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Friday, May 30, 2014

Wright's THE LONG DREAM (play)


 




 

Sent: Monday, May 26, 2014 12:02 PM

Subject: The Long Dream (play)
Dear Colleagues,

Sitting at Cafe Tournon in 1995, I stared across the street at two fire-red gates. They may have been doors, but they looked like gates to me. "Aha," I thought as I sipped ordinary wine,"even in Paris, Wright could not escape hell."

Lack of income, intestinal problems, and surveillance by international agencies ensured that Wright's final two years would be hellish. Critics who proclaimed Wright was out of touch with racial progress in the United States added psychological hot pepper. Even at the remove of fifty plus years, one can empathize. Wright was not out of touch. He was too much in touch with what was diabolic in the Cold War. InThe Color Curtain he had sensed the world was in for a season of terrorism.

Having recently read Ketti Frings' adaptation of The Long Dream, I am beginning to understand nuances of Wright's plight. The 1964 revised script ofThe Long Dream: A New Play (D-207 135:9 in Special Collections, University of California, Davis) is a transmogrification of the novel, akin to the HBO castration of "Long Black Song." Why did Frings butcher what I assume to have been Wright's intentions by killing off the son Rex "Fishbelly" Tucker rather than the father Tyree Tucker as Wright had done? And why, as we can discover from Wright's correspondence with Frings, did Wright "like" her adaptation? Did he "like" her focus on the Gothic nature of interracial business arrangements in Mississippi? Why did Frings, who won a Pulitzer and the New York Drama Critics Award for her adaptation of Thomas Wolfe'sLook Homeward, Angel, transform Wright's novel into so dull a play that it lasted for only six performances? How out of touch was Frings with white language usage in black culture that the Chief of Police should refer to Fishbelly as an "uppity dinge"? "Dinge" is a contemptuous term for a black person from the 1850s not the 1950s. What was Frings' unwitting or knowing participation in the Cold War "torturing" of Wright?

Answering these questions requries work in the Wright papers at Yale, the Michel Fabre papers at Emory, and the Ketti Frings holdings at UC, Davis. It will be some time before I can do research in these archives. If any of you get to these places before I do, please let me know what you discover about the adaptation (and/or performance) of The Long Dream.

Best wishes for the summer,

Jerry

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