The President of the Eugene O’Neill Foundation in the US Dan McGovern visited New Ross this week to finalise plans for the inaugural Eugene O’Neill International Festival of Theatre to be staged in September-October 2018 and to begin the process of “linking “ the town of Danville, California, with New Ross Municipal District. Mr McGovern carried with him a letter from the Mayor of Danville which he presented to the Cathaoirleach of the New Ross Municipal Council Cllr Willie Fitzharris. In this letter the Mayor states the intent of Danville to enter into a Friendship City relationship with New Ross Municipal District as part of the One Festival Two Countries initiative. A large delegation from Danville is expected to visit New Ross next year to attend the Festival.
Receiving the letter, Cllr Fitzharris said, “we are delighted to now be entering into discussions on a new friendship with the town of Danville and greatly look forward to further developing our relationship with colleagues and friends there through the Eugene O’Neill International Festival. New Ross has always been an outward-looking town and we greatly welcome continued connections with the Irish and Wexford diaspora, particularly in the United States. The story of Eugene O’Neill whose ancestors left from the quay of New Ross in 1851 is representative of the stories of many people from this area and we are very pleased to be able to honour them in supporting the Theatre Festival.” He went on to add that the Theatre Festival with its strong international profile “further strengths the Autumn Festival series in New Ross along with the Piano Festival and the Kennedy Summer School.” Cllr Fitzharris thanked the Director of Services Eamonn Hore for all the preparatory work being done on behalf of the Council to bring this to fruition.
The Eugene O’Neill International Festival of Theatre will be co-hosted by the Eugene O’Neill Foundation in Danville, California, and by the newly formed O’Neill Ancestral Trust in New Ross. The first leg of the festival will take place in Danville in September 2018 and the second part in Co Wexford in October. The Festival celebrates the life and work of America’s greatest playwright whose ancestors came from across the river in Tinneranny , Co Kilkenny and who boarded the Emigrant ship in New Ross in 1851.
Sean Reidy Festival Co-Chair said “we are very fortunate to have this unique connection with the foremost US playwright Eugene O’Neill and it is fitting that we should celebrate it with an annual festival. We are delighted that the New Ross District Council is supporting us so actively in this endeavour. St Michael’s Theatre is a very worthy venue, and I would like to thank Tomas Kavanagh for encouraging this initiative and taking on the onerous role of Festival Director. I would also like to thank Sean Connick and the management of the Dunbrody for making the ship available for a radical staging of some of O’Neill’s early work, and to Dr Richard Hayes of WIT for his expert advice so crucial in the planning of this internationally significant event. Finally our thanks to the President of the Eugene O’Neill Foundation Dan McGovern for all his assistance and for his confidence in us in accepting us as partner in the promotion of the O’Neill legacy.”
One of the main features of the festival will be the production of the O’Neill play Hughie with a US cast and Director Eric Hayes travelling to Ireland for the event. Mr McGovern confirmed that they will be accompanied by a large delegation from Danville, including the Mayor and members of the Council . Tao House in Danville was Eugene O’Neill’s home in the latter part of his life and is today the headquarters of the Eugene O’Neill Foundation and is a US national historic site.
The Festival will open with a presentation on the O’Neill connection with Ireland , and this will feature a showing of one of the earliest silent movies The Count of Monte Cristo starring Eugene O’Neill’s father James O’Neill. James left Tinneranny as a five-year old boy and thus the film screening—which will have live musical accompaniment—will give James a posthumous New Ross Premiere. It is also expected that the festival will feature a staged reading of the O’Neill epic play Mourning Becomes Electra, and a play by a well-known Wexford playwright to be confirmed.