Herman Daniel Farrell III

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Herman Daniel Farrell III was co-writer of the award winning (Peabody, AFI, NAACP Image awards) and critically acclaimed HBO Film Boycott about Martin Luther King, Jr. (starring Jeffrey Wright and Terrence Howard). Farrell was nominated for a Humanitas Prize.


Play productions: civilian, 2011 New York International Fringe Festival; Rome, 2004 New York International Fringe Festival; Portrait of a President, 2002 New York International Fringe Festival (Excellence in Playwriting Award); Solo Goya, Lincoln Center’s Director’s Lab at HERE (NY 1998), Bedfellows, The Flea Theater (NY 1997), The Echo Theater Company (LA 1996) (Drama-Logue Award & Critic’s Choice).


His plays have been developed in workshops and readings at Manhattan Theater Club, Crossroads Theater Company, Primary Stages, The Working Theater, New Dramatists and The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference. Farrell’s work has been recognized and honored by several national arts institutions: New Dramatists (Member Playwright 1995-2002, Joe Calloway Award); NEA Grant (To Mandela at The Working Theater 1998); NEA Grant (There at Primary Stages 1996); MacDowell Colony (Fellow 1996); 1994, 1995 & 1999 National Playwrights Conference (Bedfellows, Brodkin Scholarship Award, There, 1st Eric Kocher Playwriting Award and Memorial Day).


Farrell is an Associate Professor of Playwriting at the University of Kentucky where he teaches playwriting, theatre history, seminars on playwrights (Eugene O'Neill, August Wilson, Contemporary Women Playwrights) and his unique course Staging History that examines historical dramas and involves the devising of a documentary drama over the course of one semester. Farrell's play civilian, a documentary drama, derived from work in the class and based on oral history transcripts of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who are currently enrolled at the University of Kentucky, premiered in 2011 at the New York International Fringe Festival.


He received his B.A., cum laude, in Drama from Vassar College in 1983, his J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1989 and his M.F.A. in Playwriting from Columbia University in 1994.


Farrell recently completed, Cousins Table, a family drama,  universitas, a behind-the-scenes look into university politics, Ringolevio, a screenplay about nonviolence, General George Washington, a trilogy of plays on the life of George Washington during the American Revolution and a short commissioned work for the American Slavery Project called Assento as part of the Writing Collaborative of Unheard Voices, a theatrical response to the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan. Excerpts from the work received a staged reading in May of 2012 at the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Cultural Center in NYC.


Farrell's essay “The Ancient Mariner and O’Neill’s Intertextual Epiphany” was published in 2012 by McFarland Publishing in a book of essays: Intertextuality in American Drama: Critical Essays on Eugene O'Neill, Susan Glaspell, Thornton Wilder and Arthur Miller and Other Playwrights, edited by Brenda Murphy and Drew Eisenhauer.


Farrell was the Kentucky Regional Representative for the Dramatists Guild of America from 2011-2014 and is a member of the Eugene O'Neill Society. He lives in Midway, Kentucky with his wife Nancy Jones and child, MJ.

Complete Bio

Herman Daniel Farrell III was born in 1961 at Parkchester General Hospital in The Bronx. His mother Theresa Adele Farrell and father Herman Daniel ("Denny") Farrell, Jr. raised him along with his sister Monique in Washington-Heights until he was 5 and when his parents separated he moved with his mother and sister to Riverdale and continued visitations with his father in Manhattan. Farrell attended public schools in New York (P.S. 28, 81, J.H.S. 141 and John F. Kennedy High School) and was active in the Boy Scouts Troop 240 where he was promoted to Senior Patrol Leader and Eagle Scout. Farrell was also elected student body President at JFK High School. Farrell became involved in politics and community service, working for his father who was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1974 and has represented Harlem, Washington-Heights and Inwood ever since. At 18, Herman III visited the White House to hear President Jimmy Carter speak in the East Room and he subsequently was elected as an Alternate Delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1980 in New York City.

In 1979, Farrell was admitted to Vassar College where he majored in Drama with an emphasis in Directing. Farrell directed numerous theatre productions while at Vassar including a production of Peter Shaffer's Equus in Kenyon Hall and he was honored to be selected to direct a Drama Department mainstage production of Dynamo, by Eugene O'Neill, in the Powerhouse Theatre as his Senior Project. While at Vassar, Herman spent a summer studying acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and also appeared as an actor in the Quaigh Dramathon in midtown Manhattan and in an Equity Showcase production at the University of the Streets Theatre in the East Village. Farrell also directed an Off-Off Broadway production of a short play at the Raft Theater on Theatre Row during his college years. Farrell was active in campus politics, serving as student body President in his senior year. Farrell was honored to receive a Senior Leadership Award from the Student African-American Society for his active engagement in S.A.S. during his four years of college. Herman graduated from Vassar College in 1983 with a B.A., cum laude, receiving Honors from the Department of Drama.

In 1983, Farrell moved to Washington-Herights/Harlem where he pursued a political career for the next several years. He worked as a campaign manager for his father's re-election campaigns, Harlem Voter Registration Coordinator for the Jesse Jackson for President campaign in 1984 and then as Deputy Campaign Manager of his father's bid for Mayor of the City of New York in 1985. He served as a member of Community Board 12 and was elected as Democratic State Committee Member for several years. In 1988, in Harlem, Farrell also worked on the Jesse Jackson for President campaign and subsequently on the Mondale/Ferraro campaign for President. In the summer of 1989, Farrell worked on the Dinkins for Mayor campaign.

From 1986 to 1989, Farrell attended the New York University School of Law where he distinguished himself by being selected to serve on the law journal, The Review of Law & Social Change and was subsequently elected as a Notes & Comment Editor. Farrell was honored to be elected to the Executive Committee of BALSA (Black Allied Law Student Association) during his 2nd year. Farrell earned his J.D. in 1989 and was hired as an Associate at the law firm Breed, Abbott & Morgan. In 1990, Farrell was admitted to the New York State Bar, 1st Department and subsequently to the Southern District of New York, Eastern District of New York and the Kentucky State Bar.

In the midst of all of this political and legal activity, Herman continued to pursue his interest in the theatre. Farrell spent the summer after Vassar working in London where he attended several theater productions (including the celebrated production of King Lear at the RSC/Barbican, featuring Michael Gambon and Anthony Sher) that inspired him to write his first play. In 1984, Farrell completed Dreams of the Son: A Life of Eugene O'Neill and directed and produced it at the West End Theatre in New York in an Equity Showcase production. Farrell continued to write plays during the 1980s and took playwriting courses at Playwrights Horizons (Willie Reale, instructor) and Ensemble Studio Theatre. In the fall of 1990, Farrell was admitted to the M.F.A. program in Playwriting at Columbia University School of the Arts where he was taught by the legendary Howard Stein during his last year as chair of the program and then subsequently with the award-winning playwright Romulus Linney. Farrell was fortunate to also have Glenn Young, Laura Maria Censabella, Robin Wagner, Arnold Aronson, Bernard Jacobs and Gerald Schoenfeld as his professors. Herman's play Succeed about his experience taking the bar exam was selected for production in the main stage season of the Hammerstein Center for Theatre Studies at Columbia. In his last year of study at Columbia, Herman interned in the Literary Department of Manhattan Theatre Club where he assisted Kate Loewald, Bruce Whitacre and Paige Evans. Farrell also worked as an intern for the Negro Ensemble Company working on a project for the Artistic Director Douglas Turner Ward. Farrell earned his M.F.A. from Columbia in 1994.

Later that year, Farrell's play Bedfellows was selected from a pool of 1,000 applications to be workshopped and presented at the National Playwrights Conference of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut under the artistic leadership of the world-renowned director Lloyd Richards. That summer also featured the premieres of plays by August Wilson (Seven Guitars), Douglas Post and Joe DiPietro. Bedfellows, a behind-the-scenes look at inner city politics, was directed by Bill Partlan and Max Wilk served as dramaturg and featured the actors: James McDaniel, Tommy Hollis, Tom McGowan, Leslie Lyles, Alice Haining, Kevin Geer, Bryan Clark and Mason Adams.

In 1995, Farrell was invited to return to the O'Neill with his new play There, a semi-autobiographical play about Farrell's experiences growing up with a white mother and a black father. That summer, fellow playwrights included Deborah Brevoort and John Henry Redwoodd. Partlan directed for Farrell again and the cast included Alessandro Nivola, Alice Haining and Rob Campbell. There was earlier given a reading at Manhattan Theatre Club, featuring Debra Messing. Later that year, Herman was selected as a Member Playwright of New Dramatists in a class of playwrights that included David Greenspan, Keith Glover and Paula Vogel.

The world-premiere of Bedfellows was produced by the Echo Theatre Company in 1996 in Los Angeles at the Skylight Theatre, directed by Chris Fields and featuring Richard Gant, Brent Jennings, Andy Milder, Alexandra Powers, Victor Raider-Wexler and Bryan Clark and was critically praised by the Los Angeles Times, BackStage West and LA Weekly. In 1997, Bedfellows was produced Off Broadway at The Flea in lower Manhattan, directed by Jim Simpson and featuring Peter Jay Fernandez, Reed Birney, Gerry Bamman, Phyllis Somerville, Alice Haining, Bryan Clark, Leslie Lyles and Saundra Santiago.

During the latter part of the 1990s, Farrell's plays were workshopped and/or produced at Primary Stages, Working Theatre, The Empty Space, Crossroads Theatre Company, Lincoln Center Director's Lab and New Dramatists. In 1999, Farrell was invited to return to the O'Neill for a third time (Lloyd Richards' last year as Artistic Director) with his new play Memorial Day that was directed by Amy Saltz with Max Wilk serving as the dramaturg.

In 1997, Herman met Nancy Jones at New Dramatists where she was completing an internship. They fell in love and he followed her to Lexington, Kentucky where she was beginning work as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre at the University of Kentucky. They were married in Port Antonio, Jamaica in 1999 and in 2002, their daughter Madeleine Jones Farrell was born. Nancy subsequently earned tenure and promotion to the rank of Associate Professor.

Farrell was co-writer of the Peabody Award winning HBO Films movie Boycott that premiered in 2001 featuring Jeffrey Wright, Terrence Howard and Carmen Ejogo, directed by Clark Johnson. The story of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, based on the book Daybreak of Freedom by Stewart Burns was critically praised by the New York Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Variety, Entertainment Weekly and People Magazine (Top 5 Cable Movies of 2001) and, as noted, garnered the prestigious Peabody Award as well as an NAACP Image Award and nominations for an AFI Award and the Humanitas Prize. Boycott is regularly shown on HBO and BET and is available on DVD.

Herman began teaching part-time at the University of Kentucky in 2002 and continued to work on and off as an adjunct professor at UK and Centre College until 2006 when he was hired as a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Playwriting at UK. Farrell is an O'Neill scholar, having written essays and articles on the life and work of Eugene O'Neill for academic conferences including the 2005 International O'Neill Conference in Provincetown, MA, the 2008 International O'Neill Conference at Tao House in Danville, CA, the 2010 ALA Conference in San Francisco, CA and the 2011 International O'Neill Conference in Greenwich VIllage, NY. Farrell's essay "The Ancient Mariner and O'Neill's Intertextual Epiphany" was published in the book Intertextuality in American Drama: Critical Essays on Eugene O'Neill, Susan Glaspell, Thornton Wilder, Arthur Miller and Other Playwrights, edited by Drew Eisenhauer and Brenda Murphy (McFarland & Company, 2012).

Farrell developed the playwriting program at UK by creating a track of courses for emerging playwrights that include Playwriting I, Playwriting II, Independent Study in Playwriting and seminars on Eugene O'Neill, August Wilson and Contemporary Women Playwrights. Student playwrights at UK are given numerous opportunities for productions in the Studio Season and the biennial New Works Now! festival.

At UK, Farrell has developed a unique course called Staging History wherein students examine the canon of historical dramas from Aeschylus's The Persians to The Laramie Project and then subsequently devise a documentary drama based on an topic such as veterans (Bringing it Home: Voices of Student Veterans, in collaboration with the Veterans Resource Center and Nunn Cneter for Oral History) and the life and work of Mikhail Bulgakov (Bulgakov's Dreams in collaboration with the Russian Studies and History departments). Farrell earned tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor of Playwriting in 2011.

In Kentucky, Farrell's plays have been produced at the University of Kentucky and Centre College and he has served as dramaturg and director of productions at these higher ed institutions. Herman has served on reading panels and juries for playwriting contests in Kentucky (James Rodgers Playwriting Contest, Kentucky Women Writers Conference) and served on the Admissions Committee for New Dramatists in 2002 and 2008. Since 2011, Farrell has served as the Kentucky Regional Representative to the Dramatists Guild and regularly convenes and attends meetings and conferences for the Dramatists Guild. He is also an active contributor to The Dramatist, the DG bi-monthly magazine and recently conducted an interview with Les Waters, Artistic Director of Actors Theatre of Louisville for The Dramatist.

Over the past dozen years, Farrell has travelled to New York for readings, workshops and productions of his plays at New Dramatists, Primary Stages, Working Theater, the American Slavery Project and the New York International Fringe Festival.

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