Friday 6 December 2019

California dreamin' for local production

Wexford actors getting to grips with their new roles on the Dunbrody Famine Ship ahead of their trip to California
Wexford actors getting to grips with their new roles on the Dunbrody Famine Ship ahead of their trip to California

David Looby

Co Wexford actors have returned from performing a series of Eugene O'Neill plays in California in front of packed audiences.

The St Michael's Theatre, New Ross, production was showcased aboard the 1886, square-rigger 'Balclutha', staged at one of the world's most iconic visitor attraction at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco Bay.

This was the first time that a New Ross production has ever been performed in the USA.

According to the chairman of the Eugene O'Neill International Festival of Theatre Sean Reidy: 'It was a great success. The Irish Eugene O'Neill Festival partnership with the US festival in Danville, California, is proving to be a brilliant collaboration for both festivals. I am very proud that a major New Ross production has featured at one of the world's iconic attractions.'

Sean congratulated the director Paul Walsh, producer Tomás Kavanagh, assistant producer Louise Ronan, and all the cast for what he described as a magnificent achievement with many logistical and staging challenges.

'I would also like to thank the Cathaoirleach John Fleming and all the district committee representatives for their exceptional support; without their help it could not have happened.'

The Wexford cast performed the three one-act plays over three nights on two different vessels in the bay, each night to a full house. They were given a fantastic welcome which saw VIPs join the audience each evening, including the San Francisco Maritime Park Group, The Eugene O'Neill Foundation and the Irish Consulate General Robert O'Driscoll and six time Mayor of Danville CA Newell Arnerich.

Danville is a sister city of New Ross and Cllr Fleming and Cllr Anthony Connick, who is Vice Cathaoirleach of New Ross Municipal District, attended the festival, with Director of Services Eamonn Hore and outgoing district manager Sinead Casey.

'It was a huge honour for the cast, as the only other occasion that the Glencairn Cycle has been hosted on the Balclutha was on the centenary of Eugene O'Neill's birth,' Sean said.

The cast included Bryan Hynes, Gary Stephens, Ronan Berry, Andy Doyle, Jack Matthews, Gerard O'Riordan, Paul Walsh, Stephen Byrne, John Crosbie, Michael Murphy, Tony Brennan, Danielle Reck and Catherine Walsh.

They are currently preparing for the Eugene O'Neill International Festival of Theatre in New Ross where the plays will be performed twice daily aboard the Dunbrody Famine Ship as part of the 2019 Eugene O'Neill International Festival of Theatre in New Ross which takes place from October 9 to October 13.

The series of three one-act plays are set aboard the fictional ship the 'SS Glencairn', and are called Bound East for Cardiff, The Long Voyage Home and In the Zone.

They will be presented in one sitting lasting an hour.

A variety of theatrical events, plays, readings, talks, a festival reception evening, lunchtime plays, and panel discussions are set to take place at venues across the town.

The Irish festival is taking place in partnership with the successful festival in California named after the playwright, whose family hail from Tinneranny.

It is co-chaired by Sean Reidy, former CEO of the Kennedy Trust, together with Dan McGovern, President of The Eugene O'Neill Foundation, with Tomás Kavanagh as Festival Director, Dr Richard Hayes of WIT as Academic Adviser and Alice O'Neill McLoughlin, one of Eugene O'Neill's remaining Irish relatives from Tinneranny just outside New Ross, from where James O'Neill emigrated from in 1851.

Tickets for individual events are available from €15; for further details see or call 051 421255.

Wexford People

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