Wednesday, June 15, 2016

About the Author: Eugene O'Neill

Born October 16, 1888 in a hotel then situated at Broadway and Forty-third Street in New York City, Eugene O'Neill was the son of James O'Neill, one of America's most popular actors from the 1880s until World War I, and Mary Ellen “Ella” O’Neill. After Eugene was born, Ella developed an addiction to morphine as she had been given the drug to help her through her particularly difficult childbirth. Ella was also still grieving for Eugene's older brother, Edmund, who had died of the measles three years earlier. (The couple also had another son, James Jr.) His father continued on with his role in a touring production of The Count of Monte Cristo shortly after Eugene's birth.

After several years on the road with his father, O'Neill spent six years in a Catholic boarding school and three years in the Betts Academy at Stamford, Connecticut. He attended Princeton for a short time in 1906, but when he was suspended at the end of his freshman year, he decided not to return.

Eugene O'Neill
After leaving Princeton, Eugene O'Neill floundered for a time. He took several sea voyages, ran around town with brother James and indulged heavily in alcohol. He had a brief marriage to Kathleen Jenkins, which resulted in one son, Eugene O'Neill Jr. In 1909, he set out on a gold-prospecting voyage to Honduras--only to be sent home six months later with a tropical fever. During the period that followed, he spent time working as a stage manager, an actor, and a reporter. He also tended mules on a cattle steamer and set out on several other voyages as a sailor. It was here that he came in contact with the sailors, dock workers and outcasts that would populate his plays, the kind of characters the American theatre had heretofore passed over. But this irregular life took its toll on the young man, and in December 1912, he was forced to retire for six months to a sanatorium for patients with tuberculosis. It was during this time that O'Neill began to read not only the classic dramatists, but also Ibsen and Strindberg. He enrolled in writing class in Harvard and turned his hand to playwriting, quickly churning out eleven one-act plays and two full-length plays, as well as a bit of poetry.

Then, in 1916, O'Neill met at Provincetown, Massachusetts, the group which was founding the Provincetown Players. Shortly thereafter, the group produced O'Neill's one-act play Bound East for Cardiff. Other short pieces followed at the playhouse on MacDougal Street, and soon O'Neill's plays became the mainstay of this experimental group. O'Neill got a theatre company which would produce his plays, and the company got a playwright who would--more than any other single author--provide it with the fuel to revolutionize the American Theatre.

Also in 1916, O'Neill made a second attempt at domestic bliss. He married fellow writer Agnes Boulton, and the couple eventually had two children together, son Shane and daughter Oona. O'Neill took the theatrical world by storm in 1920 with Beyond the Horizon, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Later that year, another O'Neill masterpiece, The Emperor Jones, made its Broadway debut.

In 1922, O'Neill brought his drama Anna Christie to the Broadway stage; this play netted the playwright his second (of four) Pulitzer Prize for Drama. O'Neill suffered a personal loss with the death of his brother the following year. By this time, the playwright had also lost both of his parents. But O'Neill's private struggles seemed to aid him in creating greater dramatic works for the stage, including Desire Under the Elms (1924) and Strange Interlude (1928).
Around this time, O'Neill left his second wife and quickly began a relationship with Carlotta Monterey, whom he married in 1929.
O'Neill re-imagined the mythic tragedy Oresteia in Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), exchanging ancient Greece for New England in the 19th century. Five years later, he became the first American playwright to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was given this honor "for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy," according to the Nobel Prize website.

O'Neill completed Long Day's Journey Into Night in the early 1940s, but he refused to have this autobiographical play produced until long after his death. Around this same time, he had a falling out with daughter Oona; he chose to end his relationship with Oona after she married actor Charlie Chaplin.
After several years' absence from the stage, in 1946, O'Neill returned with one of his most heralded works, The Iceman Cometh, a dark drama that explores the lives of a group of barflies. The following year, the playwright learned that he had Parkinson's disease, and found it impossible to write due to the tremors in his hands.
In 1948, O'Neill, never a supportive parent, cut ties with his youngest son, Shane, after Shane was arrested for drug possession. Two years later, his eldest son, Eugene, committed suicide.
Eugene Gladstone O'Neill died of bronchial pneumonia on November 27, 1953, at the age of 65, in Boston, Massachusetts, leaving behind a tremendous literary legacy of more than 50 plays. In 1957, after O’Neill’s death, Long Day's Journey Into Night was finally performed on Broadway to rave reviews; O'Neill received a posthumous Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for the drama. His work continues to move and fascinate audiences today and he is largely considered one of the fathers of contemporary American theatre.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Anna Christie: Meet the Designers

