Eugene O’Neill Theater Center to hold benefit reading of Ship of Fools by alumni Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman

The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center has announced that they will begin their 60th Anniversary celebrations with a benefit reading of the play Ship of Fools by National Playwrights Conference alumni Ron Cowen (NPC ‘67, ‘68, ‘72) and Daniel Lipman (NPC ’72).
The reading, which will take place on Saturday, April 20 at 7pm on the O’Neill’s seaside campus, is directed by Mark Brokaw (How I Learned to Drive, Lobby Hero, This Is Our Youth), with casting by David Caparelliotis. 

The play, an adaptation of Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Anne Porter’s 1962 novel of the same name, follows aspiring American novelist Jenny Brown as she journeys on the Vera - a second-rate German passenger ship - from Mexico to pre-World War II Europe on the eve of Hitler’s ascension to power.  She will soon discover that the collisions of wealth, race, class, and country taking place among the international assemblage of her fellow travelers presage the dark world they will all encounter at the end of their voyage, one on the verge of an upheaval that none of them are prepared for, and which will have far-reaching consequences for them all.

“It’s also about how in 1930’s Germany, its citizens - either because of prejudice, hatred, indifference, denial, complacency, moral turpitude or simple blindness to see the truth - willingly sacrificed their democracy to embrace a right-wing Fascist dictatorship intent on destroying people’s freedoms, and even their lives. We never imagined that today, our country would be on the brink of making the same fateful decision,” said the playwrights, adding, “ Porter once wrote, ‘I believe that human beings are capable of total evil, but no one is totally good: and this gives the edge to evil.’ Unwilling as we may be to believe that, her words ring truer today than when she wrote them. But as Martin Luther King said, ‘The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.’ As writers, we did all we can do, which is to write. But as people, we can keep our eyes open and speak out.”

The cast for the reading includes: Caroline Aaron (Marvelous Ms. Maisel, NPC ‘92), Kerry Bishé (Scrubs), Karina Curet, Gabriella Fanuele (Red, White & Royal Blue), Kate Jennings Grant, Priscilla Lopez (A Chorus Line, Maid in Manhattan), Zak Orth (White House Plumbers), Phillip Stoddard, Tyler Weeks, and Frank Wood (Side Man; August: Osage County; NPC ‘13, ‘15, ‘17, ‘22). Additional casting to be announced. 

“This has always been a place where all our stories can be told,” said Tiffani Gavin, the O’Neill’s Executive Director. “Today, we are increasingly defined by our differences, with marginalized people pitted against one another and often scapegoated.  But in moments like these, it’s worth being reminded that we are all in the same boat, trying to navigate our way through the most turbulent and treacherous times in recent memory.”

“On the eve of our 60th anniversary, to share this piece by Ron and Dan, who have been part of the O’Neill family for nearly our entire existence, feels especially meaningful”, added Gavin.
Tickets are $75 and $150 and can be purchased by visiting the O’Neill’s website at All proceeds from the reading will benefit the O’Neill’s year-round new work development initiatives.
About the playwrights:

Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman wrote the book for the musical, Betty Blue Eyes, based on Alan Bennett's screenplay for the film, A Private Function. With a score by Olivier Award winning composer and lyricist, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, it was produced in London's West End by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Sir Richard Eyre. It was nominated for three Olivier Awards including Best Musical and was also short-listed for the prestigious Evening Standard Award.

They wrote the book for Travels with My Aunt, a musical based on Graham Greene's novel, also with a score by Stiles and Drew. It was produced at the Chichester Festival Theatre.
For television, Cowen and Lipman were the creators, writers, executive producers and showrunners of the American Queer as Folk, the ground-breaking series that ran for five seasons on Showtime.
They were also the creators, writers, executive producers and show runners of the Emmy winning and Golden Globe nominated drama series, Sisters, which ran for six seasons on NBC. Its cast included Swoosie Kurtz, Sela Ward, George Clooney, Ashley Judd and Paul Rudd.

Prior to that, Cowen and Lipman received the Emmy Award and a Peabody Award for their teleplay of An Early Frost, which they also associate-produced. The acclaimed NBC drama was the first major film — for television or features — about AIDS. It starred Gena Rowland, Ben Gazzara, and Aidan Quinn. In all, the film was nominated for 14 Emmy awards, won a Peabody Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Television movie.

They also wrote and co-produced the NBC telefilm, The Love She Sought, which starred Angela Lansbury, Denholm Elliot, and Cynthia Nixon, for which they won the Christopher Award and were nominated for a Writers Guild Award for Best Teleplay.

In addition, Cowen wrote adaptations for the PBS series, The American Short Story, of Sherwood Anderson's I'm a Fool and Willa Cather's Paul's Case, for which he also won a Peabody Award.
Cowen and Lipman met and began their careers as playwrights at the Eugene O'Neill Playwrights' Conference in Waterford, Connecticut.

Cowen's first play, Summertree, originally performed at the O'Neill where it was directed by Lloyd Richards, was subsequently produced at Lincoln Center. It won the Drama Desk Award and was one of the plays considered that year for the Pulitzer Prize. The play was later revived Off-Broadway and made into a film for Columbia Pictures starring Michael Douglas.
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About the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center:
The Launchpad of the American Theater, the O’Neill is the country’s preeminent organization dedicated to the development of new works and new voices for the American theater. Founded in 1964, and named in honor of Eugene O’Neill, four-time Pulitzer Prize-winner and America’s only playwright to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, the O’Neill has been home to more than 1,000 new works for the stage and thousands more emerging artists. Scores of projects developed at the O’Neill have gone on to full production at theaters around the world. O’Neill programs include the National Playwrights Conference, National Music Theater Conference, National Critics Institute, National Puppetry Conference, Cabaret & Performance Conference, and National Theater Institute – which offers six credit-earning undergraduate training programs. In addition, the O’Neill owns and operates the Monte Cristo Cottage as a museum open to the public. The O’Neill is the recipient of two Tony Awards and the National Medal of Arts.