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Name of O’Neill Adorns Theatre

BY Arthur Gelb
FROM The New York Times, November 19, 1959

Ceremony at Old Coronet Nov. 27 to Mark Change – O’Casey Sends Tribute

From this evening on, Eugene O’Neill, whose plays earned him the Nobel Prize and four Pulitzer Prizes, will be honored nightly by Broadway in a blaze of neon.

Two large electric signs bearing the playwright’s name have been installed outside the theatre that formerly was designated as the Coronet. Earlier, it had been the Forrest, named for Edwin Forrest, an acting contemporary of O’Neill’s father, James. Built in 1925, it is situated at 230 West Forty-Ninth Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.

A ceremony dedicating the playhouse to O’Neill’s memory will be held at 8:30 P. M. on Nov. 27, with leading theatre personalities and public officials among the guests. A highlight of the event will be the reading of a letter received yesterday by Lester Osterman, owner of the theatre. The letter, mailed by Sean O’Casey from his home in Devon, England, follows:

“You do well to honor a theatre-building with the great name of Eugene O’Neill; for what finer memorial could a great Dramatist have than that of a temple dedicated to the Art he loved, and to which he added many a wide and deep honor, and, more than once, a glory.

“The soul of O’Neill was a restless one, always seeking out the storm, crying out from the midst of tumbling waves, loudly enough to be above the tumult of the strongest winds, till the dark lull of death brought silence and a well-earned peace.

“Yet this man could be gay. Yes, indeed, for I saw him so; I was with him a number of times in the company of his dear friend, George Jean Nathan, and then we talked and talked merrily in the surge of a gay time together; and then often I saw the somber face of the Dramatist break into the sunniness of deep and generous laughter. It was good to have met this remarkable man; to have looked into his deep wine-dark eyes; to have pressed his hand as the hand of a friend in joyful and lasting affection; and to have heard his laughter.

“I am glad that in his American soul there was, not only the touch of a poet, but also the touch of an Irishman, for the O’Neills had their origin in Ireland. This great Dramatist of America and the world tells me again that our Shamrock twines a leaf or two around every flower symbolizing each State of O’Neill’s great and urgent Country. The Shamrock is an unassuming and humble plant, but it is always there.

‘‘May this Theatre in New York, dedicated to Eugene O’Neill, be ever worthy of the Name’s greatness and the Name’s pride.”

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