Tina Rutsch (Anna Christopherson/Producer) is happy to be initiating her relationship with the Dragon Theatre alongside the incredible cast and creative team of Anna Christie. An East Bay native, her most recent work in this part of the Bay was playing Antipholus of Ephesus in Comedy of Errors with Silicon Valley Shakespeare. She is a proud teaching artist, working with Veterans at San Quentin through Marin Shakespeare's Shakespeare for Social Justice program. Love to Dave-o.
Jenny Hollingsworth (Director) has directed for several Bay Area theatre companies, including The Dragon, City Lights, The Pear, Tabard, Arclight Repertory and Santa Clara Players. In 2012, she produced and directed Harold Pinter’s Betrayal which won the Silicon Valley Small Theatre award for Standout Adult Contemporary Drama. In 2014, as one of the first Dragon 2nd Stage productions, she produced and directed Pinter’s The Birthday Party, for which she was nominated Best Director in the 2014 Theatre Bay Area Awards (tier 3). Originally from the UK, Jenny works in PR, and has two teenage sons of whom she is tremendously proud.
Rachel Nin (Rehearsal Stage Manager) is pleased to join Dragon Productions for her first show! For the past season, she has served as a touring stage manager at California Theatre Center children’s theatre. She has stage managed for companies around the South Bay, including Silicon Valley Shakespeare (Twelfth Night, King Lear, Pericles), Northside Theatre Company (The Underpants, Dinner With Friends), and Broadway West (I Hate Hamlet). She is an alumna of the internship program at Actors Theatre of Louisville, where she was the stage manager for That High Lonesome Sound in the 39th Humana Festival of New American Plays. She holds a B.A. in Theatre and Creative Writing from Denison University in Granville, OH.

Chloe Schweitzer (Production Stage Manager)
Primarily an actor, Jocelyn Truitt (Production Assistant) has enjoyed being able to support a production in a different way, and seeing it develop from the other side of the curtain, as it were. She hails from Columbia, Maryland, and has performed with various groups, including the San Francisco Olympians Festival, the Unknown Players, the San Francisco Free Civic Theatre, and the African-American Shakespeare Company. In addition to stage work, she lends her talents to the field of medical education as a standardized patient at institutions including the University of California, San Francisco and Stanford University. Currently studying Meisner technique at the Waterfront Playhouse Conservatory in Berkeley, other institutions she has studied at include the American Conservatory Theater and the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre.
David Donovan (Scenic Designer) is pleased to making his scenic design debut here at the Dragon Theatre!  David has a deep love for architecture and design, and has completed the University of California, Berkeley [IN]ARCH summer Architecture intensive with distinction.  He has also taken a Master's level design studio in Architecture at California College of the Arts.  What he lacks in experience, David makes up for in enthusiasm, and he is excited to share his vision of Eugene O'Neill's world with you!  He is grateful to the Dragon and to Tina for allowing him this opportunity.
This is John Bernard's (Lighting designer) first show with The Dragon Theater and happy to be designing for them. John graduated from the University of Washington with an MFA in lighting design, teaches Lighting design at SJSU and is their lighting designer for all their mainstage shows. This season at SJSU he designed The Great Gatsby, The Circle, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He has designed regionally at Silicon Valley Shakespeare (2013, 2014), San Jose Stage Company (39 Steps), The Pear Avenue Theater (Moon for the Misbegotten), and Hillbarn (The Little Foxes, The Philadelphia Story).
C├ęsar Reyes (Sound Designer) is delighted to be working with Dragon Productions Theatre Company on this production of Anna Christie.  His theater credits include acting, production management, stage management and sound design.  He is a proud recipient of an Arty award in sound design for Solano Repertory's production of Steel Magnolias and was recently seen in Role Players Ensemble’s production of The Great Gatsby.
Melissa Weinstein (Hair & Make-up Designer) is excited to join the team for her first show at Dragon Productions! Since 2006, she has been the resident hair/makeup designer at Silicon Valley Shakespeare, and has also moonlighted as a designer/artist for other companies including Pixar Animation Studios, Disney Channel UK, Opera San Jose, and West Bay Opera. As a performer, Melissa’s favorite credits include Tigers Be Still (Sherry) at City Lights Theater Company,Comedy of Errors (Dromio of Syracuse, 2015 Theatre Bay Area Awards Finalist) and Othello (Emilia) at Silicon Valley Shakespeare, and How to Succeed… (Miss Jones) and Flower Drum Song (Helen Chao) at WVLO Musical Theatre Company. Additionally, in a previous life, Melissa “daylighted” for many years as a Bay Area children’s theatre teacher/director, and currently serves as the Education Program Director at Silicon Valley Shakespeare.
Laura Elder (Costume and Properties Designer) is excited to be joining the cast and crew of Anna Christie. Laura has designed costumes for independent films including Kobok Six and coordinated props and costumes for a multitude of public performance art piecesAnna Christie is her stage debut.
Kyle McReddie (Fight Choreographer) is a Bay Area fight choreographer, and is excited to be working on his first show with Dagon Productions.  His recent credits include, Romeo and Juliet at California High, Fantastics and Drew School, and Rumors at Lick Wilmerding.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Anna Christie: Meet the Actors

