The Emperor’s Last Performance

Charles Gilpin’s performance in Eugene O’Neill’s play, The Emperor Jones, propelled him to the height of his craft and, at the same time, made O’Neill one of America’s greatest playwrights.

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Charles Gilpin’s performance in Eugene O’Neill’s play, The Emperor Jones, propelled him to the height of his craft and, at the same time, made O’Neill one of America’s greatest playwrights. But the role of Brutus Jones in The Emperor Jones was not Charles Gilpin’s greatest performance. His greatest performance was in pretending that he liked the role that made him a star. The Emperor’s Last Performance traces the life and career of pioneering African-American actor Charles Sidney Gilpin, from his early days in vaudeville, to his rise to fame in Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones.