Southern Expressionism

     Clyde Coreil’s writings fall into two broad categories: creative works—stage plays, screenplays, musical plays, Southern Expressionism, comedies, farces, poems, independent songs, short fiction—and linguistic works of a theoretical and pedagogical nature. The purpose of this site is to collect these writings which might be of some interest to somebody, sometime, somewhere. All of these pieces are fully protected by copyright, but virtually all requests to produce or reproduce them will be granted free of charge. Exceptions to this will apply in cases where substantial profits are involved. It should be noted, however, that permission to produce or reproduce any of these writings must be granted before that is done.

     There is one inconsistency in the categorization of plays that should be explained. All but one of the categories refer to widely accepted genres (comedy, tragedy, etc.). “Southern Expressionism,” however, refers more to theme. Normally After Isabel and The Last of Abdul would tend to the category of comedy since the main characters come to a difficult but de facto understanding and acceptance of one another and of their fate. However, the conclusion of both plays—like their progression—is skin deep. What really is at issue is the relationship of complex individuals to a complex culture. Coreil commented that he did his best to symbolically present these thematic complexities, but does not claim to penetrate the symbol. As a name of this category, he chose “Southern Expressionism,” which is used occasionally when referring to a generally coherent theme in artistic works from or about the Deep South.

     The characters and situations in Coreil’s 20 plays are an amalgam of personal experience and a vivid, if not overactive, imagination. In some plays, one might encounter traces of excess and decadence, and in others, attempts at lofty romance and heroic steadfastness. Probably, this range of largely dark fantasies finds headwaters in Cajun Louisiana, where the author was born and and worked in journalism before 1967. In that year, he went to Vietnam as a volunteer English teacher at the University of Hue. The winter was soaked and cold, and Coreil lived mostly on C-Rations from the black market. Experiencing a case of dysentery that he thought was unrivaled, he was taken to a U.S. military doctor who turned out to be even sicker—the physician diagnosed Coreil and called for injections without ever lifting his head from his desk. When Clyde recovered, he hitched a ride on a military plane bound for Singapore. Unwittingly, he thereby avoided the Battle of Hue during Tet, 1968, which began the following night and in which his fellow volunteers were captured.

     When he returned to Saigon, the University of Hue had been leveled. His contract with International Voluntary Services was cancelled four weeks later, and he worked as Ordinary Seaman on a freighter headed for the U.S.A. During those weeks in Saigon, he wrote his first song. Several months later, he left the States for the Near East, having completed Remembering Hue, a play with lyrics and music to 14 songs. He banged around the world, returning to Saigon for a while. From there, he went to Carnegie Mellon University for an M.F.A. in playwriting/theatre. His play After Isabel won a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, whereupon he got married to a Chinese painter and traveled a few more years. He took a Ph.D. in linguistics from the New York City University and has been teaching ever since at New Jersey City University where he is now Professor of English as a Second Language. His dissertation on “supralexicals” (fixed phrases) received the Edward Sapir Dissertation Award from the New York Academy of Science. He founded and edits the international Journal of the Imagination in Language Learning and Teaching in 1990. Most recently, he edited an anthology, Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner and New Methods of College Teaching.

     His latest song is “La Chanson de Ville Platte,” composed in the style of classical Cajun music—accordion, violin, drums and steel guitar . His latest play is Homelands, a musical fable about Bernard, a sparrow who cannot fly but whose song encodes directions for the annual migration. Aboard a raft on the Mississippi River, he pursues his dream, his sweetheart and his departed flock. His companion, a caterpillar, saves his life, and he endures considerable hardship to carry out a promise and return her deteriorating cocoon to Louisiana, her homeland. There he discovers that she is alive and has become a beautiful butterfly. Flushed with happiness, he accepts the Faustian Dr. Crow’s repeated offer to be magically transformed into a sparrow that can fly but cannot sing. At first elated, Bernard then learns that his song is needed by his flock which will otherwise perish. Sadly but with nobility, the sparrow reverses the transformation. He cannot fly, but his duty is done. Coreil is now working on short stories about his youth in South Louisiana, which is also the setting of a play with songs about an aging musician.

(More details can be found in the print and the online versions of Who’s Who in America).

©2004-2011, Clyde Coreil. All rights reserved.
No part of the writings or plays on this site (text, music and/or lyrics) may be staged,
performed, or copied by any means whatsoever without the written consent of the sole author and composer, Clyde Coreil.