Two porches: O’Neill and Hammerstein
Sitting on the porch of Eugene O’Neill’s Monte Cristo Cottage created a special variant of déjà vu that connected two giants of the American theater. Settling into one of the rocking chairs overlooking the Thames River felt just like settling into one of the rocking chairs on the porch of the Highland Farm in Doylestown, Pa.
That was Oscar Hammerstin II’s farm in Bucks County friom 1940 till his death in 1960. It was here that he wrote everything from “Oklahoma!” to “The Sound of Music.” It was here that Richard Rodgers approached him about collaborating in the wake of the escalating alcoholism of Larry Hart. Hammerstein urged him to keep working with Hart, but assured him that “if there comes a time when it can’t work, I’ll be here to finish it with you.”
It was here that a young Stephen Sondheim brought him his scripts for a school play, only to have Hammerstein say, “It’s the worst thing I ever read … important of theatrical mentorings.
And it feels just the same, sitting on this porch and rocking back. You don’t see the water. You don’t see General Dynamics Electric Boat Division on the opposite shore. But you do get the same feeling as on that other proch, a palpable connection to America’s theatrical past.
I had the pleasure of doing a feature on Hammerstein’s farm (now a B&B) for the Sondheim Review (any ATCA member can drop me a line and I’ll send them a copy). In the meantime, I feel tremendously privileged to have been able to rock back and forth on both porches.
— Brad Hathaway, Washington, D.C.
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