Student Days candid group

Educational opportunities for students at Tao House

February 27, 2019

Studio Retreat Ready to Celebrate 11th Anniversary with Master Classes in Drama and Playwriting


The 11th Studio Retreat is ready to roll at Danville’s Eugene O’Neill Foundation. This annual event enables high school students to hone their skills in acting and playwriting during ten days of intensive immersion in these disciplines. Sponsored by the Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service, Studio Retreat is part of the Foundation’s mission of celebrating and promoting the visionary legacy of America’s foremost playwright and is recognized as a distinctive educational program that provides a more thorough understanding of O’Neill’s important place in American drama. Maybe another great artist may emerge from the master classes offered in these disciplines.


Workshops meet daily from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. In the Acting workshop, students work with industry veterans to learn the foundations of acting techniques as taught at the college level. Participants gain insight into building characters, the importance of movement and voice.


The Playwriting master class gives students the opportunity to develop an original ten-minute play, by learning from and collaborating with professional playwrights, actors, and stage directors.


These two master classes take place during the first week of the program. In the second week, budding playwrights rehearse and stage their original works for family and friends.


“In conjunction with the National Park Service, the not-for-profit Eugene O’Neill Foundation inaugurated Studio Retreat in 2008 to allow creative, mature, committed students to take advantage of an intensive cultural and artistic immersion program,” said Valerie Cooper, the Foundation’s education programs coordinator. Since then, more than numerous students have participated in the program.


Adding to the atmosphere of theatrical enrichment is the program’s location: Tao House, in the hills overlooking Danville. O’Neill resided at this beautiful location from 1937 to 1944. Inspired by the serene surroundings of quiet and natural beauty, the playwright created some of his most notable plays, includingLong Day’s Journey Into Nightand Moon for the Misbegotten. The Foundation hopes that Tao House and environs will infuse students with similar inspiration.


A Day of Drama (and Photography)


A less ambitious but equally valuable program at Tao House is Student Day 2019, going strong since 1991. This free one-day program, March 23, 2019, features master classes in drama, playwriting, and photography. Students in dramaclass work with industry veterans to get a taste of professional acting techniques. Playwriting concentrates on play structure and character development. Photography students receive emphasis on shooting great pictures, rather than sitting in lectures.


“As always, the theme of Student Day is “Express Yourself,” said Cooper.“The program is designed for students who want to learn about theater and related arts or enhance their existing knowledge. What better place than the former home of Eugene O’Neill,” she continued, referring to both programs. Both are made possible through special funding from the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation and the Wood Family Foundation.


The Eugene O’Neill Foundation works in partnership with the National ParkService, which manages the historic Tao House site and provides transportation to and from Tao House. Pickup and dropoff locations are Walnut Creek BART and SycamorePark and Ride. Students are picked up at 8:30 and returned to their pickup site at 3:30.


Interested students and parents can find details and an online application form at they can contact the Foundation at 925-820-1818. Applications for Student Day 2019should be submitted online by March 15, 2019. More information about Tao House and Eugene O’Neill is available on the Foundation’s website.

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