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One Festival Two Countries

James O’Neill, born in Kilkenny in 1845, emigrated as a small boy with his family from New Ross. James became one of America’s most promising Shakespearean actors. However, haunted by the terrible poverty of his youth, James compromised his talent for financial security, playing the title role in the potboiler The Count of Monte Cristo thousands of times.

James’ son Eugene O’Neill, recoiling from the melodramatic style his father personified, created modern American drama. The only American playwright to win the Nobel Prize and four Pulitzer Prizes, Eugene was apparently a spent force when he retired to Tao House in Danville, California, in 1937. His privacy fiercely protected by his wife Carlotta, Eugene O’Neill then wrote four of America’s greatest plays. In one of them, Long Day’s Journey into Night, “written in tears and blood” and posthumously produced, Eugene finally made his peace with James.

At Tao House in Danville in September and at St. Michael’s Theatre in New Ross in October, in a partnership we call “One Festival, Two Countries,” we invite you to join us in celebrating both James and Eugene, united at last in their adopted and ancestral countries.
Sean Reidy, President
Dan McGovern, President
O’Neill Ancestral Trust of New Ross
Eugene O’Neill Foundation, Tao House, Danville

The Eugene O’Neill International Festival of Theatre in New Ross will be both a cultural and a civic celebration of the strong ties between Ireland and the United States exemplified by O’Neill’s Irish heritage. Eugene O’Neill’s father James, along with his parents and siblings, lived in nearby Tinneranny and emigrated from New Ross. Eugene O’Neill famously said, “The one thing that explains more than anything about me is the fact that I’m Irish.”

The cultural tie between the two countries will be reinforced by the partnership of the O’Neill Ancestral Trust of New Ross and the Eugene O’Neill Foundation, Tao House, of Danville, California, to produce the international O’Neill festival we are calling “One Festival, Two Countries.” The first half of the festival, the 19th Annual Eugene O’Neill Festival in Danville, will be held throughout September 2018, and the second half, the First Annual Eugene O’Neill International Festival of Theatre, will be held in New Ross October 11-14, 2018.

The civic tie arises from this new cultural bond. New Ross and Danville have entered into a formal Friendship City partnership to celebrate and promote “One Festival, Two Countries.” An official delegation from New Ross will attend the Danville festival in September, and their counterparts from Danville will attend the New Ross festival in October.

Though a new event, the New Ross Festival, taking place in the historic St Michael’s Theatre, we will present an especially strong programme.

On the opening night of the festival, Eugene O’Neill’s father James O’Neill will be honoured in an evening entitled ‘James O’Neill A Dramatic Night’. The story of James O’Neill will be presented in an illustrated talk by O’Neill scholar Dr Richard Hayes of Waterford Institute of Technology, with support from American Shakespearean actor Patrick Midgeley.

The talk will be followed by a screening of the Count of Monte Cristo, the 1913 film starring James O’Neill. One of the earliest silent feature films, the Count of Monte Cristo was directed by Edwin S Porter, a pioneer of the American cinema, and captures the vivid dramatic acting of James. The screening represents James’s debut as an actor in the town from which he departed over one hundred and fifty years ago. An original live score will be provided by pianist Phillip Collins.

Ben Barnes will direct two of the four plays. He will present a staged reading of O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra. With the great cast that Ben will be able to assemble, this promises be a major theatrical event that we hope will lead to a full production. We wanted to honour one of Wexford’s fine playwrights and so are delighted to offer Eoin Colfer’s My Real Life, a hit at the Dublin and Edinburgh festivals in 2017.

We are taking advantage of the Dunbrody, the full-scale replica of a Famine Ship anchored in New Ross, to present a site-specific production of O’Neill’s Glencairn cycle of one-act sea plays.

Director Eric Hayes’s Danville production of O’Neill’s Hughie will come to New Ross with an American cast. This is the first time a US production will grace the stage at St Michael’s Theatre.

The Irish contribution to Danville’s festival this year will be classical guitarist David Creevy, formerly a member of the famed Dublin Guitar Quartet, playing his transcriptions of the music of O’Carolan.