The aspects of the director that I tackled in my research were the overall vision for the show (contained in the Director’s Note), the show’s cast (a breakdown can be seen in the character list), and the order in which the plays are going to be performed (shown in the Playbill). Like the dramaturge, I made many directors’ notes in the scripts, but they cannot be uploaded effectively.
SS Glencairn presents an interesting challenge for the modern director for many reasons. Some of these include: nearly every line being spoken in a thick dialect, maritime language being thrown all over the place, hordes of characters popping in and out of the scene, the order of their production being indeterminate, and, in many of the shows, nothing extraordinary happening.
The first problem, that of accents, is certainly the most perplexing. Removing them would not only strip the plays of their charisma but also require editing every single line of dialogue. Instead, I think the best approach will be to work with the actors to develop a few different yet manageable accents (RP, Cockney, Scandinavian, Irish, and Caribbean) and then fit the much more varied accents in the text (Liverpool Irish, Country English etc…) to those broader categories. With regards to maritime language, every effort will be made to keep those words in the script, but if they make absolutely no sense they will have to be cut.
To counter the problem created by the 27 different speaking characters that occur across the four plays, nearly all the parts will be double cast. The six main sailors who appear in all (or at least most) of the shows will be single cast because of their importance to the story, but all the other sailors, the men at the bar, and all of the women will play multiple roles. This will mean many actors with multiple accents to learn, but this might be a blessing in disguise because it will help to create a clean separation between their characters.
Much of the determination of the order in which these four one-acts should be performed is necessarily due to character availability in the plot progression, but a lot also has to do with thematic elements. The Moon of the Caribbees serves as a good introduction to the cycle because it shows how desperate the men are to get some relief from their life on board the Glencairn and how violent and cruel they are. Bound East for Cardiff will then serve to undercut this notion, showing how devoted the sailors are for one another. Cardiff also continues the illustration of the rough life aboard the boat and the uncaring superior officers. Next, The Long Voyage Home takes the seamen off the Glencairn to see how the rest of the world views them and how they might never escape from the pull of the sea. Finally, In the Zone locks the characters in the most heated conflict yet and ends the story with the O’Neill’s semi-autobiographical plot section.
But despite their problems, these plays can (and have) been performed in beautiful, funny, and heart-wrenching ways. I think those three adjectives best describe what I envision for this production. The problem is that on the surface the plays are ugly, tragic, and un-relatable. Who in the 21st century has ever been on a tramp steamer? How many of those few know what it feels like to hate the bo’sun? But luckily, O’Neill’s texts do not fight against interpretation. With a few well-placed cuts and some re-imaginations, these century-old plays will come to life.
Principal Seamen Male Ensemble Female Ensemble
Yank Scotty /Rough 1 Bella
Driscoll Big Frank / Fat Joe Pearl / Freda
Cocky Jack / Rough 2 Susie / Meg
Olson Paddy / The Captain Violet / Kate
Smitty First Mate / Nick
Davis Donkeyman / Paul
1. The Moon of the Caribbees
2. Bound East for Cardiff
3. The Long Voyage Home
4. In the Zone