Dream big

Excerpt from Life on the small stage (Bangkok Post, 13 May 2015)

Slightly delayed by Thailand's unstable political situation, Peel the Limelight's debut production of Martin Sherman's Bent premiered in late May of last year, at Petralai Management Theatre, a venue founded and operated by Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy.  

O'Neill, who directed the play, revealed the reason he opened withBent, a play about the lesser-known persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany.

"I wanted to make a statement about what theatre should be ... I like confrontational pieces. I don't like my audience to hide. I want them to be a part of it. I want to move them and change them and make them question."  

Whereas Pico Theatre is a one-man operation born out of passion, Peel the Limelight has an artistic director (O'Neill), a producer (Zuniga), a more long-term plan and a regional connection. In less than a year, the company has produced two plays. 

In February, Peel the Limelight staged Rajiv Joseph's 2011 playGruesome Playground Injuries. The two-character play found a home in the tiny black-box space of Spark School of Dramatic Arts at the Jasmine City building in the Asok area.  

Originally from New York, O'Neill was classically trained as an actor. After finishing his graduate degree at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Los Angeles, O'Neill gave up acting and relocated to London, where he worked in theatre for 20 years. He relocated to Bangkok after his partner, a former lawyer, decided to retire early.

O'Neill first met Zuniga in the acting class O'Neill was conducting for the BCT when he first arrived in Thailand almost two years ago. Born and raised in Nicaragua, Zuniga fell in love with theatre in college. After relocating to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Zuniga co-founded Dragonfly Theatre, a professional English-language theatre company. Through Zuniga's relationship with Dragonfly Theatre and the Vietnamese media, Peel the Limelight'sGruesome Playground Injuries's four-day run in late April in Ho Chi Minh City received considerable national media attention.

"Our idea is world domination," O'Neill joked. "It's not world domination. It's actually Asean domination." Zuniga and O'Neill also plan to bring English-speaking productions from other countries to Thailand.  

In an email interview, Zuniga said he envisions Peel the Limelight to be "a sustainable and respected arts organisation that attracts professional stage, film and TV artists to its cast and crew as well as a loyal community to its programme".

"I expect to be well on the way to a Peel the Limelight that belongs to the Bangkok community and takes an active part in shaping the ethos of its people," he added.