PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS AN OLD MAN John Butler Yeats: Letters from New York.
Presented by Cecily O’Neill
2022 is the centenary of the death of the Irish artist and writer John Butler Yeats, who died in New York on February 3rd, 1922.
In December 1907, he travelled to America with his daughter Lily and stayed there for the rest of his life. In his struggle to make a living as an artist and writer, he was supported financially by John Quinn, the American lawyer and art collector. In 1911 Quinn gave him a commission for a self portrait.
During his years in New York, John Butler Yeats (JBY) wrote countless letters to his family and friends. JBY also wrote regularly to Rosa Butt, daughter of the Irish politician Isaac Butt. He and Rosa had agreed that they would read and immediately destroy each other’s letters. But Rosa carefully saved every letter from her ‘dear old lover’. These intimate letters were only released to the public in 1982, and are stored in the Bodleian library in Oxford. Extracts from these unpublished letters are a feature of this presentation.
John Butler Yeats died in his lodging-house at 317 W.20th Street, aged 82, New York, still working on his self-portrait. It was February 3rd, 1922, exactly eleven years to the day since John Quinn had commissioned the painting.
The presentation will happen at the Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering at Coole Park, 24 & 25th September, 2022, with the presentation happening both days. Cecily is joined by local Galway actor, Gerry Conneely, in the role of JB Yeats.
Rachel O'Neill, MD of 2Time Theatre, has had her 10-minute play, 'They Comes', selected to be part of horror playwriting festival, The Fright Before Christmas. All the plays will be be performed at Space Arts in London and hosted by Harpy Productions on 11 December.
'They Comes' is a disturbing account of how a man's longing for a baby becomes twisted and malevolent.
Cast: Sara - Tallulah Wrey James - David McCulluch
'Pies and Prejudice' - an original and delicious entertainment - presented by Winchester's local professional theatre company, 2TimeTheatre, this is an amusing look at the place of food in Jane Austen's books and letters. 'Pies and Prejudice' is an entertaining exploration of the significance of food, based on the letters and novels of Jane Austen. Two characters, Jenny the new cook and Charlotte, the lady of the house, share opinions on food, health, gardening and marriage in a piece written by 2TimeTheatre's Artistic Director, Cecily O'Neill (Meeting Miss Austen, Keats: A Fruitful Season, Lewd Women and Female Felons),
Cecily O’Neill said: “Food is always cropping up in Austen’s work and correspondence. It was clearly both a pleasure for her and also a way in which she could indicate status in the social occasions in her books. She also uses an over-indulgence – or under-indulgence - in meat and drink to show a character’s weakness or hypocrisy. Remember Mr Woodehouse’s obsession with soft-boiled eggs?"
Performed by professional actors, Jilly Bond and Stacy Hart, 'Pies and Prejudice' will be staged in the gracious reception room of Abbey House, the Mayor's Residence, Winchester on the 10th and 11th September at 11.30 am and again 2.30 pm on both days. Admission is free, but you will need to register via the Heritage Open Days website.
Rachel's original audio drama made the final five of the RAF Benevolent Fund's competition with 'Eager for the Air', based on the founding of the all-female branch of the ATA, and her 10-minute piece 'Kit-Kats and Cider' was read by the Writing Doesn't Have To Be Lonely team.
Like almost every theatre company around the world, we’ve been unable to stage any productions during 2020. In 2019 we had a hugely busy and successful year kicking off with a professional read-through of Tilly and the Spitfires by Rachel O’Neill at Nuffield Southampton City space, followed in June by A Fruitful Season: Keats in Winchester by Cecily O’Neill, celebrating the poet’s final creative flourish and the 200-year anniversary of his death.
