This show was presented October 7 — October 23, 2016
The Emperor Jones
by Eugene O’Neill
Directed By Connie Norwood
Maurice A. Tucker • Paul Sollimo • Carla Ezell • Isaiah Harold • Trevor Smith
The Emperor Jones is a 1920 play by American dramatist Eugene O’Neill that tells the tale of Brutus Jones, a resourceful, self-assured African American and a former Pullman porter, who kills another black man in a dice game, is jailed, and later escapes to a small, backward Caribbean island where he sets himself up as emperor. The play recounts his story in flashbacks as Brutus makes his way through the jungle in an attempt to escape former subjects who have rebelled against him.
Originally called The Silver Bullet, the play is one of O’Neill’s major experimental works, mixing expressionism and realism, and the use of an unreliable narrator and multiple points of view. It was also an oblique commentary on the U.S. occupation of Haiti after bloody rebellions there, an act of imperialism that was much condemned in O’Neill’s radical political circles in New York. The Emperor Jones draws on O’Neill’s own hallucinatory experience hacking through the jungle while prospecting for gold in Honduras in 1909, as well as the brief, brutal presidency of Haiti’s Vilbrun Guillaume Sam.
The Emperor Jones was O’Neill’s first big box-office hit. It established him as a successful playwright after he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his first play, the much less well-known Beyond the Horizon (1920). The Emperor Jones was included in Burns Mantle’s The Best Plays of 1920–1921.
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Funding has been made possible in part by the Camden County Cultural & Heritage Commission at Camden County College, through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.