September 6, 2016 – The Irish Classical Theatre Company today announced that, by order of Buffalo Common Council President Darius C. Pridgen, the 600 block of Main Street between Tupper and Chippewa will be named The Chris O’Neill Way to honor ICTC Co-Founder and Artist of great distinction, the late Chris O’Neill.
The Trailblazing Sign will be unveiled on Tuesday, September 12 at 5:30PM Plaza of Stars, Main and Tupper Streets, Buffalo
A native of Dublin, Ireland, O’Neill was best known for his fourteen-year role as Michael in the television and radio series, The Riordans, on Ireland’s national television station. He was an actor with the Abbey Theatre as well as a board member of the Gate Theatre and an owner of the Oscar Theatre, all in Dublin. As a theatrical agent, he managed the careers of such luminaries as Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne.
O’Neill was already widely regarded as one of the world’s finest interpreters of the works of Samuel Beckett when he arrived in Buffalo in 1985, where he and a small troupe of traveling actors staged a performance of Waiting for Godot in the basement of the Airways Motel in Cheektowaga. The performance was a staggering success, and the love affair between O’Neill and this city was born.
O’Neill returned to Buffalo, acting in the city’s theatres, notably at the Kavinoky. He soon persuaded his younger brother Vincent, an actor with Ireland’s prestigious Abbey Theatre, to join him, and in 1990, they co-founded, along with Josephine Hogan and the late Dr. James Warde, the Irish Classical Theatre Company,
His fame grew, drawing him to New York and Chicago, where he worked in theatre and film. Construction of the Irish Classical Theatre Company’s new home, The Andrews Theatre, was well underway when O’Neill succumbed to a brief illness in West Palm Beach, Florida where he had been performing. He was 50 years old. 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of his passing.
“O’Neill was a consummate storyteller,” said Terry Doran of the Buffalo News, memorializing him in 1997. “He was a man on such great charm and generosity that it sometimes concealed the fact that he possessed penetrating intelligence and a vast memory store of Irish literature and plays. … His contributions to the city’s cultural life are large and incalculable.”
Vincent O’Neill, Artistic Director of the Irish Classical Theatre Company, recently reflected on Chris O’Neill’s legacy saying “If not for my brother, Chris O’Neill, I would never have followed my passion to become an actor. Chris truly was the catalyst that made ICTC a reality,” he continued. “We are truly gratified that he is being honored as a great artist, as a visionary and as an extraordinary human being by the installation of a Trailblazing Sign naming Main Street between Chippewa and Tupper as the Chris O’Neill Way,” O’Neill concluded.
A reception will immediately follow the Street Naming Ceremony at the Chris O’Neill Lounge inside the Irish Classical Theatre Company, 625 Main Street, Buffalo. The public is cordially invited to attend.