2015-2016 Season

Broadway in Boroughs: SHE LOVES ME


SLM_600x240For the first time, from the NYC's Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, Broadway shows are being brought to neighborhoods across New York City through “Broadway in the Boroughs.” Featuring a showcase of vignettes performed by members of the current casts and orchestras from hit musicals including She Loves Me and Fiddler on the Roof, these lunchtime performances are free and open to the public. One performance will take place in each borough throughout the summer.

The series kicks off at National Lighthouse Point Plaza  in Staten Island at noon on Friday, June 24, rain or shine.

If driving, please use GPS address as 1 Bay Street. For those taking the Staten Island Ferry over from Manhattan and arriving at St George’s Ferry Terminal Landing, we suggest to follow this route: Walking map to Lighthouse Point from SI Ferry Terminal, and for those coming from the direction of Staten Island Borough Hall to follow this route: Walking map to Lighthouse Point from SI Borough Hall.

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2015-2016 Season, She Loves Me

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James Tyrone: The Old Man


“He is by nature and preference a simple, unpretentious man, whose inclinations are still close to his humble beginnings and his Irish farmer forebears. But the actor shows in all his unconscious habits of speech, movement and gesture. These have the quality of belonging to a studied technique.” (From O’Neill’s description of the character James Tyrone)

Biographer Barbara Gelb has called the role of James Tyrone “O'Neill's Lear,” because of the actions and emotions it challenges an actor to perform. While strong paternal figures loom heavily in many of O’Neill’s plays, his robust characterization of Tyrone stands apart as his most powerful statement about his father, James O’Neill, and their complicated relationship.

Jessica Lange and Gabriel Byrne in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Jessica Lange and Gabriel Byrne in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. (Photo by Joan Marcus)


Although he became a successful American actor, James O'Neill lived his entire life haunted by a fear of poverty. Uncertainty remains about his actual birthdate, because he was vague in talking about his past; he was probably born on October 15th of 1845, in County Kilkenny, during the worst of the Irish potato blight. His father, Edmund, was a poor tenant farmer whose wife, Mary, was 17 years his junior. The family had five daughters and three sons, of which James was the youngest.

The O’Neills made a difficult sea voyage to America, arriving in Buffalo, New York when James was six. Like most Irish immigrants, they confronted prejudice and disdain and could find only the lowest paying jobs. Edmund became a dock worker. After five years and the death of oldest son Richard, Edmund abandoned his family and returned to Ireland, where he died in 1862. Ten-year-old James went to work in a machine shop to help support the family. As he watched friends and neighbors move to the poor house, James’s fear of poverty grew.

His older sister, Josephine, was determined to improve conditions for her family. She married a successful businessman and moved to Cincinnati, taking 16-year-old James along. Her husband gave James a position selling military uniforms in his store and hired a private tutor to educate him. Like many success stories, James O’Neill rose as a result of hard work and some good luck.

His theatre career began in 1867, when, responding to a friend’s dare, he took a job as an extra in a play. He quickly discovered an inclination for acting, and the stage manager recognized his talent. Over the next decade James apprenticed with some of the great actors of the age: Edwin Forrest, Joseph Jefferson, and Edwin Booth. He developed his craft, overcame his Irish brogue, and memorized over 50 roles—including most of Shakespeare’s heroes. His talent, good looks, and charm earned him the respect of his peers and popularity with audiences.

James was well-liked by women, both onstage and off. One actress recalled, "When played with other Romeos, I thought they would climb up the trellis to the balcony; but when I played with Jimmy O'Neill, I wanted to climb down the trellis, into his arms." Fifteen-year-old Ella Quinlan, the daughter of a Cleveland businessman, caught James’s eye. Two years later, they met again in New York and a long courtship followed. Against her mother’s wishes, she married James in 1877. By this time, he had become a leading man in a theatre company, earning an impressive $195 a week. Their newlywed happiness was soon jeopardized when Nettie Welsh, a former lover, brought a lawsuit claiming that James had already married her and fathered a 3-year-old son. Welsh lost the case due to insufficient evidence, but the scandal hurt the marriage—even as it helped James’s box office appeal. James and Ella had three children: James Jr., Edmund (who died of the measles as a toddler), and Eugene, born in 1888. Despite Ella’s dislike of the theatrical lifestyle and her long struggle with addiction, James remained a devoted and faithful husband.

In 1883, James first played Edmond Dantes in the melodrama The Count of Monte Cristo, based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel. Over the next 30 years, he performed the role over 6,000 times and earned more than $800,000 —a fortune for a man who started as a penniless immigrant. But it became a Faustian bargain: he had sold out artistic aspiration in exchange for financial security and felt trapped by the role. Still, he played Dantes until the production finally closed down in 1916. In 1920, with his self esteem broken and his spirit destroyed, James O’Neill died of intestinal cancer.

Long Day's Journey into Night is now playing at The American Airlines Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit our website.

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2015-2016 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Long Day's Journey Into Night

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Mary Tyrone: A Shy Convent-Girl


But some day, dear, I will find it again—some day when you're all well, and I see you healthy and happy and successful, and I don't have to feel guilty any more—some day when the Blessed Virgin Mary forgives me and gives me back the faith in Her love and pity I used to have in my convent days, and I can pray to Her again when She sees no one in the world can believe in me even for a moment any more, then She will believe in me, and with Her help it will be so easy. I will hear myself scream with agony, and at the same time I will laugh because I will be so sure of myself.—Mary Tyrone

Jessica Lange as Mary Tyrone in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Jessica Lange as Mary Tyrone in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT.
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

Eugene O’Neill used the character of Mary Cavan Tyrone to work through the ideologies and choices that shaped the life of his own mother, Mary Ellen “Ella” Quinlan O’Neill. The two--woman and character--share a devout Catholic upbringing, marriage to a traveling actor, and an addiction to morphine. While O’Neill made changes to the details of his mother’s life to serve the play, it’s clear that the soul of Mary Tyrone’s journey is rooted in Ella O’Neill’s life experience.

