Irish Repertory to receive IAW&A's O'Neill award

The Irish Repertory Theatre has been named as the 2011 recipient of the Irish American Writers & Artists' Eugene O'Neill Lifetime Achievement Award.

It is the first time the award has gone to an institution. Novelist William Kennedy was the inaugural recipient in 2009, while actor Brian Dennehy was honored last year.

Two individuals in particular, though, have been associated with the Irish Rep: founders Charlotte Moore, the company's artistic director, and Ciarán O'Reilly, its producing director. They will be presented with the award at a ceremony on Monday, Oct. 17 in New York, the day after the 123rd anniversary of O'Neill's birth in a Times Square hotel.

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"It's a major honor to follow in the footsteps of such extraordinary people who have received the award," O'Reilly told the Echo from Ireland, where he is on vacation with his family.

"O'Neill was a giant in American theatre and that association alone makes us proud," he added.

"All of us at Irish American Writers & Artists are thrilled to have this opportunity to honor the dynamic duo of Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O'Reilly," IAW&A president Peter Quinn told the Echo. "In creating and sustaining the Irish Repertory Theatre, they've transformed mission impossible into love's labor gained.

"In the process, they've raised the profile of Irish and Irish-American theater to new heights, and given it a prominence and prestige it never had before," Quinn said.

"I'm sure that from whatever seat in the cosmos Eugene O'Neill may be watching at the moment," he said, "he's supremely pleased as well as thinking to himself, 'It's about time!'

Said IAW&A board member T.J. English in a statement: "They've richly earned this award.

"They've done for Irish theater in New York what Yeats and Lady Gregory did for Dublin with the Abbey," he said.

"Together, starting with little more than a shared dream and indefatigable determination," English said, "they've made the Rep into one of the theatrical community's most creatively vibrant and artistically significant venues."

Ellen McCourt, the chairperson of the Irish Rep's board, said: "The Eugene O'Neill Lifetime Achievement Award is an especially appropriate honor. From the moment they [Moore and O'Reilly] opened their doors with Sean O'Casey's 'The Plough and the Stars,' in 1988, the theatrical community has been continually enriched by a remarkable series of Irish and Irish-American productions."

She cited Wall Street Journal cultural writer Terry Teachout's description of the Irish Rep as "one of the finest theatre companies in America."

McCourt said that Moore and O'Reilly are "true heroes as well as great artists" and that their work is "generous, innovative, creative and oh, just let's say it, brilliant."

The IAW&A's O'Neill Lifetime Achievement Award Cocktail Reception will begin at 6.00 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 17, at the Manhattan Club, upstairs at Rosie O'Grady's, 800 7th Avenue at the corner of 52nd St., near Times Square. More information will be posted soon at: