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William Kennedy:iawacroppedlogo.jpgIrish American Writers & Artists Bestow
Inaugural Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award upon Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author


Actor Matt Dillon, Director John Patrick Shanley, Journalist Dan Barry, Writer Malachy McCourt and other Special Guests Will be on Hand to Celebrate Work of Iconic Author in New York on October 16, 2009

Irish American Writers and Artists, Inc (IAW&A) will present Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy with its inaugural Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award at a cocktail reception in midtown Manhattan on Friday, October 16, Eugene O’Neill’s birthday. 

Actor Matt Dillon, writer/director John Patrick Shanley, writer Malachy McCourt and other special guests will read from Eugene O’Neill’s and William Kennedy’s works.  Noted New York Times journalist Dan Barry will present the O’Neill Award to Kennedy. The Eugene O'Neill Lifetime Achievement Award Cocktail Reception, which will include a performance by Celtic singer Ashley Davis, will begin at 6.00 pm on Friday, October 16 at the Manhattan Club, upstairs at Rosie O’Grady’s, 800 7th Avenue at the corner of 52nd St., near Times Square.  Tickets may be purchased online at www.oneillaward.org.  Advance purchase is recommended. 

Speaking about the choice of William Kennedy as the first winner of the Eugene O'Neill Lifetime Achievement Award, IAW&A president Peter Quinn said, "Bill Kennedy was a natural for this award. Along with Eugene O'Neill, Bill has succeeded as nobody else in giving expression to the yin and yang of the Irish-American soul, shanty and lace-curtain, criminal and respectable. Nothing is left out in his work. His Albany Cycle of novels has already taken its place in the canon of American--indeed, of world--literature. As long as women and men read books, these novels will continue to entertain and enlighten, forever illuminating the comic cadences, tragic contradictions and rich complexities of the Irish-American part in our national saga."

Eugene O'Neill Lifetime Achievement Award-winner William Kennedy responded, " I never made plans to be Irish, and I never thought of myself as an Irish-American writer.  Just a writer was how I saw it.  But after getting this award I’m now irrevocably confirmed as both.  I’m abundantly grateful to the Irish American Writers and Artists for singling out my work, and the fact that Eugene O’Neill’s illustrious name goes with it is magical.  He was one of my heroes when I began as a writer, and he still is today.  His work shines with a perpetual light, as the Irish say in church.  This is a wonderful honor." 

In addition to writing the masterful Albany Cycle of novels focused on the Irish-American Phelan family (Legs, Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game, and Ironweed), Kennedy’s works include an additional five novels, three works of non-fiction, two screenplays, stage plays, essays, and two children’s books. Kennedy’s screenplays include Ironweed, which received Oscar nominations for both Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, and The Cotton Club, which he co-wrote with director Francis Ford Coppola.   Among Kennedy’s many previous honors is his 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Ironweed and his John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1983.

The Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award will be given annually by the IAW&A to an Irish American writer, actor, painter or other type of artist who has created a body of work that places them among the great artists and entertainers of all time.  Playwright Eugene O’Neill embodied the highest level of artistic achievement. With his unparalleled body of work in the theater, he not only won many prestigious awards (including four Pulitzers and a Nobel Prize for Literature), he maintained a level of artistic integrity that still resonates with actors, directors and audiences today.

Eugene O'Neill once said, "The critics have missed the most important thing about me and my work--the fact that I am Irish."

Said IAW&A co-founder and treasurer T.J. English about the Lifetime Achievement Award: "Eugene O'Neill is the standard not only for Irish American writers and artists, but for artists of any stripe. Though his writing is inhabited by characters who have been uniquely shaped by the Irish American experience, his themes are universal. IAW&A chose to name its Lifetime Achievement Award both to honor O'Neill and to call attention to an individual artist whose body-of-work aspires to similar levels of craftsmanship, artistry and integrity."

Founded and operated as a non-profit organization, Irish American Writers & Artists, Inc. (IAW&A) welcomes Irish American writers, actors, filmmakers, musicians and artists of every (and no) religion. As well as celebrating the achievements of Irish American writers and artists, past and present, IAW&A’s purpose is to highlight, energize and encourage Irish Americans working in the arts. IAW&A is committed both to bringing together the Irish American creative community in new self-awareness and to being a force for inter-ethnic and interracial solidarity, understanding and active cooperation.  IAW&A supports free speech, the rights of immigrants, the equality and dignity of all—regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation—and the process of peaceful, positive social change in the U.S., Ireland and around the world.  While avoiding party affiliation and endorsing no candidates for public office, IAW&A is outspoken in defense of artistic freedom, human rights and social justice.

Founding board members of Irish American Writers and Artists Inc, include writers Peter Quinn, TJ English, Pete Hamill, Malachy McCourt, Mary Pat Kelly, Michael Patrick MacDonald and Celtic singer/songwriter Ashley Davis.

For more information about Irish American Writers and Artists, Inc, go to http://www.i-am-wa.org/ or to the IAW&A Facebook page at http://tinyurl.com/nl2efo.  For more information about the Eugene O'Neill Lifetime Achievement Award Cocktail Reception and to purchase tickets, go to www.oneillaward.org