Tilly returned as a fully-fledged production to Winchester Discovery Centre in September with actors Stacy Hart in the role of Beatrice Shilling and Francesca McCrohon as Muriel Shepherd, and directed by Dan O’Neill (movement director Humans, Wurzel Gummidge, The Crown, etc.). First staged by seven performers in the 12th Century St Bartholomew’s Church in October, Cecily’s moving play Lewd Women and Female Felons used archive accounts of the Winchester Bridewell and folk music of the time to illuminate the harsh treatment of ‘lewd women’ for the ‘crime’ of bastardy. The atmosphere was heightened by the knowledge that several of these women and their babies were buried in the churchyard outside
Lewd Women and Female Felons had another outing in February 2020 alongside Rachel’s new play in development, The Fasting Girl. They had the dubious privilege of being amongst the last few productions to take place at the Nuffield Theatre before it went into receivership.
So that was then. But as Winchester’s tiniest theatre company we have kept busy; Rachel’s play specially written to commemorate the Battle of Britain, Eager for the Air, was shortlisted and down to the last five in the RAF Benevolent Fund Audio Drama competition. Her ten-minute short, Kit-Kats and Cider will be part of a Zoom play-reading on 11 August hosted by Writing Doesn't Have To Be Lonely as part of an evening of new drama and poetry. Sir Walter’s Women, written by Rachel in 2018 and staged in the Great Hall, will be performed on Zoom by the South Devon Players on 28 November. Meanwhile, Cecily is busy with research for future projects, including a drama based on the life of 19th Century novelist Charlotte Yonge.
Lewd Women and Female Felons and The Fasting Girl selected to be part of Make it SO season at NST
Two plays by mother and daughter playwrights, Cecily and Rachel O’Neill, will be presented as part of this year’s Make It SO season, a festival designed to support emerging writers and artists from Southampton and the surrounding areas. Cecily and Rachel co-founded 2TimeTheatre in 2016 and quickly built a reputation for bringing original and historical stories to dramatic life.
Lewd Women and Female Felons is a play for voices, based on research done on the lives of many unfortunate women who were sentenced to 12 months hard labour as punishment for having illegitimate babies. Enlivened by songs and ballads of the period, the play offers a glimpse of the lives of the women who suffered such harsh conditions.
The Fasting Girl is an original drama that looks at the sacrifice one woman is prepared to make, whatever the cost to herself. Building on the tradition of hunger striking as a means of peaceful protest, this three-hander draws on legend, folklore, religion and the supernatural to create a tense and ambiguous drama.
Cecily and Rachel said: ‘This is the first time we’ve had our work presented at the same time in the same place. A first for us professionally and possibly for any mother-daughter playwrights!’. Cecily’s previous project was A Fruitful Season: Keats in Winchester was staged in July as part of the Winchester Festival, and Rachel’s most recent play, Tilly and the Spitfires, was staged as part of last year’s Make It SO and went on to have a full production as part of Winchester Heritage Open Days.
2TimeTheatre: New projects 2020will present both plays as script-in-hand productions on the same night at Nuffield Theatres Southampton City Space.
Performances 17th and 18th February, 6.30 pm and 8.00 pm. Tickets are £5 for each show and available from the box office on 023 8067 1771 or online. Please contact Rachel O’Neill for more information on firstname.lastname@example.org and 07821 87904.
