Who’s That Kid? It’s Jonathan O’Neill, FCRH ‘15


Jonathan O’Neill, FCRH ‘15, with his grandfather and sister, Rosemary. (Photo by Kevin O’Neill)


Jonathan O’Neill, FCRH ‘15, with his grandfather and sister, Rosemary. (Photo by Kevin O’Neill)
Jonathan O’Neill, FCRH ‘15, with his grandfather and sister, Rosemary. (Photo by Kevin O’Neill)

When I caught up with Jonathan O’Neill, he was on his way to his second rehearsal for his play My Personal Hell by Jonathan O’Neill. It will be premiering as the first Fordham Experimental Theatre slot show of the semester, and runs Feb. 20-23. In between class and rehearsal, Jonathan took a minute to talk to me about Staten Island,  his beard, Mario Kart and his impressive work as a budding playwright.

Jonathan is an English major with a concentration in creative writing. He is from Staten Island, and he attended Regis High School in Manhattan. He has a lot of respect for the Jesuit education he received at Regis.

On his decision to go to Fordham, Jonathan saw a lot of continuity between the environment at Regis and the environment at Fordham.

“I really like being part of that community because there is such a good emphasis on learning and the whole person,” Jonathan said.

Those of us who know Jonathan may have noticed there is something different about him this semester; he is now sporting a full beard.

“I told myself, ‘I’m not gonna shave until my play is totally finished,’ but that came and went and I kind of liked it,” Jonathan said.

It makes sense that Jonathan would choose to grow a beard Stanley Cup-style for this play; he had been tinkering with it for over a year and a half before it was ready to be performed. He described the play as a dark comedy about a boy who is murdered and goes to the afterlife, where he is forced to watch actors perform his murder and guess who killed him. Rehearsals have just started, but Jonathan is already very excited by how the play is shaping up.

Of his cast, Jonathan said, “I think they are perfect and they are all really attractive and make me feel really inferior.”

This is not the first time Jonathan has directed his own play with FET. He presented the short play You Could Drive a Person Crazy — an Existential Romantic Comedy at the FET Playwrights’ Festival last year and again at the Strawberry Festival here in New York over the summer. The Strawberry Festival mostly presents professional plays, but Jonathan’s play was very well received. Jonathan responds to his success with his usual self-depreciating good humor.

“These were professional plays…and then us,” Jonathan said. “It was really a lot of fun and the people at Fordham are so talented.”

Jonathan attributes a lot of his success to the fact that he writes every day for about two hours, and no, that does not include Facebook statuses.

Besides garnering praise in the New York and Fordham theatre scene, Jonathan, along with some friends from Regis, has also received international recognition for putting together what currently stands in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Longest Continuous Dramatic Performance. They performed The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco (which normally runs about an hour with a loop ending) 25 times in a row for a total performance time of 23 hours, 33 minutes and 54 seconds. They performed the play with a rotating audience, but the actors themselves did not get a break except for costume changes.

Sometimes, however, Jonathan needs to take a break from his theatrical pursuits. When asked what else he does, he said, without missing a beat, “Mario Kart, lots and lots of Mario Kart. I’m really good at it. I like to balance it out; writing is something I am not really good at, and Mario Kart is, so I’ve got the yin and the yang there.”

He admitted he is so good at Mario Kart that he recently made someone cry. “We’re all terrible at Mario Kart on the inside, it’s sort of like judging your own capacity of self-loathing and being a terrible person,” Jonathan said with a laugh.

He also admitted a passion for American Horror Story and a role-playing game called Arkham Horror, which takes almost an hour to set up and several more hours to play.

Of Arkham Horror, he said, “This board game is the greatest thing to ever have been made…It’s like a big ice-cream sundae of I-hate-myself-so-much.”

Jonathan extended an open invitation for anyone to come play Arkham Horror with him as a final thought before running to rehearsal.

Katie Nolan is the Copy Chief for The Fordham Ram.