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The Eugene O’Neill Foundation, Tao House, and the O’Neill Ancestral Trust of Ireland are partnering to produce “One Festival, Two Countries,” the Eugene O’Neill Festival in Danville in September and the Eugene O’Neill International Festival of Theatre in New Ross, Ireland, in October.

One Festival, Two Countries embodies a civic as well as a cultural partnership. Danville and New Ross have become Friendship Cities, and official delegations from the two cities will attend one another’s O’Neill festivals. The Danville delegation to New Ross will be led by Mayor Newell Arnerich and Vice Mayor Robert Storer. The Danville festival is sponsored by the Irish Consulate in San Francisco.

Why an O’Neill festival in Ireland? Eugene O’Neill famously said, “The one thing that explains more than anything about me is the fact that I’m Irish.” Ireland early recognized O’Neill’s genius with celebrated productions of his plays.

Why in New Ross? James O’Neill, Eugene’s father, lived with his parents and seven siblings in nearby Tinneranny. In 1847, in the wake of the potato famine, the O’Neills emigrated from the Port of New Ross. James, then five years old, later became one of the most famous actors in America. The festival honors not only Eugene O’Neill but also James, a favorite son of New Ross.

The Eugene O’Neill International Festival of Theatre in New Ross


The New Ross festival will feature four plays and a film.

Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O’Neill

Singled out by the Nobel Prize Committee in 1936 as O’Neill’s “grandest work” to that point, Mourning Becomes Electra will be directed by Ben Barnes. One of the most renowned directors of theater and opera in Europe, Ben is a former artistic director of the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s National Theatre. This will truly be a theatrical “event,” both because it will be performed in two parts, with a dinner break, and because Ben will bring us some of the greatest actors in Ireland for this staged reading.

The S.S. Glencairn Cycle by Eugene O’Neill

O’Neill’s four one-act sea plays, collectively entitled the S.S. Glencairn Cycle, will be performed on the Dunbrody, a full-scale replica of one of the Famine Ships that brought emigrants like the O’Neills and President John F. Kennedy’s great-grandparents from New Ross to America. Based on O’Neill’s youthful experiences as a merchant seaman, the Glencairn plays launched his career as a playwright. This site-specific production, with the necessarily small audience moving about the Dunbrody to the various settings of the plays, will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

My Real Life by Eoin Colfer

My Real Life, also directed by Ben Barnes, was written by New York Times best- selling author and Wexford, Ireland native Eoin Colfer. A hit at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it later toured Ireland to great acclaim. “My Real Life was a surprisingly enthralling evening laden with as much humour as pathos.” (The Irish Times)

Hughie by Eugene O’Neill

Eugene O’Neill Foundation Artistic Director Eric Fraisher Hayes and his cast will take the Danville production of O’Neill’s Hughie to the New Ross festival and tour it in Ireland thereafter.

The Count of Monte Cristo, starring James O’Neill

For the festival the Library of Congress has prepared a print of the 1913 silent film, The Count of Monte Cristo, starring James O’Neill in his signature role. This role brought James fame and wealth as he played it on stage thousands of times. However, as his alter ego laments in Long Day’s Journey into Night, James purchased that success at the cost of abandoning his rise as one of America’s most promising Shakespearean actors: “What the hell was it I wanted to buy, I wonder.”

The New Ross Festival Package

While each evening will be devoted to theater, each day will be spent touring such sights as Hook Lighthouse, Tintern Abbey, Waterford Crystal, Kilkenny Castle, Smithwick’s Brewery, and the Ros Tapestry. Sean Reidy, co-chair of “One Festival, Two Countries” and former CEO of the JFK Trust, has arranged a special tour for us of the Kennedy Homestead, the birthplace of President John F. Kennedy’s great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy. We expect to be greeted by JFK’s young cousin, who still farms the ancestral land.

What does the festival package cost? Amazingly little–$800. This includes five nights at the four-star Brandon House hotel (bed, breakfast, and dinner), the festival events in the evening, and the day trips, including light lunches. ($100 single supplement)

The Extended Tour Package

Dan McGovern, president of the Eugene O’Neill Foundation, and his wife Carolyn will join festival-goers taking the optional extended tour. This tour will include two days exploring Kerry’s Wild Atlantic Way, including the Skellig Islands, the Ring of Kerry, and the Dingle Peninsula. We will conclude our tour with a day in Dublin visiting Trinity College, the National Museum, the National Library, and the Parliament. The total cost of the Festival Package and the Extended Tour Package is $1,700. ($250 single supplement)

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