Finnegan Nominated for Drama League Award

Release Date: May 4, 2007

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Gerald V. Finnegan, associate professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, in the University at Buffalo's College of Arts and Sciences, has been nominated for a national Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance of the Year for his work in the off-Broadway revival of Eugene O'Neill's "The Hairy Ape."

This production by New York's Irish Repertory Company also has been nominated by the league as Best Revival of a Dramatic Play, and for the Drama Desk Award for Best Revival of a Dramatic Play. Its director, Ciaran O'Reilly, was nominated for the Drama Desk Award as Best Director of the Year.

The Drama League winners will be selected by the league's 3,000 members nationwide. Awards will be presented May 11 at the league's annual awards luncheon at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. Previous Distinguished Performance Award winners Zoë Caldwell, Kathleen Chalfant, Frank Langella and Christopher Plummer will be on the dais.

Other league nominees for 2007 Distinguished Performance of the year—which can be won by an actor only once—include Billy Crudup, F. Murray Abraham, Christine Baranski, Vanessa Redgrave, Liev Schreiber, Brian Dennahy, Jeff Daniels, Hugh Dancy, Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris, Meryl Streep and Bill Nighy.

"I was surprised at the nomination and extremely grateful to be in such esteemed company," Finnegan says. "I also am very happy that the Irish Rep and the cast of the play—a wonderful group of artists to work with—also are nominated this year, not only for the Drama League Award but for the Drama Desk Award as well."

The highly prized Drama League Awards are the oldest theatrical awards in America and the only major awards given by theatergoers themselves. Drama League members vote to honor distinguished productions and performances on Broadway and off-Broadway, as well as exemplary career achievements in theater, musical theater and directing.

"The Hairy Ape," allegedly O'Neill's favorite play, was first produced in 1922. It is set in the bowels of a transatlantic ocean liner, a modern "ship-machine" in which the characters slave in awful conditions at work they consider fit for monkeys. Here, they confront the struggle of modern man within industrial society—unable to break class or ideological barriers, nor create new ones.

In this production, Finnegan plays the essential role of Paddy, an old ship's fireman. Paddy's important monologue in Act 1, which harkens romantically to an era in which sailors on the splendid 19th-century clipper ships slept under the stars, is an astute analysis of pre-industrial life that places the revolution brought about by machines in historical perspective.

"The Hairy Ape," along with other important O'Neill plays, is informed by the playwright's own life-changing adventures aboard clipper ships.

Finnegan, who serves as coordinator of UB's program leading to a bachelor of fine arts in theatre, has acted professionally in numerous theaters in New York and regionally, as well as in Buffalo, among them the New York Shakespeare Festival, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Studio Arena Theatre, the Irish Classical Theatre, the Kavinoky Theatre and Shakespeare in the Park.

He also directs, both in the Western New York area and for the UB Department of Theatre and Dance, and internationally.

He played a feature role in "The Puffy Chair," a film selected for the 2006 Sundance Film Festival; performed in Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape" at the Assembly Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland, for the 1998 Edinburgh Theater Festival; and later directed a Polish language production of "Our Town" for Panstowa Wyzsza Szkola Teatralna, the National Drama Centre, in Wroclaw, Poland.

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