Much can be said in 100 words.
This idea -- along with the observation that everyone is emerging from a challenging year and welcoming the future -- led the Eugene O'Neill Foundation to launch a storytelling campaign dubbed Tiny Horizon Stories as part of this year's Eugene O'Neill Festival.
People are urged to write, in 100 words or less, about what possibilities and dreams await just beyond the horizon, with any theme that inspires them. Submit stories at www.eugeneoneill.org.
The storytelling ties in with the O'Neill play, "Beyond the Horizon," which is this year's production for the festival in September. The play is about young Robert Mayo yearning to reach beyond life on the family farm, and it touches on the universal human desire to imagine a better life.
"People are invested in their own stories, and this project allows for us to weave many individual stories into our story," artistic director Eric Fraisher Hayes said.
A selection of the stories will be featured as part of the festival.
"It is a way to help people process what happened," said foundation board member Teresa Morley, who is heading up this year's festival. "We want people to tell their stories, and we are going to collect the stories all through the festival and beyond."
"With these stories we are trying to engage the community in storytelling," she explained. "Everybody had a different experience -- and a common experience -- in 2020. Environmental as we all sat through the fires, then social justice, the whole awakening and engagement. We are inviting the community tell a story about that. What possibilities do you envision? What dreams do you have?"
Morley said the idea was partly inspired by the New York Times' Tiny Love Stories, which sought submissions of 100 words or less. She called these stories "fabulous, about all types of love, with creativity off the charts," and said she is receiving equally "fantastic" Tiny Horizon Stories.
"We wanted to tap our writers and our poets that are in the area -- our focus is to engage the community," she said, but noted submissions are coming from all over. "We are getting some amazing ones."
Hayes had the idea to choose the play "Beyond the Horizon" this year as the festival's centerpiece, Morley said, which is appropriate as everyone pulls out of the pandemic. Originally published in 1918, "Beyond the Horizon" was O'Neill's first play on Broadway and won him the first of his four Pulitzer prizes.
"We did O'Neill's 'Lost Plays' last year when everything went virtual," recalled Morley. "We were proud of that, that we were out here doing something."
"Beyond the Horizon" is being filmed in three acts, each about 40 minutes long, said Morley, and the first airing will be Oct. 2. The play also will be presented late September in two live performances at the Old Barn theater at Tao House in the west Danville hills for 65 audience members instead of the capacity 100.
"Our commitment this year is first and foremost to the film," Morley said. "In 2019 we sold out 10 performances of 'Long Day's Journey Into Night,' over 900 tickets sold, but we don't know where the audience is today, so our commitment is first and foremost to the film, to produce a quality experience."
This year's festival will include Hayes presenting "Eugene O'Neill: 51 Play in 51 Minutes," at the Museum of San Ramon Valley on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Hayes has directed 26 of Eugene O'Neill's 51 plays and has read the others through several times.
"I think of it as a theatrical lecture or a crash course on Eugene O'Neill," Hayes said. "I want people to learn things about O'Neill -- it's not strictly entertainment although it will be entertaining."
The festival also will feature a walking tour of O'Neill's Danville by historian Beverly Lane, a hike to Tao House, a film premiere party, and a special virtual conversation about "Beyond the Horizon" with production dramaturg Beth Wynstra and director Hayes.
For more information, visit www.eugeneoneill.org. Tickets for members go on sale in early August.
Meeting at the Horizon
Breathing is for the living. Sure, I climb for myself -- standing on a 14,000-foot peak is as close to flying as we get. But I also climb for those that can't climb any longer. So many I have known, who have passed on beyond ridges and peaks and summits, whose ashes are scattered in water, in air, and in earth. They have no more breaths to take. So I go on, for them. Step by step. Breath by breath. There's always one more ridge to climb; another peak to summit. Until we all meet at the horizon.
-- Phil Kohlmetz
I wish I could meet 50 people at one time. I want to play with them all in my backyard. We don't have enough balls so we will share them because we can. We will throw them into the basketball hoop and kick them to each other, and we will have five or six teams to play soccer. After, we will drink water together and share our snacks. We will lick lemons together and make sour faces. And when we are done, I will say "bye bye" and kiss them...all 50.
-- Warren, age 4 (with a little help from mom)