In­ter­na­tional theatre spot­light on New Ross with in­au­gu­ral fes­ti­val

FIRST EVER AMER­I­CAN PRO­DUC­TION FOR ST MICHAEL’S THEATRE

New Ross Standard - - FRONT PAGE - By DAVID LOOBY

THEATRE LOVERS are in for a treat this week as the in­au­gu­ral Eu­gene O’Neill In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Theatre brings a host of in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal tal­ent to the stage in New Ross.

Run­ning from Thurs­day till Sun­day plays by ar­guably Amer­ica’s great­est play­wright will be per­formed close to his an­ces­tral home in Tin­ner­anny.

Over four days plays will be per­formed at St Michael’s Theatre and on the Dun­brody Famine Ship, along with a spe­cial screening of The Count of Monte Cristo.

THE Eu­gene O’Neill In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Theatre – which be­gins this Thurs­day in New Ross – will bring a host of in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal tal­ent to the stage in New Ross.

Mem­bers of the New Ross Mu­nic­i­pal Dis­trict coun­cil, led by cathaoir­leach Cllr John Flem­ing, will af­ford a civic wel­come to the Mayor of Danville, Cal­i­for­nia, Mayor Newell Arner­ich, and a group of 50 vis­i­tors to New Ross from Danville who will be at­tend­ing the Eu­gene O’Neill Fes­ti­val over the com­ing week­end.

This group in­cludes Mr Dan McGovern Pres­i­dent of the Eu­gene O’Neill Foun­da­tion, based in Danville, along with other mem­bers of the civic author­ity there, and the di­rec­tor Eric Hayes and cast of Hughie, which will be per­formed as part of the fes­ti­val; the first Amer­i­can pro­duc­tion in the theatre.

The wel­come re­cep­tion is tak­ing place at Bran­don House Ho­tel on Wed­nes­day at 8 p.m.

The wel­come event, which is mark­ing a civic part­ner­ship be­tween the two mu­nic­i­pal dis­tricts which was re­cently estab­lished when a del­e­ga­tion from New Ross at­tended the first leg of the One Fes­ti­val Two Coun­tries Eu­gene O’Neill Fes­ti­val in Danville last month.

The re­cep­tion will fea­ture the in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned and New Ross based clas­si­cal gui­tarist David Creevy and Celtic jazz singer Me­lanie O’Reilly who are col­lab­o­rat­ing in a spe­cial trib­ute to Ire­land’s na­tional com­poser Tur­lough O’Carolan.

This col­lab­o­ra­tion re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion when Davis and Me­lanie rep­re­sented County Wex­ford at the fes­ti­val in Danville.

The fes­ti­val 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.

Cel­e­brat­ing the life and work of the award-winning Ir­ish-Amer­i­can play­wright, the fes­ti­val will host a col­lec­tion of vi­brant and ex­cit­ing per­for­mances and events. Open­ing with a spe­cial, Ir­ish de­but screening of ‘ The Count of Monte Cristo’, star­ring Eu­gene’s fa­ther, James O’Neill in the lead role.

James left New Ross as a child dur­ing the Famine and de­spite the ter­ri­ble hard­ship of his youth went to be a fa­mous ac­tor in the US, star­ring in the Count of Monte Cristo thou­sands of times on stage in a role he made fa­mous.

The silent film, which was made in 1913 by the pi­o­neer­ing film­maker Ed­win Porter, has been ac­quired es­pe­cially for the fes­ti­val from the Li­brary of Congress in Washington DC.

The film will be ac­com­pa­nied by a spe­cially com­mis­sioned mu­si­cal score by com­poser and pi­anist Phil Collins and in­tro­duced by Dr Richard Hayes of Water­ford In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy.

Other high­lights of the fes­ti­val in­clude a stag­ing of the play ‘Hughie’, di­rected by Eric Hayes of the Eu­gene O’Neill Foun­da­tion in Cal­i­for­nia, and daily per­for­mances of The Glen­cairn Plays staged on­board the famine ship, ‘ the SS Dun­brody.

There will also be a rare pro­duc­tion of the play ‘Mourn­ing Be­comes Elec­tra’, di­rected by Ben Barnes and fea­tur­ing an im­pres­sive in­ter­na­tional cast.

On Sun­day evening the fes­ti­val will close by cel­e­brat­ing the play­wright Eoin Colfer, whose very pop­u­lar My Real Life will star the inim­itable Don Wy­cher­ley.

This play had rave re­views when it fea­tured at the Ed­in­burgh and Dublin fes­ti­vals and is be­ing fea­tured in the in­au­gu­ral Eu­gene O’Neill Fes­ti­val by pop­u­lar de­mand.

The fes­ti­val is part of the ‘One Fes­ti­val, Two Cities’ ini­tia­tive that also will see New Ross twin with Danville, Cal­i­for­nia, the lo­ca­tion of the Eu­gene O’Neill her­itage site, Tao House, and home of the Eu­gene O’Neill Foun­da­tion who are col­lab­o­rat­ing with the O’Neill An­ces­tral Trust in stag­ing the events.

Speak­ing on the fes­ti­val pro­gramme, Sean Reidy, Chair­man of the Eu­gene O’Neill An­ces­tral Trust, said: ‘ The fes­ti­val ac­knowl­edges the im­por­tance of Ire­land to Eu­gene O’Neill, Amer­ica’s great­est play­wright. In some ways, the story of the O’Neill’s runs par­al­lel to the story of the Kennedys, a fam­ily for­ever now as­so­ci­ated with New Ross; in both cases, il­lus­trat­ing the Amer­i­can dream, out of im­pov­er­ished cir­cum­stances tal­ented peo­ple rose to the high­est level in their do­main, whether that be pol­i­tics or the arts. JFK be­came Pres­i­dent of the United States; Eu­gene won the No­bel Prize for Lit­er­a­ture. In cel­e­brat­ing Eu­gene and his fa­ther James we cel­e­brate Ire­land’s in­flu­ence on the world.’

The fes­ti­val is sup­ported by Wex­ford County Coun­cil. New Ross dis­trict man­ager Sinead Casey said of the pro­gramme: ‘Rooted in the lo­cal com­mu­nity but also of­fer­ing an in­ter­na­tional flavour, this new fes­ti­val is a won­der­ful ad­di­tion to the pro­gramme of artis­tic events tak­ing place in New Ross every year. Fes­ti­vals such as this at­tract many vis­i­tors into the town and this is very im­por­tant for our con­tin­ued pros­per­ity and de­vel­op­ment.’

Tick­ets to the fes­ti­val week­end events are avail­able at St Michael’s Theatre box of­fice or on­line at www.eu­ge­neoneillfes­ti­val.com.

James O’Neill, fa­ther of Eu­gene, stars in the fea­ture film ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’.

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