Eugene O'Neill Foundation to honor Paul Robeson | January 16, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - January 16, 2009

Eugene O'Neill Foundation to honor Paul Robeson

Museum of the San Ramon Valley, foundation leaders also to be recognized

Legendary actor, singer and social activist Paul Robeson will be honored Jan. 21 along with two individuals and an institution for work that has embraced and supported the legacy of American playwright Eugene O'Neill and the Danville-based foundation that bears his name.

The Eugene O'Neill Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service will present the awards at a dinner, open to the public, at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 21, at the Crow Canyon Country Club in Danville. Reservations at $80 per person may be made at 820-1818.

The event will feature a musical tribute to Robeson by bass baritone Lawrence Beamen, whose performance career was influenced by the legendary actor. Beamen will sing Robeson's trademark song, "Old Man River," and other selections.

The foundation will give the Tao House Award for distinguished service to the American Theater to Robeson, who died in 1976 at age 77. The award was announced in September, but the formal presentation to Paul Robeson Jr., was deferred due to the son's illness at the time. Robeson Jr. and his wife, residents of New York, will be present at the dinner to accept the award posthumously in honor of his father, who starred in O'Neill plays, including "The Emperor Jones" and "All God's Chillun Got Wings."

Two longtime foundation leaders, Diane Schinnerer of San Ramon and Carol Sherrill of Danville, will receive the foundation's Open Gate Award. The award, which Sherrill helped establish during her 18 years on the foundation's board, is given to individuals who have worked to preserve O'Neill's Tao House estate, a unit of the Park Service, in Danville and the playwright's legacy.

A special Partnership Award will be presented to the Museum of the San Ramon Valley in Danville "in recognition of working together through exhibits and special community projects to perpetuate the life and literary legacy" of O'Neill, America's only playwright to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature and four Pulitzer Prizes.

Schinnerer was the first mayor of San Ramon in 1983 and is a former board member and president of the foundation. She manages the organization's library at Tao House. The library contains the largest and most accessible collection of resources relating to the playwright on the West Coast. Since 1999 Schinnerer has been secretary of the O'Neill Society, an international organization.

Sherrill has been chairwoman of two international O'Neill conferences in Danville and has served as president and member of the board of the O'Neill Foundation. She and Schinnerer are currently members of the foundation's Honorary Board, composed of individuals who have served the organization with distinction.

Robeson Jr. is executive director of the Paul Robeson Foundation established in 1996 in New York. The foundation, dedicated to preserving the legacy of Robeson Sr., collects, preserves and disseminates approximately 50,000 items in Robeson collections.

The foundation's Tao House Award for distinguished service to the American Theater was first presented in 1989 to actor Jason Robards.