmative. There is drama in the affirmation.
It is a drama of miscegenation, called All God's Chillun Got Wings. A black man marries a white woman. The marriage fails.
The dramatic miscegenation will shortly be enacted in the Provincetown Playhouse, Manhattan, by a brilliant Negro named Paul Robeson and a brilliant white named Mary Blair. The producers are the Provincetown Players, headed by Eugene O'Neill, dramatist; Robert Edmund Jones, artist, and Kenneth Macgowan, author. Many white people do not like the idea. Neither do many black.
The play will carry the fated pair through their early days in Manhattan slums. After a short time spent happily in Europe where "soul is soul regardless of skin," the pair will return to enact the second and final act in an apartment owned by the Negro's wealthy parents. Ella, the white wife, will love her husband but hate his race. Her nerves will run out to insanity as he struggles in vain to pass his examinations at the Law School. She will prowl about with a carving knife and interfere with his study. She will go quite mad. He, finally despairing, but still adoring her, will play games with her as he did when they both were little tots. Neither of them will have been able to stand the gaff. So, curtain.
Paul Leroy Robeson, of the 1918 Rutgers football eleven, was on Walter Camp's all-American eleven. Incidentally, he was Phi Beta Kappa, with one of the highest scholastic records ever made at his Alma Mater. He is also a graduate of Columbia Law School, but theatrical interests have so far kept him from the practice of Law. As an amateur, he has played the title role in Simon the Cyrenian, by Ridgely Torrence, and the leading male role in Taboo, opposite Margaret Wycherly in Manhattan and Mrs. Patrick Campbell in England. For some weeks he was a professional in the big black musical success, Shuffle Along. Two years ago, he married Miss Eslanda Cardozo Goode, colored, Assistant Pathological Chemist at the Presbyterian Hospital, Manhattan.
Robeson is generally spoken of as "a good fellow." Of the play he says: "It is not sensational. It is a beautiful and moving play."
Mary Blair is playing in the current Provincetown production Fashion. She was at one time associated with the Washington Square Players. She played in the insect comedy The World We Live In, and has appeared in others of Mr. O'Neill's plays, notably Diff'rent and The Hairy Ape. When Mr. O'Neill was writing All God's Chillun, so the story goes, he had her definitely in mind for the part. Unfounded press reports to the effect that other actresses had been offered and had refused the part were denied by the actresses themselves, but their denials have been swallowed up amid all the other publicity and controversy the play has occasioned.