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A Look Back at the Festival(s): An Artistic and Civic Partnership

One Festival, Two Countries, 2018

The 19thAnnual Eugene O’Neill Festival expanded this year into a multifaceted international event throughout September in Danville, followed by a week of theatre and tourism in Ireland, as together the Ancestral Trust of New Ross and the Eugene O’Neill Foundation launched One Festival, Two Countries.


Artistic Director Eric Fraisher Hayes’s fresh and inventive take on Hughie added a puckish third character whose presence changed audience perception of the play. Photo: John Carter.


Audiences in the Old Barn were charmed by the world-premiere performance of Ode to Blemie, O’Neill’s epitaph for his favorite Dalmatian.


Role Players Ensemble began the Festival with an acclaimed performance of Arthur Miller’s 1947 drama All My Sons. Photo: John Carter.









Music of O’Carolan by two musicians from Ireland: classical guitarist David Creevy and singer Melanie O’Reilly, shown here with civic leaders of Danville and New Ross. Photo: Charles Jarrett.


Irish Consul General Robert O’Driscoll addresses Tao House reception hosted by Mayor Newell Arnerich. Photo: Marcia Harmon.


Dignitaries from Ireland Eamonn Hore, John Fleming, Sinead Casey, and Willie Fitzharris bring greetings to Tao House. Photo: Marcia Harmon. 




















Former Danville mayor Beverly Lane with then vice-mayor Robert Storer. Photo: Marci Harmon.












A new Destination Danville passbook added a tourism flair with additional special Festival activities and 35+ discounted shop-and-dine specials. Photo: Cottage Jewel.
















A 3-mile hike to Tao House, with 100 participants guided by NPS and EBRPD; a downtown history walk led by Beverly Lane also revealed secrets of O’Neill’s Danville. Photo: Cindy Alaimo.


In October the scene moved to Ireland to join the three more plays and a film, presented during the Eugene O’Neill International Festival of Theatre. Photo: Jerry Ricker.


Sean Reidy, Irish co-chair of the New Ross Festival, greeting West Coast arrivals at Dublin Airport. Photo: Marcia Harmon.














Artistic Director Hayes brought Hughie to the Festival in New Ross, where the audience embraced the new version and “couldn’t see it any other way”. Photo: Eric Fraisher Hayes.









The Count of Monte Cristo, the 1913 film starring James O’Neill in his signature role, with new piano accompaniment, was a crowd-pleaser.


Other O’Neill plays presented were the rough-and-ready S.S. Glencairn sea plays performed on board the Dunbrody, a famine ship replica; and an impressive staged reading of Mourning Becomes Electra featuring Irish actors and Walnut Creek native Don Sage Mackay. My Real Life by Eoin Colfer, a poignant one-actor play, concluded the Festival.


At a Civic Reception at the Festival, mayors of Danville and New Ross exchanged greetings and celebrated their new Friendship City relationship. Photo: Sandra Storer.


At the O’Neill family cemetery, a service of remembrance led by Alice and Carmel, O’Neill cousins. Photo: Marcia Harmon.


Togetherness at meals and in bar after performances. Photo: Marcia Harmon.


O’Neill fans visit Kilkenny Castle. Photo: Marcia Harmon.


Two dozen Festival attendees continued on a 5-day sightseeing excursion, ending in Dublin, where their private tour of Parliament was led by Paul Kehoe, a cabinet member.


“From Sean Reidy’s first smile in Dublin, to the Brandon House Hotel in New

Ross where we were each given a bountiful County Wexford goody bag, to the

New Ross  welcome party that first evening in a room decorated like a

fairy castle, to all the plays and tour events, I felt I was treated like

royalty. Once home, numerous times I said I still felt as if I were

walking several inches above the ground from all the joy of the trip.

When is the 2nd annual trip?  I hope to be there.” – Nancy Nelson


What’s next?

The Bay Area travelers will reunite at performances of The Great God Brown, Jan 12 and 13, at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley. They are also looking forward to the 20thAnnual Eugene O’Neill Festival in Danville and planning to return for the 2nd Annual festival in New Ross. Stay tuned!