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A prominent patent attorney, Lawrence Langner (1890-1962) was also a founder and director of the Theatre Guild, one of the most successful New York theater companies of the first half of the twentieth century. Born in Swansea, South Wales, Langner arrived in the United States in 1911, and formed the Washington Square Players and then the Theatre Guild, which he established in 1919 with Theresa Helburn, Phillip Moeller, and Helen Westley. The Theatre Guild produced a string of successful works by playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw and Eugene O'Neill and established a reputation for staging daring, experimental works that defied the more formulaic productions of most commercial theaters in New York. In addition to his prolific work with the Theatre Guild, Langner also wrote and produced plays for the Provincetown Players, such as Pie and Matinata for the 1920-21 season. Langner and his wife Amina Marshall also created two theater companies in Connecticut: the Westport Country Playhouse and the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre and Academy in Stratford.
A letter from Eugene O'Neill to Lawrence Langner, 5 April 1927
In this lengthy letter, O'Neill outlines his vision for the Theatre Guild's production of his play Marco Millions. Working from memory, O'Neill offers scene-by-scene emendations of his first draft and declares, "You have either to do it up to the last gasp of cost and magnificence or else very simply and, in a sense, symbolically and suggestively. Any half-way measures would be ultra-fatal?" Marco Millions, the first of several O'Neill plays staged by the Theatre Guild under Langner, opened on January 9, 1928.