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Shortly after the debut of Exorcismin 1920, Eugene O'Neill suddenly canceled production and ordered all extant copies of the drama destroyed. For over ninety years, it was believed that the play was irrevocably lost, until a researcher made a stunning find: the typescript, complete with O'Neill's handwritten edits, had been retained by O'Neill's second wife, Agnes Boulton, and sent to the writer Philip Yordan as a gift. The discovery and publication of Exorcism,a relatively early play in the O'Neill corpus, furthers our knowledge of O'Neill's dramatic development and reveals a pivotal point in the career of this great American playwright. Revolving around a suicide attempt, Exorcismdraws on a dark incident in O'Neill's own life. This defining event led to his first serious efforts to write. Exorcismdisplays early examples of O'Neill's unparalleled skills of capturing deeply personal human drama, and it explores major themesmourning and melancholia, addiction and sobriety, tensions between fathers and sonsthat would permeate his later work. According to Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library curator Louise Bernard, who acquired the play from a New York bookseller, " Exorcismmight be read as a preparatory sketch that resonates powerfully with Long Day's Journey into Night,one that brings the O'Neill family drama full circle in ways at once intimate and grandly conceived."
Eugene O’Neill (1888–1953), considered by many to be America’s greatest playwright, was a four-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936.