O’Neill describes Mary Tyrone in the summer of 1912 just as his mother was then: 54 years old, medium height, with a striking face. “Her nose is long and straight, her mouth wide with full, sensitive lips….Her dark brown eyes appear black. They are unusually large and beautiful, with black browns and long curling lashes.”

Ella O’Neill was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on August 13, 1857. Like Mary Tyrone, whose voice has “a touch of Irish lilt in it,” both of Ella’s parents were Irish Catholic immigrants. She was raised in St. Brigid’s Parish on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio. Her father’s success in business--an achievement for an immigrant in an era of anti-Catholic, anti-Irish sentiment--allowed him to send Ella to private schools, first to Ursuline Academy near her parents’ home. The school was run by Ursuline nuns, an order that focuses almost exclusively on the education of girls and places a high value on individual spiritual and academic development and “the primacy of Hope...learning to trust in the Providence of God and the promise of a better tomorrow.” There, young Ella would have attended mass, confession, novenas, benedictions, and adoration in the convent chapel, passing hours staring at a painting of the Virgin Mary and the Christ child that hung in the sanctuary. She learned the difference between mortal and venial sins and developed a strong awareness of her own transgressions.

From Ursuline Academy, Ella was sent to the Convent of St. Mary in Notre Dame, Indiana. It was here that Ella, under the tutelage of Mother Elizabeth, developed as a pianist, exactly as Mary Tyrone describes. O’Neill even retains Mother Elizabeth’s name. School was, for both Ella and Mary, a happy time when faith and life were integrated and their creative talents nurtured.

It’s at this point that Ella’s biography diverges from Mary Tyrone’s backstory. In 1874, just prior to her graduation, Ella’s father died of tuberculosis aggravated by alcoholism, a habit he took up after his diagnosis. He left the family quite well off, and young Ella persuaded her mother to accompany her to New York to continue her music studies. It was there that she was re-introduced to James O’Neill, an actor and casual friend of her father’s that she first met as a teenager in Cleveland. At the time of their marriage in 1877, Ella was twenty years old and had lived through her father’s traumatic death. She was not the girl described in the play: a giddy, spoiled convent girl with a father who buys her everything she wants. But like Ella, Mary’s father died of tuberculosis.

Gabriel Byrne and Jessica Lange in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Gabriel Byrne and Jessica Lange in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

After marriage, Ella’s story converges with Mary’s. Both struggled with life as the wife of a traveling actor. Mary describes “one-night stands, cheap hotels, dirty trains, bearing children, never having a home.” In an era when middle and upper class women were defined by their ability to create a pleasant home for their family, Mary feels that she’s failed at her most important duty.

Ella gave birth to her first son, James, in 1878 and a second son five years later, just as Mary Tyrone does in the play. (In the play, the Tyrone sons are, in birth order, James, Eugene, and Edmund; in reality, Ella O’Neill’s sons were James, Edmund, and Eugene.) When her sons were seven and two, Ella left them in the care of her mother and joined her husband on the road. While she was away, Jamie, the eldest, contracted measles, and, despite being warned not to, snuck into his brother Edmund’s room. Edmund caught measles and died before Ella could reach him.

Mary Tyrone relates the same story, making it clear that she blames the baby’s death on Jamie. “I’ve always believed Jamie did it on purpose. He was jealous of the baby.” While a viewer might interpret Mary’s bitterness as a byproduct of grief, she was likely raised to regard seven as “the age of reason,” the age at which a child is developed enough to understand and receive the sacraments of confession and Holy Communion. He was old enough to be held spiritually responsible for his actions. At the same time, she feels deep guilt for having left her child. She feels that she’s committed a mortal sin and would have been raised to believe that she’s no longer in a state of grace, deprived of her inner connection to God.

Six years later, despite vowing not to have more children, Ella gave birth to her third son, Eugene. The birth was difficult, and she was given morphine for the resulting pain. This wasn’t unusual at the time. Doctors had limited options for treating pain, and the prevailing belief that women were more delicate, and more sensitive to nervous upset, lead to widespread prescription of opiates for all gynecological ailments. In 1879 the president of the American Gynecological Society recommended that physicians teach women suffering menstrual pain to become “opiumeaters.” Opiate-based over-the-counter remedies (including “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup,” used to calm fussy infants) were legal and widely available. There was nothing illegal or furtive about acquiring opiates during the early years of Ella’s addiction. Opiate addiction was seen sympathetically, as an unfortunate disease of upper and middle class women.

By 1912, the year the play takes place, there had been a shift in public perception of opiate use. Doctors became aware of the hazards of the drug. More importantly, sensationalized newspaper coverage of white slavery in Chinese opium dens and poor, minority criminal addicts lead to a legislative push to restrict and criminalize narcotic use. It was at this point in time that many women addicts, including Ella and her fictional counterpart, finally sought treatment. Though in the play we leave Mary Tyrone on that same August day in 1912, her final monologue foreshadows Ella’s own recovery from addiction. In 1914, Ella again entered treatment, possibly with the assistance of nuns, and successfully overcame her habit. She died of cancer in 1922.

Long Day's Journey into Night is now playing at The American Airlines Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit our website.

Related Categories:
2015-2016 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Long Day's Journey Into Night

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