Saturday 21 September 2019

American classic set for O'Neill Festival

Links with US grow as plays to travel to California

Actors in The Glencairn Cycle which will be staged on the Dunbrody Famine Ship
Actors in The Glencairn Cycle which will be staged on the Dunbrody Famine Ship

David Looby

A play considered to be the greatest in the American canon will be performed in the town which inspired it in part, this October.

Long Day's Journey Into Night is the feature play at this year's Eugene O'Neill International Festival of Theatre, taking place from Wednesday, October 9, until Sunday, October 13, at venues around New Ross, with a symposium taking place at Waterford Institute of Technology.

Around 35 American visitors are confirmed to travel to this year's festival, which is expected to be a draw for people around Ireland to the town.

There will be a festival opening and reception at the Brandon House Hotel on Wednesday, October 9, at 8 p.m. when a warm welcome will be afforded to all dignatories, sponsors, guests and to the participating actors, directors, producers and academics.

The reception will feature a fascinating talk by President of the Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Dan McGovern, entitled Eugene O'Neill and Ireland.

St Michael's Theatre will be the main venue of the festival which will open on Thursday, October 10, with a production of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning masterpiece Long Day's Journey Into Night, an autobiographical insight into its late, legendary playwright and a compassionately brutal look at one family's struggle to fight for love itself.

Long Days Journey Into Night tells the story of the O'Neill Family emigration from New Ross. Eugene O'Neill's father James was born in 1845 in Tinneranny, one mile from New Ross. He emigrated as a small boy with his family from the quayside of New Ross in 1851 and went on to become a world famous actor.

James's son Eugene remains the only American playwright to win the Nobel Prize and also four Pulitzer prizes. Eugene retired to Tao House in Danville, California, in 1937 where he then wrote four of America's greatest plays including his autobiographical master-work, Long Days Journey Into Night.

Also on offer is a staged reading of 'Strange Interlude'. The Pulitzer Prize-winning experimental play in nine acts will be presented as a professional Irish production in a staged reading directed by Ben Barnes. This four-hour production will offer guests dinner at the evening interval at the Dunbrody Visitor Centre.

The Glencairn Cycle will be performed twice daily aboard the Dunbrody Famine Ship. The series of three one-act plays directed by Paul Walsh are set aboard the fictional ship the 'SS Glencairn', Bound East for Cardiff, The Long Voyage Home and In the Zone will be presented in one sitting lasting an hour.

A number of lunchtime sessions will also be on offer on October 10 and October 11 at 1 p.m., featuring a programme of readings and performances of a selection of O'Neill's short plays and writings by members of New Ross Drama Workshop.

Closing the festival on Sunday evening and nurturing the talent of the local modern-day playwright will be a production of The Diary of Maynard Perdu written and directed by the award-winning Wexford playwright Billy Roche and starring the acclaimed actor and musician Peter McCamley. The Diary Of Maynard Perdu is set in the fantastic, mirrored, burlesque world of the Spiegeltent where fantasy and delusion reign supreme. Based on the novella by Billy Roche, this one-man show takes us on a romantic journey of adventure and intrigue all of which serves to mask the pain and loss that are buried deep within.

A programme of Eugene O'Neill scholarly events is also set to take place in conjunction with Waterford Institute of Technology during the 2019 festival.

Festival chairman Sean Reidy announced on Friday that the cast of the Glencairn cycle of plays will be showcased during the American Eugene O'Neill Festival this September in San Francisco Bay.

Mr Reidy said Clodagh Kinsella from Palace will perform a show called Irish Airs and Arias in Danville, California, during the festival, having impressed festival organisers so much during her performance during Mourning Becomes Electra last year inaugural Eugene O'Neill Festival.

The Glencairn Irish production will be showcased to the American audiences aboard the Balclutha berthed at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco Bay on Sunday, September 1.

On the festival, Mr Reidy said: 'We are delighted to unveil our second annual festival programme which is filled with top quality productions of O'Neill's finest works plus a number of a panel discussions with Ireland's leading literary luminaries. This festival truly and uniquely celebrates one of our greatest ever playwrights.'

Commenting on the festival announcement and the international partnership, New Ross Municipal District Cathaoirleach Cllr John Fleming said: 'The Eugene O'Neill Festival offers a significant tourism boost to New Ross in what is typically a tourism shoulder season. The international partnership between this festival and that of San Francisco and Danville, California, offers great opportunity not only for the arts and celebrating one of Ireland's greatest every playwright but it also provides a unique connection to further grow international visitor numbers to this region.'

Tickets to the festival weekend at St. Michael's Theatre in New Ross are available at €100.

Tickets for individual events are available from €15; for further details see

New Ross Standard