Just back from Ashland, Oregon, where I saw two plays. The good news: fifty to sixty high school students in attendance at Much Ado About Nothing. The bad news: average age of audience goers one day later at the excellent Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night: seventy or older.
Further good news: The amazing acting achievement of OSF's Danforth Comins. On back to back days for over six months he has played leading roles in Much Ado About Nothing (which runs beyond two and a half hours) and Edmund, the stage alter ego of playwright Eugene O'Neill, in Long Day's Journey Into Night. O'Neill's Long Day's Journey plays out over nearly four hours. Unfortunately for readers, Comins performances will have concluded by the time this piece reaches you in print or on the computer.
O'Neill's masterwork, Long Day's Journey Into Night, was so true to his own dysfunctional family life of 1912 that the playwright ordered it not be publicly performed until twenty-five years after his death. Due to quirks in the bequeathing of the play's rights to Yale University that order lasted for only three years following O'Neill's demise in 1953.
Let's just abbreviate it to LDJIN and be done with it. The play is still relevant 103 years after the time in which it is set. Not only are family's just as messed up as ever, but the most obvious reasons for the dysfunction in O'Neill's immediate family, alcoholism and drug addiction, are as great a detrimental factor in American life as it ever has been.
It's not easy to say this, but let's skip over the alcoholism that killed O'Neill's beloved older brother in his forties (as it still kills so many today) to the more insidious drug addiction that lies at the root of LDJIN. O'Neill's real mother and the mother portrayed on stage in LDJIN were both prescribed morphine to ease their pain and “nerves” after childbirth. Both fictional and real figures became hopelessly addicted for the remainder of their lives.
The world of prescription drugs in general, as well as pain killers, is a more rampant problem today than a century ago, due in some part to a U.S. populace inclined to believe that they are the anointed ones who should be free of even the hint of pain, stress, or discomfort 100% of the time. Pharmaceutical corporations eat that mentality for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then bank the profits in the billions.
The age of instantaneous advertising combined with generation upon generation needing, wanting, demanding instantaneous gratification has magnified the addictive problem exponentially. Make no mistake about it, we are living in a culture in which one prescription leads to another (often to counterbalance the previous one), and so on, ad infinitm. If you watch television, and what right-minded, potentiallly addictive personality doesn't, you may have already viewed the commercial for Vanda Pharmaceuticals sleep disorder drug for the blind.
Recently I started wondering, why am I seeing this ad relatively often? The reason lies in an October, 2014 Federal Drug Administration (FDA) letter to Vanda that allowed the drug to be advertised to the non-blind general populace as a sleep disorder preventative. Obviously, this opened Vanda's product up to an incredibly wider customer base. By the way the approval letter from the FDA also noted that the condition Vanda's drug was potentially treating is experienced almost exclusively by blind people.
This is just one example of drug companies and our government esssentially colluding to pull the wool over apparently sheepish American drug consumers. I could go on and on about other drug shenanigans, but I 'm not feeling all that great right now. My self medication prescription: a little baseball playoffs on the TV followed by a glass of water, and sleep.