This is just a selection of the responses to Lewd Women and Female Felons A powerful performance about the criminalization of poor women with illegitimate children in Georgian England. The use of ballads: brilliant! This research material was woven together in Lewd Women, which turned the tragic history of women and their children incarcerated in the County Bridewell into an extraordinarily poignant acknowledgement and tribute, in the very palce some of them were buried in unmarked graves. I’ll never forget the beautiful ballad solo sung by Eleanor Marsden! As a member of the audience said - ‘if you make a CD of the music from the show, there’s a guaranteed audience’. Emma Clery
Another triumph, so deftly humanising a historical subject with skilful touches despite the scantiest of available information... Wonderfully done and beautifully produced! Plaudits, bouquets and five-star reviews... Philip and Lizzie Glassborow
Thanks to you and the cast for presenting such a striking preview of the new drama. As you saw from the audience reaction, to have the story presented in dramatic form was extraordinarily powerful. Steve Marper
What a fabulous, intimate, thought-provoking and resonant production it was today- amazing voices, both spoken, but particularly sung and so poignant and political, especially when you drew attention to the parlous state of UK prisons today. I so look forward to seeing the themes expanded and evolving over the next few months. ...The solos were incredibly moving, added greatly to each characterisation and definitely affect the audience on another level. I was reminded of West Side Story and how some of the really tricky urban deprivation messages in that script are communicated so effectively with song and dance. Mixed media adds so much vibrancy and throws the awful, inhuman constraints of normative "justice" into sharp relief. Kate Watkins
Your play made a deep impression on me. Of course one knows as a fact how these girls suffered, but you really brought them to life. Congratulations! Alys Blakeway
I was utterly utterly absorbed by your drama. There was a time-slip just as if a door to the 18th and 19th centuries had opened. Everyone around me was riveted. I felt particularly overcome with emotion when Fanny and baby Rebecca Oliver were mentioned. It was as if I knew them so it was personal. The cast were so convincing...the lewd women were wonderful and their singing too. How clever of you to intersperse the dialogue with authentic songs of the time and to write new ones in the same vein. It must be presented to the wider public. Norma Goodwin
From The Harlot's Progress by Hogarth (copyright free)
'Committed to twelve months hard labour in the County Bridewell for being a lewd woman.’This was the fate of many unfortunate women in Hampshire who gave birth to illegitimate babies in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The Bridewell, a prison designed for lesser offenders, also known as a House of Correction, was located close St Bartholomew’s Church in Hyde, and a number of these women and their babies lie buried in the churchyard.
Generated from research by Hyde900 volunteers, Lewd Women and Female Felons is a play for voices, written by local author Cecily O’Neill, Artistic Director of 2TmeTheatre. Enlivened by songs and ballads of the period, the play offers a glimpse of the lives of the women who suffered such harsh conditions in the County Bridewell.
Cecily O’Neill said: “‘When I encountered the names of these women in the archives of the Hampshire Record Office I began to imagine what they had suffered, often abandoned by the fathers of their children and too poor to care for the children themselves, and facing the shame of imprisonment for being Lewd Women.’
Cecily’s most recent project was ‘'A Fruitful Season: Keats in Winchester’ which was staged in July as part of the Winchester Festival.
The event is part of Hyde900’s King Alfred Weekend and takes place on Sunday 27 October at 4pm in St. Bartholomew’s Church, Hyde. It follows a talk by Dr Helen Paul of the University of Southampton on the history and conditions of the Bridewell at Hyde Parish Hall at 2.45pm. Tickets for each event are £5 (£4 for Hyde900 members, under 16s, free) and are available to book online here: https://www.hyde900.org.uk/events/lewd-women-and-female-felons/
Beatrice Shilling was a pioneering engineer in Britain’s race to dominate the skies at the start of WWII. Obsessed with speed, she raced motorbikes and gained an MSc in Electrical Engineering, marking her out as an unusual woman from the start. Working at RAE, she invented the solution to the design flaw that caused the deaths of British pilots when their Spitfires lost engine power and spiralled out of control during dogfights with the Luftwaffe.
Her simple gadget was cheekily known as ‘'Miss Shilling’s Orifice’. This small object was fitted to the Merlin engine, allowing the Spitfire to engage on equal terms with German planes thereby helping the RAF to gain dominance in the crucial aerial conflicts of the war. Rachel O'Neill, writer, said: "This is a one-act play which was first staged at Nuffield City Space Studio as a 'work in progress' as part of the Make It SO Season, featuring emerging writers and artists from Hampshire. This is the next iteration of the play and features professional Hampshire actors, Stacy Hart and Francesca McCrohon. It’s directed by Dan O’Neill, whose work was most recently seen as the movement director for the Channel 4 series, Humans. and upcoming TV shows Alex Rider and Worzel Gummidge. This play is in stark contrast to my previous play, Sir Walter's Women, but both deal with the unseen and personal lives of their protagonists." Tilly and The Spitfires aims to tell the story of Tilly’s groundbreaking discovery, of her intimate relationship with her friend Muriel, and her frequent clashes with those in authority as she strives to make her voice heard in a war run by men.
The performance takes place at Winchester Discovery Centre, 21 September, 8pm. Admission is free but booking in advance is advised.