70 Days Across America
The Danville Eugene O’Neill Festival is held each fall in the San Francisco Bay Area. Plays by the Irish-American playwright are staged in a barn at Tao House in the bucolic hills of the Tri-Valley area. Although the plays were sold out, room was made for me to attend one. What an incredible honour!
Why I’m Here …
So what am I doing in Danville?
Danville is a city in Southern Alameda, California. It is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Oakland.
Not only that, Danville is ranked as the wealthiest middle sized city in the United States. It is considered one of the four best cities in the country to live in. And it has a population of nearly 70,300 people.
More importantly, Danville is a stop on the Northern California leg of my epic trip, 70 Days Across America.
My stay was arranged by Visit Tri-Valley, which represents the three valleys surrounding Mount Diablo. In addition to Danville, featured cities include Dublin, Livermore, and Pleasanton.
My previous stops included San Francisco, Los Altos, Napa Valley, Concord, and Oakland.
Arrival in the Tri-Valley
After having lunch in downtown Oakland, I checked out of my hotel and traveled to the Tri-Valley on BART.
After checking into the Four Points by Sheraton Pleasanton, I spent the rest of the day enjoying the facilities at the hotel and exploring the neighborhood.
In the evening, I had a mouth-watering dinner to the hotel’s dining room, Faz Restaurant & Bar.
Visit Tri-Valley had arranged a full schedule of activities for me. The formal programme began the next day with a visit to the Blackhawk Museum. Then I had a mouth-watering lunch at the Beer Baron Bar & Kitchen.
Following lunch, I was taken on a tour of Downtown Pleasanton organized by the Museum on Main.
Finally, I attended a play by Eugene O’Neill at Tao House in the bucolic hills of Danville.
Tao House is located at the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site.
After touring Downtown Pleasanton, I went back to my hotel to freshen up. Then I took Uber to the nearby town of Danville.
I was told to wait outside the Museum of the San Ramon Valley for a shuttle bus, which would take me Tao House in the Danville hills.
Because I was a bit early, I explored the neighborhood. And it was quite picturesque. I love the small towns that dot Northern California!
Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site
First, there was a cocktail reception and dinner at Tao House, which is located at the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site in Danville.
Among the many VIPs was the Consul-General of the Irish Consulate in San Francisco.
In fact, O’Neill moved to Tao House at the height of his career. And this is where he wrote his final plays. Included were “The Iceman Cometh,” “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” and “A Moon for the Misbegotten.”
Then, a play by Eugene O’Neill was performed.
The Play – Hughie by Eugene O’Neill
The 19th annual Eugene O’Neill Festival in Danville, California, was held from 31 August to 30 September 2018.
During the festival, there were performances of two plays: “All My Sons” by Arthur Miller and “Hughie” by Eugene O’Neill.
I attended a performance of the latter play, which was set in the middle of the night in the lobby of a run-down hotel in New York City.
There were two characters in the original script: the hotel’s night clerk and a small-time gambler.
The festival was an important event for several reasons. First, Eric Fraisher Hayes, the director of the play, made an important innovation.
Because Eric found the play’s stage directions so engaging, he decided to add a third character to the cast.
“I was charmed by the stage directions,” Eric says.
“Along with adding to the expanded drama, the stage directions [in Hughie] expressed multiple layers of insight into the characters of the play and a rich ironic humor.”
While Eric was used to O’Neill’s “detailed and lengthy descriptions of people and places,” he found something unique in his descriptions in Hughie.
“The stage directions exuded a personality at times and I heard a third voice rising from the pages of the play,” Eric says.
So he decided to add a third character to the script in order to give voice to what O’Neill had written “between the lines of dialogue”.
Second, all three of the actors in the cast learned all three parts. And they were rotated after each performance.
I was stunned when I learned this AFTER watching the play. In fact, I thought the play had been exquisitely cast. So I had no idea that the three roles were being rotated!
Third, it was the first time the festival included a play that had not been written by O’Neill. In fact, “All My Sons” by Arthur Miller was also staged.
Finally, the Danville production of Hughie was also staged at the inaugural Eugene O’Neill Festival in New Ross, Ireland. And it then toured the Emerald Isle after the festival ended.
The Danville and New Ross festivals are being called, “One Festival, Two Countries”.
O’Neill’s Connection to Ireland
So what was O’Neill’s connection to Ireland? While he was born in New York City, he was of Irish-American extraction.
“The genius of O’Neill as a dramatist derives from his Catholic upbringing and education, which were the product of his Irish-American family background and the social-historical forces of immigration of the time,” the website Irish America says.
O’Neill is the only American playwright to have won four Pulitzer Prizes. And he is the only American playwright to have won the Nobel Prize for literature.
Where to Eat in the Tri-Valley Area
- Posada Southwestern Cuisine – Livermore, California
- Faz Restaurant and Bar – Pleasanton, California
- Beer Baron Bar & Kitchen – Pleasanton, California
What to See and Do in the Tri-Valley Area
- Blackhawk Museum – Danville
- Historic Walking Tour – Pleasanton
- Winery Tour – Livermore – COMING
Where to Stay in the Tri-Valley Area
O’Neill National Historic Site – P.O. Box 280, Danville, California. Telephone: (925) 228-8860 x6422.
Danville is a part of the Tri-Valley Area in Southern Alameda County. It is roughly 39 miles east of San Francisco. The drive takes about 50 minutes. It is roughly 31 miles from Oakland. The drive takes about 40 minutes.
If you don’t drive, you can reach the Tri-Valley area by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), getting off at the Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station.
If You’re Visiting San Francisco …
This post on the Eugene O’Neill Festival is part of a series chronicling my epic journey, 70 Days Across America. It contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a small commission that will help maintain this blog.