Tina Rutsch (Anna Christopherson) is happy to be initiating her relationship with the Dragon Theatre alongside the incredible cast and creative team of Anna Christie. An East Bay native, her most recent work in this part of the Bay was playing Antipholus of Ephesus in Comedy of Errors with Silicon Valley Shakespeare. She is a proud teaching artist, working with Veterans at San Quentin through Marin Shakespeare's Shakespeare for Social Justice program. Love to Dave-o.

Geoff Fiorita (Chris Christopherson) is a member of Screen Actor’s Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors, as well as a residential interior designer. Film/TV: PATCH ADAMS (Universal Films) with Robin Williams, TRAUMA (NBC TV), NASH BRIDGES (CBS TV). Commercials: Taco Bell, Marriott Hotels, Shell Oil, Cost Plus, Pepperidge Farm, Sargento, TGI Friday’s, Sprint, State Farm Insurance, Oracle, California State Fair, KCBS,, Debt-Free. Corporate films: Levi Strauss, Apple, Intel, Cisco, Sun Micro, Hewlett Packard, Autodesk, 3 COM, Seagate, AMD, Lucent, Compaq, Trend Micro, Synopsys, Cuna, Brience, PG&E, Visa, Toastmasters. Stage: DOUBT, BREAKING THE CODE (“Actor To Watch” Artsopolis/Wave Magazine), AN EVENING OF SHORTS, THE LARAMIE PROJECT, NEVILLE’S ISLAND, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, THE ODD COUPLE (Bus Barn Stage Co.)/ A KING’S LEGACY (Pear Avenue Theater)/ SPECTER (SF Fringe Festival)/ SAY SOMETHING (Above Brainwash)/ LOVERGUYS (Theater Rhino)/ A FEW GOOD MEN, TALK RADIO (Lafayette Town Hall Theater)/ THE NIGHT HANK WILLIAMS DIED, ANASTASIA, AMADEUS, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, THE STAR SPANGLED GIRL, THE MUSICAL COMEDY MURDERS OF 1940 (Center Repertory of Walnut Creek)/CLOSE TIES (Shellie Award, Best Supporting Actor)(Moraga Playhouse)/ THE WIDOW’S BEST FRIEND (Willows Theater). When not acting, Geoff is designing and renovating homes; see his portfolio at

