In 1985, two talented brothers from Dublin put on a bare-bones production of “Waiting for Godot” in the basement of an airport hotel in Cheektowaga.
That memorable production, fueled by the passion of Vincent and Chris O’Neill, planted the seed for the formation of the esteemed Irish Classical Theatre Company five years later.
Today, as the company looks back on 25 years as one of Buffalo’s leading professional theaters, one man can claim the lion’s share of credit for that success. Since the Irish Classical’s early days as a roving company playing rented theaters and ad hoc spaces, Vincent O’Neill has guided the theater’s growth with a steady hand and an unwavering aspiration to quality that continues to pay dividends for Buffalo’s cultural community at large.
With key contributions from actor Josephine Hogan, founding board member James Warde and his late brother Chris, O’Neill transformed his small outfit into a fixture of the Theatre District.
With productions that drew on his native country’s rich literary and theatrical traditions as well as classic American dramas, O’Neill and his company raised the standard for quality, prompting other theaters to follow suit. The success of his company showed other theaters that success here was possible, helping to foster the golden age of grass-roots activity that sets Buffalo’s theater scene apart.
O’Neill also has served as a respected and persuasive voice for the arts community of Western New York, which has benefited tremendously from his arguments not only for dedicated funding, but for a level of respect commensurate with its impact on the cultural life and economy of the region.
– Colin Dabkowski