From 'Little House' to Tao House | April 25, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Living - April 25, 2008

From 'Little House' to Tao House

TV star to perform in Playwrights' Theatre series

Actress Karen Grassle, who starred in the TV hit series "Little House on the Prairie," will be at a bigger house in May - Eugene O'Neill's Tao House estate in Danville, where she will be appearing in the 2008 Playwrights' Theatre series.

The series will include staged readings of O'Neill's rarely-produced "Welded"; and "Blood Mirage," a new work, will highlight the series in the Old Barn at Tao House.

Blood Mirage, by San Francisco actor, director, producer and playwright Jeffrey Hartgraves, will open the series May 4 along with "Revelations," a series of scenes from O'Neill plays in which women are the principal characters and in which Grassle will be featured.

"Welded," about a successful playwright and his wife, will be performed May 18.

Performances on both dates will begin at 3 p.m. in the Old Barn at Tao House.

Tickets at $25 for each show are on sale at the Eugene O'Neill Foundation in Danville AT 820-1818 as well as online via Pay Pal at

Tickets include transportation to Tao House. Private vehicles are not allowed. The transportation schedule will be provided at time of ticket purchase.

Although she achieved fame as Caroline Ingalls, co-star Michael Landon's ranch wife in the "Little House" series that began in 1974, Grassle is no stranger to the stage. She made her Broadway debut in 1968 in "The Gingham Dog," and appeared over the years with regional and touring companies in such hits as "Driving Miss Daily."

Grassle is a native of Berkeley, where she was born in 1944.

Mike Ward, artistic associate at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, will direct "Blood Mirage." Ward describes "Blood Mirage" as a story of three adult sisters who are called together by their aging mother to attend the funeral of her sister, their aunt. The mother decides that certain truths must be revealed before it is too late. The daughters find that their lives are altered through a shift in nothing more or less potent than perspectives.

Ward returns to Tao House after last year's successful presentation of Adam Sandel's "This is Not My Life."

Welded will be directed by Josy Miller, artistic director of the new Hapgood Theatre in Antioch. The play was written by O'Neill in 1922-23, and performed the following year at the Thirty-Ninth Street Theatre in New York. Although it did not enjoy a successful run, it is an example of O'Neill's early attempts to explore the nature of married love. He sought to convey the inner conflicts of the individual spouses and reveal the spiritual dimension of the marriage bond.

The play's protagonists, a successful playwright and his actress wife, bear striking resemblances to O'Neill and his second wife, Agnes Boulton, a writer whose career, in the early years of their marriage, rivaled his.

In the play, O'Neill challenges the couple to remove the masks which they have been wearing in the marriage. Unable to do so, each of them seeks comfort in another relationship - she with a family friend, he with a prostitute. It is in their reunion, in the final act of the play, that O'Neill introduces the notion of a spiritual love, a sacrament, which demands a surrender of their egocentric selves, one which transcends yet bonds them forever.

While he was drafting the play, O'Neill wrote in Theatre Arts magazine: "I feel that I'm getting back as far as it is possible in modern times to get back, to the religious in the theatre. The only way we can get religion back is through an exultation over the truth, through an exultant acceptance of life."

The Playwrights' Theatre, now in its 13th season, is a program of the Eugene O'Neill Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service, which maintains Tao House as a National Historic Site. The theater features new works as well as those by O'Neill or by playwrights who were influenced by the legendary dramatist.