Eugene O’Neill, George White and the Copper Beech

Eugene O’Neill, George White and the Copper Beech

George White, tenderly holding the Tony.

{Friday — In the room next to ATCA’s Friday morning meeting in New London’s Radisson Hotel, there was a gathering of suits paying tribute. Turned out, it was the local Chamber of Commerce honoring the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and its founder, George White, for winning the 2010 Regional Theater Tony award. George’s successor as O’Neill chief, Preston Whiteway, brought the Tony along for everyone to admire.

George was gracious enough to join our gathering next door to share reminiscences as he says he is now in his “anecdotage.”  Mr. White told old tales of local sentiments about O’Neill: One local fella was struggling to come up with the title of “some damned play or other” O’Neill had written and came up with “I Wanna Getcha Under Them Trees”; another met up with George as he took one of O’Neill’s visiting grandsons down to the waterfront to see the sweet boyhood bronze statue of his grandfather: “Lookin’ at the statue of the town drunk?” The mayor of New London asked, when the proposal came up to rename main street after Eugene O’Neill, “What did he ever do for New London? All he did was write a few books.”

A treat, treasure and privilege to be in the company of George White, the founder of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center where ATCA was born in 1974 under the Conference Tree, the giant copper beach which is now a ghost of itself but still shows, in its massive stump and one giant live limb, what it always was. (You can also see its massive presence on the cover of ATCA’s tribute to its founding generation of critics, Under the Copper Beech — click here, scroll down).

George brought the Tony with him, too, and a lot of critics had a chance to heft it and have their pictures taken.

 — Lynn Rosen, Bellingham, Wash.

Young Eugene on the streets of New London.

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