Yale and New Haven Actors Celebrate Eugene O'Neill in Song

Playwright Eugene O’Neill may not be known as a song-and-dance man, but, as demonstrated by the Yale-sponsored production coming up this weekend, “Eugene O’Neill Ragtime Revue,” he could be a lot of fun.

The Revue uses songs from O’Neill’s plays interspersed with narrative to recount the early life of one of America’s most celebrated playwrights. A pastiche of spirituals, ragtime, sea shanties and bar songs culled from 37 of O’Neill’s 49 plays, the show will reveal a rarely glimpsed side of O’Neill. Indeed, the popular music he incorporated into his plays reflects the period of his youth – before the damages from alcohol took their toll – when putting out to sea and carousing at bars until dawn were part of a carefree routine.

A joint venture of the Yale Dramat, an organization called “O’Neill at Yale,” and O’Neill buffs from the New Haven community, the project is the brainchild of Stephen Kennedy Murphy. Murphy is the artistic director of the Playwrights Theater in New York, a company that enlists community participation in its productions. Murphy, who put the show together, will direct Yale students and New Haven actors in this production.

As much as it is meant to celebrate the life of one of America’s greatest dramatists, the Revue is an effort to integrate members of the Yale and New Haven communities. Amateur actors from New Haven – including a prosecutor – will be performing in the Revue alongside Yale undergraduates. They will be working with the actors from the Playwrights Theater in New York who have already performed the Revue to critical acclaim at Lincoln Center and NYU’s Provincetown Playhouse.

Among the New Haven actors are Tom Murphy, a New Haven social worker recently seen in “Much Ado about Nothing” at Long Wharf, who plays O’Neill’s brother Jamie; Ray Weiderhold, Branford’s Deputy Chief of Police, who has worked with the Irish performance group “Gaelic Players” and other local community organizations; and Chris Freel, who plays the role of O’Neill.

Patricia Willis, curator of the American literature collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale, which houses the O’Neill papers, has been a moving force behind the project.

” ‘The Ragtime Revue’ shows O’Neill’s light side – his love for music, the poems of his youth. It is a grand opportunity for Yale students to work with New Haven actors from the New Haven community under [Stephen] Murphy’s capable direction,” said Willis of this unusual collaboration.

“The Eugene O’Neill Ragtime Revue” will have three performances at Anna Liffey’s Irish Restaurant, 17 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, Friday, April 20 through Sunday, April 23 at 8 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public. For information or reservations, call 436-1355 or email lauren.schell@yale.edu.

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Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345