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Marco Millions

by Cantara Christopher


In this stupid town I occasionally get invited to this thing or that because I知 Asian-American, so it happened one time I was invited to the gala opening night of an Eugene O誰eill revival called Marco Millions, which is about Marco Polo. You see the connection. Big Chinese cast. Real Chinese, with one or two other types thrown in. This is a big deal here in San Francisco. I知 not Chinese, by the way.

This is what I already knew about Marco Millions: It was written in 1928 and the first draft was almost three hundred pages. The title has to do with no one believing Marco Polo痴 many, many wild stories about what he had seen and done. The young director the Theatre Guild had assigned to direct this play went to visit O誰eill in his hotel room--he was living in a New York hotel in those days--to try to persuade him to make some cuts. Not one word, said O誰eill, who by that time was already a big deal on Broadway.

Mr. O誰eill, said the young man respectfully but impatiently, I can show you how, with my skillful direction, you can convey the same meaning with fewer words. Let me show you. So the young man sat down with O誰eill and, with the slash of a pencil here and there, whittled the thing down to half its size, half the running time. O誰eill looked at the cuts one by one and finally relented. He was a man of the theater, after all.

I know this story because Rouben Mamoulian, the very director, told it to me himself exactly fifty years later. By this time he壇 outlived O'Neill, and Weill, and Gershwin, and Rodgers, AND Hammerstein, and almost everyone else he'd ever directed, and as he was telling me this story, smug and satisfied, I was sitting there in his den in his home on Schuyler Road in Beverly Hills (the agency had sent me to type up his memoirs), steno pad in hand, listening to him and thinking to myself, You cut Eugene O誰eill!? and fearing for my own life, because if O誰eill could be cut and his words thrown away, what hope was there for the rest of us?

I wanted to tell someone that story that opening night right there in the lobby of the theater, but no one, no one at all, wanted to hear it.

Cantara Christopher is a novelist, playwright, former opera student, ex-porn star, and Christopher divides her time between San Francisco and Paris.  Her work has appeared off-off Broadway and in The Pacific Coast Journal, Undershorts, and Comrades. Find her virtually at

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