Onstage / Ten Questions for Vincent O'Neill
Dylan Thomas in A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES
November 22–December 15
A Child’s Christmas in Wales
Irish Classical Theatre Company
What’s your relationship to A Child’s Christmas in Wales?
I have long been a fan of Dylan Thomas’s haunting and musical poetry. We produced his Under Milkwood in Dublin at my late brother Chris’s theater, and A Child’s Christmas in Wales was a great favorite for Christmas reading in the O’ Neill household when I was a child. Irish Classical Theatre Company has produced it on three occasions in the past, in 1996 and 1997 at our former space in the Calumet on Chippewa, and once at the Center for the Arts at UB.
What’s the best acting advice you were ever given?
On tour with Mary Manning’s The Voice of Shem in Monaco in 1975, I was performing with a very gifted fellow actor, Terry Martin. He advised me to work my character from the inside out, using my own personal experiences and feelings as the material for building the role. It seems obvious now, but at the time it was a revelation to me. The other great piece of advice was from Patrick Mason, who was director of the Abbey Theatre School where I trained. He simply said: “Vincent, drop the briefcase!” What he was referring to was for me not to be conscious of technique and effect when performing, but to live fully in the moment and to trust my instincts completely. Patrick went on to win a Tony award for his direction of Dancing at Lughnasa, so he probably knew what he was talking about!
What’s your best “the show went on” moment?
Again on tour in the west of Ireland, we were given the keys to the village hall to mount our production of John B. Keane’s The Year of the Hiker that same night. When we arrived at the “hall,” we discovered it was actually a barn with a boxing ring, and there were no lights. The show went on, using the boxing ring as a stage and, with the barn doors open, the lights from the actors’ cars illuminated the “stage.”
What’s the role that got away?
Hamlet, of course, and the emcee in the musical, Cabaret
What line from a former play have you never forgotten?
“Birth was the death of me.” (Samuel Beckett, naturally!)
What “against type” role are you dying to play?
Comic roles, above all. For some reason, I tend to nearly always get cast in serious roles.
What’s your classic actor nightmare dream?
I am in one of Chris O’ Neill’s Shakespearean productions for school, and am dressed as Iago from Othello, and word-perfect. When I get to the side of the stage, it is actually King Lear which is in performance, and I am supposed to be playing the role of Edmund, and I am in the wrong costume and do not know a single line from the play. Improvising Shakespeare is an absolute living nightmare!
What audition would you love to do over?
All the film roles and opportunities I ignored over the years, as I realized far too late how much I loved the medium of film. I have done about seven films, but I regret all those opportunities I lost out on by not seeking out film roles earlier.
What’s the best thing you’ve seen recently and why?
A Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’ Neill last year at the Stratford Festival. It is such a powerful play and the performances and direction were so honest, that I sat on the sidewalk outside the theater for five minutes after the performance was over trying to get my breath back and recover from the experience.
Plugs for the next season?
Our January co-production with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra of A Midsummer Night’s Dream should be an exciting event. It is hard to beat the magic of Shakespeare’s language, and a full orchestra playing the enchanting music of Mendelssohn. And, of course, there is the quirky dark humor of Bryan Delaney with our world premiere production of The Onion Game, and Chekov’s timeless classic, The Cherry Orchard.