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July 2017 President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins Addresses Eugene O’Neill Conference at NUI Galway
Society medallion awardees to include Gabriel Byrne and Jessica Lange
Co-chaired by Professor Nelson O’Ceallaigh Ritschel and Dr Audrey McNamara, the tenth international conference on Eugene O’Neill ‘Ireland: A Constant Presence’ at NUI Galway will conclude tonight (Friday, 21 July) with an address by President Michael D. Higgins on how O’Neill’s Irish psyche influenced his dramatic works.
While never setting foot on Irish soil, Ireland’s presence was an integral force in Eugene Gladstone O’Neill’s life and dramatic canon. O’Neill himself remarked: “The one thing that explains more than anything about me is the fact that I’m Irish. And, strangely enough, it is something that all the writers who have attempted to explain me and my work have overlooked.”
Following the Presidential address, the Eugene O’Neill Society will present the Medallion Award to Robert Dowling, William Davies King, Steven Bloom, Jessica Lange and Gabriel Byrne.
During the conference, delegates had the opportunity to engage with a special exhibition on O’Neill and Ireland which is drawn from NUI Galway’s extensive theatre archives. There was also a reading of a play by Ronan Noone, an NUI Galway graduate who has gone on to have a successful career as a playwright in the United States, and whose work The Second Girl will be performed in Ireland for the first time as a staged reading.
The Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance at NUI Galway provides courses in drama and theatre studies for undergraduate and postgraduate students, working with Irish arts partners that all have strong connections with Eugene O’Neill, including the Abbey Theatre, Druid Theatre and others.
NUI Galway Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies Patrick Lonergan stated that the event was an essential part of the Centre for Drama’s work in making new international connections. “NUI Galway is delighted to host the Eugene O’Neill Society for its first conference outside the United States. Our Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance has extensive links in the US, just as O’Neill was an American playwright with strong links with Ireland. These connections enrich our scholarship but also provide exciting new opportunities for our students and teachers to encounter exciting new work.”
Chris Westgate, the Eugene O’Neill Society President, commented: “The society greatly appreciates the organisation and work everyone at NUI Galway has done to make this conference such a success, the co-chairs and most especially the presence and contribution of the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins.”