Award-winning Play on Eugene O’Neill’s Passion for Love, Career Premieres in Lexington

"The Passions of Eugene Gladstone O'Neill," a new play by Jo Morello, directed by Kathi E.B. Ellis, will receive its world premiere at LexArts’s Downtown Arts Center in seven performances, Sept. 13-22. 

"The Passions of Eugene Gladstone O'Neill" won the biennial Prize for Women Playwrights from the Kentucky Women Writers Conference, which carries a $500 cash award and a fully staged theatrical production by Balagula Theatre in Lexington. While the play is being produced by the co-artistic directors of Balagula, Ryan Case and Natasha Williams, this play will be presented in the larger venue of the Downtown Arts Center because it would better accommodate an audience for the play's premiere than their usual location at Natasha’s Bistro.

A play about legendary playwright Eugene O'Neill's ill-fated loves and their significant impact on his life and work, "The Passions of Eugene Gladstone O'Neill" spans almost four decades of O'Neill's life, from the moment he met Agnes — who became his second wife — through his passionate affair with Carlotta, his turbulent divorce, his third marriage and finally, his death and the fate of his literary heritage, ultimately shaped by his widow Carlotta.

Florida playwright Jo Morello's plays have been developed and produced in numerous venues across the country. In addition, she serves on the board of directors of the Eugene O’Neill Society and edits its newsletters. Her various articles have been published in American Theatre magazine, the Eugene O’Neill Review, New York Times, regional newspapers and many others. The Philadelphia native operates a small public relations agency in Sarasota, Fla., where she has lived since 1986.

Morello's script was selected by American playwright, television writer and activist Kia Corthron from a pool of more than 170 scripts from playwrights residing in the U.S., Italy, France and Siberia.

Of "The Passions of Eugene Gladstone O'Neill," Corthron said, "Many theatergoers are familiar with the work of legendary playwright Eugene O’Neill and his barrier-breaking political and aesthetic achievements. His final contribution, the breathtaking, posthumously produced 'Long Day’s Journey into Night,' depicts his harrowing young adulthood within a family racked by addiction. Morello’s E.G.O. picks up the journey, now placing an older and aging O’Neill in the spotlight by focusing on his two very different wives — one a writer in her own right who subjugates her own career for that of her husband, a decision she comes to rue; the other an actress who also sacrifices her career, a woman with goals and the fierce determination to realize them. Intermittently witty and chilling, Morello adeptly chronicles O’Neill’s twice-over matrimonial deterioration in all its agonizing reality, coupled with the familial addictions that continued to haunt him for the rest of his life."

Performances of "The Passions of Eugene Gladstone O'Neill" are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13 and 14; 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Sept. 19, 20 and 21; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22. All performances are at the Downtown Arts Center, 141 East Main St. Tickets are $19.75 for adults and $14.75 for students, and the Sept. 19 performance is designated "pay what you can" showing. Call LexArts for tickets at 859-225-0370 or visit their online box office  

The Kentucky Women Writers Conference is an annual event known for bringing notable women writers to Lexington for readings, writing workshops and discussions. A program housed in the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences, the conference is made possible in part by continued community partnerships, including its primary venue, the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.

To see a full schedule of conference events during Sept. 20-22, visit

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