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February 11, 2002

O'Neill play highlights symposium on family

By Deb Hammacher


Theater Emory will present Eugene O’Neill’s valentine to the American family, Ah, Wilderness!, from Feb. 15–March 2 as part of a project sponsored with the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life (MARIAL Center) that examines the American family throughout the 20th century.

Beginning with O’Neill’s coming-of-age comedy, Theater Emory will investigate stage portrayals of the family during that time. Wilderness is a portrait of the Miller Family in the Connecticut summer of 1906.

“It is a play about relationships,” said director John Ammerman, associate professor of theater studies. “I see it as a study of the ways that families function—not just as a hierarchical unit—but as delicately interdependent entities.”

O’Neill described the play as “a comedy of recollections in three acts.” He fondly looks back to the world of his youth to depict a young man’s awakening to worldly ideas and the fascinations of the opposite sex.

The cast includes professionals Lisa Paulsen (assistant professor of theater studies), Steve Coulter, Lynna Schmidt, Bruce Evers and Damon Bogges. Jonathan Rosenblit plays the Miller’s youngest son. Emory students Raife Baker, Michael Pahr, Brian Crawford, Lauren Gunderson, Alex Newell, Nicole Sheres, Lynne Tucker and Gabriel Viñas complete the cast.

Wm. Moore is set designer, Marianne Martin is costume designer, and Judy Zanotti is lighting and sound designer.

In conjunction with the play, Theater Emory and the MARIAL Center will present “Staging the American Family: A Symposium on the Evolution of the Idea of Family in 20th Century Drama” Feb. 24–27. All events take place in the Mary Gray Munroe Theater. Wilderness! tickets range between $7.50–$15, but all other symposium events are free and open to the public.

Symposium events include:

• Sunday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m.: Keynote lecture, “Our Imagined Families: The Myths and Rituals We Live By” given by Rutgers University historian John Gillis. He is a noted historian of the family who has written several books on family history; the most recent is A World of Their Own Making: Myth, Ritual and the Quest for Family Values.

• Monday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m.: “The American Family on Stage: A Decade-by-Decade Look at the Evolution of the Family.” Presentation of scenes from a play from each decade.

• Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m.: Michael Goldman, professor emeritus of English at Princeton University, offers a critic’s context for the scenes of family life, which will be restaged in some fashion from the previous evening. One of the most distinguished American drama critics, Goldman has twice received the prestigious George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism.

• Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 7:30 p.m.: “Myth America: Diverse Arenas of Mythmaking on the American Family.” Panel discussion, including Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang, advertising and “idea man” Joey Reiman, Gillis and Goldman.

After the Feb. 15 opening-night performance at 7:30 p.m., Wilderness will be performed Thursday–Saturday at 8 p.m. through March 2. Matinee performances (3 p.m.) are scheduled for Feb. 17, 24 and March 2. Admission is $15, Emory students with ID are admitted half-price.

For more information, call 404-727-5050 or send e-mail to