Eugene O'Neill Foundation plans summer of celebrations

Marks 100th anniversaries of playwright's first production, creation of National Park Service

Summer and fall 2016 will be busy and exciting seasons for the Eugene O'Neill Foundation as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and a centennial presentation of Eugene O'Neill's first play as part of a series of events to honor one of America's most famous playwrights.

Kicking off the summer is the 10th annual O'Neill Studio Retreat from July 14-24 at Tao House, O'Neill's former home in Danville. In the past decade, developing playwrights and actors have come to Tao House to discover and improve their acting and writing skills while learning about O'Neill's history.

During the retreat, teens will be led by Dave Deverman and his staff as they write their own short plays, work together to develop a complete script, and then have it performed before an audience.

In 1916, O'Neill's first play, "Bound East for Cardiff," was performed in Provincetown, Mass., and would be known as the production that jump-started his distinguished career as a playwright. It is one of his first "sea plays" that reflects on his experience as an able-bodied seaman in trips to South America and Europe, according to the foundation.

To commemorate the milestone anniversary, the foundation is presenting a staged reading of "Bound East for Cardiff" on July 30 at 8p.m., and July 31 at 2p.m. in the Old Barn at the O'Neill National Historic Site. The band Skip Henderson and the Starboard Watch will perform sea chanteys appropriate to the play's time and setting to enhance the historical aspect of the show.

Tickets for "Bound East for Cardiff" are on sale. There is limited seating for the performances at the Old Barn performance space at Tao House.

Then this September, the 17th Eugene O'Neill Festival will feature two award-winning plays offered on the theme of "(R)EVOLUTION."

Edward Albee's award-winning "Seascape" is planned for production at the Village Theatre in Danville opening Sept. 2, with nine performances through Sept. 18. "Seascape" is presented by Role Players Ensemble and directed by George Maguire.

O'Neill's drama "The Emperor Jones" opens Sept. 23 and is directed by foundation artistic program director Eric Fraisher Hayes. There will be six performances through Oct. 2 at the Old Barn at the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site.

"These two plays represent both an evolution in American drama as well as a revolution," Fraisher Hayes said in a recent statement. "In both plays the central characters find themselves in unexpected situations that challenge their senses and their view of the world about them."

"O'Neill moved the American theater beyond objective reality and into the magical and surreal world of psychological perception in order to explore deeper truths about what it is to be human," he added. "This evolution started a theatrical revolution."

Also planned for the Eugene O'Neill Festival is the premiere of a new play by Adrienne Pender, "N," which developed during her residency at Tao House last fall as a Travis Bogard Fellow in the Artist-in-Residence program of the foundation.

"N" tells the story of O'Neill and actor Charles Gilpin, who originated the title role in O'Neill's "The Emperor Jones" in 1920, according to foundation representatives. "N" will receive a public workshop performance on Sept. 29 in the Old Barn at the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site.

Tickets for the three O'Neill Festival programs will be available after Aug. 1.

The Eugene O'Neill Foundation is the nonprofit partner with the National Park Service, responsible for educational and community programs and performances at the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site. The historical site is located at 1000 Kuss Road in Danville.

Information on the Eugene O'Neill Foundation, as well as tickets, applications and updates on the summer of celebration productions, is available at the foundation's website.

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