Sean Graham (Mat Burke) is an actor, teaching artist, and performing arts everyman. When he’s not acting he’s either tour managing a rock band, teaching theatre to all ages, or working stage crew at a Bay Area theatre. He was recently seen as Bernard in Boeing Boeing at Ross Valley Players and as Paris in the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s Romeo & Juliet. He is thrilled to sport an Irish brogue and try out the “gift of gab” his ancestors passed down to him in this production! Sean earned a BA in Theatre from Emerson College in 2008, is an EMC member of Actor’s Equity, and is a Resident Artist with the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. You can follow what he’s currently working on at

Warren Liu (Larry) has performed in short films, stage readings, and managed a theatrical production. He attended Shelton Studios in San Francisco where he began development of his craft as an actor. When he isn’t performing, he spends his days working in the magical world of tech. And if Warren had a superpower, it would be to never get caught in traffic. Many thanks to the theatre and the director for giving him the opportunity to make his theatrical debut.

Barbara Ann Cecchetti (Marthy) is delighted to be appearing at the Dragon Theatre in Anna Christie. Barbara Ann holds a degree in Dramatic Art from U.C., Berkeley and has, for many years, performed in Bay Area, Central Valley, and California Foothill Theatres. She has appeared as Mrs. Chumley in Harvey at Sierra Repertory Theatre, Martha in Arsenic and Old Lace at Role Players Ensemble Theatre, Eulalie Shin at the Western Stage, and performed for the last two seasons with The East Bay Children’s Theatre. Barbara Ann would like to dedicate this performance to former U.C. Berkeley professor and O’Neill scholar, Travis Bogard, sadly now deceased, for enriching and encouraging her long life’s journey into theatre.

Butch Welby (Johnny the Priest) is a local actor making his Dragon Theatre debut.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Anna Christie Director Notes

In the first decade of the last century, a young woman-turned- prostitute from St Paul, Minnesota comes looking for her father, a coal barge captain in New York. Will he be able to forgive her way of life? Will she finally find love and happiness? Is this the story of one woman’s moral redemption?

In 1910, familiar with the sentimentality of much of 19th century theatre, the audience was quick to assume that it was – so much so that O’Neill felt compelled to write a letter to the New York Times, explaining that the final lines of the play do not imply a happy ending. Insert a kiss and the promise of marriage in the last act, he complained, and critics and public alike become remarkably hard of hearing for anything that follows.

But Anna Christie hasn’t come looking for forgiveness. Fresh out of hospital, and before that jail, she’s just here for a respite, until she can “get back on the job again.” Strong-willed and clear-eyed, she has played the harsh cards dealt her as best she can, including choosing the life of a prostitute over her more respectable, but desperately unhappy, job of a nursemaid (“I was lonesome,” she cries, “lonesome as hell!”). Illness, not ethics, has forced her to seek shelter with a father who to all intents and purposes abandoned her as a child.

Once on the barge, feeling cleansed by the fog and sea around her, Anna starts to shed her hard-bitten pragmatism and falls in love with the young man who literally emerges from the waves. But when she finds herself the object of her father’s willful blindness about who she really is, and her lover’s equally blind determination to place her on a pedestal of womanly virtue, Anna is in some ways more of a victim than she has ever been.

When the two men are finally forced to let go their romanticized fantasy of womanhood and recognize the truth about Anna, they respond with prejudice, denial, moral hypocrisy and barely contained violence. Anna’s own, extraordinary, capacity for forgiveness in the face of their repudiation lies at the heart of the play. “It ain’t your fault, and it ain’t mine, and it ain’t his neither,” she says. “We’re all poor nuts, and things happen, and we just get mixed in wrong, that’s all.” Already a seasoned survivor, she sees more clearly than either of them that the universe is morally chaotic, and that fragile though it may be, there is a better chance of happiness if they stick together than if they go it alone.

In the final scene, far from seeking redemption, Anna asks “How are you any better than me?” What she demands from both men is not forgiveness for her past, but their agreement that a person can change.

We believe that she can change. The real question is, can they?

-Jenny Hollingworth