Tao House Artist in Residence Program begins this month

Two selected to develop Eugene O'Neill-focused creative projects in Danville

The Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Tao House, will begin the first session of its new Travis Bogard Artist in Residence Program this month.

Two Tao House fellows have been selected to develop their own works in the quiet and secluded home of America's only Nobel Prize-winning playwright, Eugene O'Neill.

Named after the late Travis Bogard -- professor emeritus of dramatic arts at UC Berkeley and the foundation's first artistic director -- the program is geared toward artists, scholars and critics of the performing arts.

"For many years the O'Neill Foundation has been looking to initiate the Artist in Residence program at Tao House -- a goal our early mentor Travis Bogard set for us," said Gary Schaub the O'Neill Foundation co-president. "The Foundation Board is very pleased that Travis's dream is being realized with the appointment of our first two Tao House fellows."

David Palmer -- assistant professor of philosophy at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy -- will arrive in April to work on a section of a book that will feature O'Neill. The book is tentatively titled, "Evolution, Ethics and Tragedy: A Cognitive Studies Approach to the Plays of Arthur Miller and Eugene O'Neill."

The book takes a cognitive-studies approach to the analysis of tragedy which has emerged in recent years due to advances in brain research and evolutionary psychology, according to program organizers.

While working at Tao House, Palmer will focus on O'Neill's late autobiographical plays and his brother, Jamie, whom he describes as, "a man who is driven into crippling shame by his confrontation with his inability to realize his idealized self."

"I believe that being in the place where O'Neill himself went through this confrontation with his past will help me understand his experience with greater depth, in much the same way that visiting the empty battlefield at Gettysburg today helps our understanding of the terror and awe of what Civil War soldiers on both sides went through there," Palmer said.

The second fellow, Herman Daniel Farrell III, will arrive in May.

Farrell is a professional playwright and professor of playwriting at the University of Kentucky. According to program organizers, he aims to develop a postmodern play about O'Neill's life and works.

Farrell originally began the project in 1983 when he wrote a play called, "Dreams of the Son: A Life of Eugene O'Neill." Over the last few decades, Farrell has continued to research and teach O'Neill's works and now plans to write a different play that explores the life of O'Neill in a fragmentary and postmodern manner, organizers said.

"I have no doubt that walking those grounds and spending time in that storied home will provide me with boundless inspiration for this project I have been working on, here and there, in fits and starts, over the course of my entire career as a playwright," Farrell said.

Palmer and Farrell will be living at Danville's San Damiano Retreat Center and work in the Trunk House located in the courtyard of Tao House. They will also have access to the Tao House Library which houses manuscripts, letters, photographs and special collections related to O'Neill's works.

The foundation's Advisory Board Committee and National Park Service teamed up to develop the pilot program and encourage applicants to apply for the second session this fall.

For more information, visit the foundation website.

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