After a long day of travel, the cast and production team of the Tao House production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night arrived at St. Michael’s Theatre in New Ross, Ireland, for the Eugene O’Neill International Festival of Theatre. We were greeted by Theatre Manager Tomas Kavanagh, who gave our troupe a tour of the facility. In order to get to the dressing rooms, we had to quietly tiptoe around a large group of local actors finishing up a big dance number for an upcoming production of West Side Story (yes, that show is popular everywhere!). Despite the minor disruption, everyone seemed in a generous and welcoming mood.
Adjusting to a new theatre space was our first task. The performance space in the Old Barn at Tao House is very intimate, with all seats within 20 feet of the stage. At St. Michael’s Theatre, the stage and the audience capacity are three times larger, with patrons in the balcony nearly 100 feet away. Re-blocking the stage movement, adjusting volumes, and learning to reorient to a new relationship to the audience was the work for the first day of rehearsal.
After working through the show, we all went back to the hotel to catch up on some rest and prepare for our dress rehearsal the following day.
Opening night in New Ross
The final preparations for the Irish opening of the Tao House production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and the first ever production of the play in New Ross, went smoothly. The stage was set, the actors rehearsed speeches and last-minute bits of stage business, up in the rafters sound and lighting technicians were running through cues, and outside the theatre and in the lobby, patrons were gathering. A little after 8pm the house lights dimmed, the sound cue for wind was pressed and the show began….
For a little over three hours, the cast of LDJIN put their hearts into Eugene O’Neill’s words, and St. Michael’s Theatre was transported into the painful and poetic world of the Tyrone family, and the memory of American’s greatest playwright. At the play’s conclusion the large opening-night audience rose to its feet and rewarded the actors with a standing ovation. Eugene O’Neill had come home.
After the show, the actors celebrated at the Theatre Tavern across the street from St. Michael’s Theatre. Having closed the pub, the cast made the long uphill walk back to the Brandon Hotel. Mission accomplished.
Reflections on the growing relationship between Danville and our friends in New Ross
The Eugene O’Neill Festivals in both Danville, California and New Ross, Ireland were successful celebrations of the work of the great Irish American playwright. For starters, the cast and production team for our production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night worked diligently and with a great spirit of mutual support both at Tao House and in New Ross. They always had each other’s backs and showed a keen interest in supporting one another whether in rehearsal or performance.
The Eugene O’Neill International Festival in New Ross expanded to include presentations at the local library by eminent O’Neill scholars from an array of major American universities. Additionally, local actors from the New Ross Drama Workshop (the primary theatre guild in the area) presented a series of staged readings of early O’Neill plays above Spider O’Brien’s Pub. Both the scholarly presentations and the staged readings were very well attended.
With a second successful year of working with our Irish partners, a collaborative bond has formed and there is an increased desire to explore new ways to team up. Discussions have begun on finding projects in which American and Irish artists can work together. Some friendships were started, and existing friendships grew, as folks from the Bay Area once again worked and played with the folks of New Ross. It is a testimony to the power and potential of what can happen when people rally around the arts. We are all the richer for it.