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Eugene O’Neill

My Affair with Eugene: Part One

Actress Diana Brumen discusses the secret romance, passion and rejection involved in courting a Eugene O’Neill classic.

When I was first cast as Abbie Putnam in Eugene O’Neill’s ‘Desire Under the Elms’, I was nervous. Actually, scrap that. I was utterly terrified. This will be my second production ever; and as a relative newcomer to the grand arena of theatre, I quickly realised this play is about as difficult as they come. After gingerly scrolling through Desire for the first time, I knew that tackling an O’Neill play would require a tremendous amount of my time and emotional energy. Now, six weeks into rehearsals, it’s clearly more than a casual fling; preparing for Eugene’s play has become a full blown affair of the heart. With that in mind, here’s how I’ve turned good rehearsals into great ones so far…

8 ways to bring out your best in your relationship with Eugene O’Neill

  1. Become an expert on your partner: Too often we think about our own needs and wants in a relationship. Instead, I tried tuning into what resonated for Eugene. Getting to know more about him on a personal level — his upbringing and past — helped me to tackle his play immensely.

2. Keep it sexy: Playing the role of Abbie is all about nature, sexuality and desire. By keeping open to her conscious and subconscious sexual desires, I’ve been able to tap into her core and find her truth during rehearsals.

3. Get creative about the time you spend together: Everyone wants to break out of the cliché “dinner and a movie” date routine. When I’m feeling tired and exhausted, I get creative and come up with “passive” ways to rehearse at home. Whether it be oil painting to free up my impulses, reading literature or poetry, keeping a dream journal, or listening to music, my inspiration for Abbie and her inner life can spring from anywhere.

4. Take a mental vacation: Life, work commitments, daily distractions — these can become overriding in our lives and leave little time for our partner. To tackle this and give Eugene some lovin’, I’d get totally present in rehearsals. Gently putting aside any external obligations and stresses, I’d simply tune into the other actors, the director, the space, the language and the breath… oh, and meditating in my spare time helps too!

5. Dig deep to unearth your true feelings: We often communicate with our partner from the most obvious “top layer” of emotions, without digging deeper to discover where these emotions are actually coming from. So, when rehearsing as Abbie, I’d look at what she’s saying from the “bottom layer” up (e.g. what’s really driving her defensiveness, anxiety, desire etc…)

6. The couple that plays together, stays together: Finding the joy of playing during rehearsals and taking creative risks not only keeps me motivated and engaged, but also helps to give life to Eugene’s story. It’s a win-win.

7. Distance makes the heart grow fonder: Having a life outside of ‘Desire’ has not only made me miss Eugene, it’s also kept me sane. Dealing with a storyline inspired by Greek tragedy, it’s been a blessing to have regular “breather” days.

8. Keep your eyes on the prize: Remember you both want the same thing. Eugene wants the play to be brought to life truthfully, and so do I. By keeping my eyes on the end result, all of the tedious accent, breath, punctuation and language work becomes totally worth it.

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Diana Brumen playing the role of Abbie Putnam

So there you have it. You’re now equipped for a healthy, longterm relationship with Eugene. Stay tuned for my next entry, “My Affair with Eugene: Part 2”.

Desire Under The Elms opens July 7th at Chapel off Chapel, Melbourne

Book your tickets Below

Written by

Voice Coach and Founder of Orator | Masters in Voice Studies, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama | Currently Coaching in London |

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