Podcast #39: T’he Emperor Jones’ and ‘Rebel in the Soul’

How it’s New York: Irish Rep is considered one of the best New York theatres. Eugene O’Neill did his time as a New Yorker, and Larry Kirwan, of Black 47, is a New York treasure.
How it’s Irish: Eugene O’Neill was of Irish descent. Both plays take place at Irish Rep, and “Rebel in the Soul” is a dramatization of a political moment in Irish history.

We spoke to  actor Obi Abili and director Ciarán O’Reilly about the haunting production of Eugene O’Neill’s “The Emperor Jones” at Irish Rep, and then with playwright/performer Larry Kirwan of Black 47 about his play “Rebel in the Soul,” also at Irish Rep.   Both plays run through May 21.

Featured tune is a song Larry wrote for the show, “Never Feel Like This Again.”

Enda Walsh’s ‘Arlington’ leaves an aftertaste

How it’s New York: “Arlington” is part of “Enda Walsh in NYC,” joint presentations by the Irish Arts Center and St. Ann’s
Warehouse in Brooklyn

Isla (Charlie Murphy) stretches. ©Teddy Wolff.

How it’s Irish: Playwright Enda Walsh is Irish, and the play takes place in a dystopian Ireland. It’s billed as “St. Ann’s Warehouse presents Landmark Productions/Galway International Arts Festival.”

I didn’t enjoy “Arlington.”

I don’t think you’re supposed to.

After seeing this dystopian drama (set in an Ireland in some future time when people are warehoused in towers and made to tell stories of their pasts until they kill themselves), I was ready to write it off.

But the play keeps coming back to me, as if I’d swallowed something that tasted bad and can’t get it out of my mouth. It’s like acid reflux.

It’s an acid reflux play.

(Similarly I loathed, loathed, loathed, Wallace Shawn’s “Aunt Dan and Lemon” when I saw it, and being a baby playwright, could justify all my reasons. Then I noticed I was still talking about it weeks later. Hmmm.)

Today, when  we’ve just discovered the Syrians are hiding crematoria, Walsh’s dystopic fantasy feels like a waking nightmare. It’s not plausible, but it’s not ridiculous, either.  It’s not hard to imagine a time when some people would willingly lock up the others, to keep resources for themselves.

I wasn’t truly moved, because I couldn’t  buy into it. Not as it stands.

But it feels like an opiod-nightmare (I had foot surgery, OK?). It gives me the shivers.


Enter Enda Walsh’s “Rooms” for an interesting hour of introspection

A Girl’s Bedroom.

How it’s New York: At New York’s Irish Arts Center

How it’s Irish: By Irish playwright Enda Walsh

On a dreary New York afternoon this past Saturday I took a diversion for an hour into the “Rooms” of playwright Enda Walsh. The piece, running at Cybert Tire on 11th Avenue, the future home of the Irish Arts Center, is contained in three plain white boxes which house the story and belongings of 3 different people.

The audience is encouraged to enter the rooms and explore, touch and take in the items in the room.  An audio track plays giving each story in the voices of the inhabitants: a woman in her kitchen, a child in her bedroom and a man in a hotel room.

A kitchen.

Much like being in an art gallery, we wandered around the environments looking to see what they told us of the people that Walsh wanted to show us.  The stories are a bit sad and stark, but you do get a sense of these people and the lives they have lived in these spaces. (more…)

Podcast #38: Wils Wilson on ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart;’ ‘Narcan’

How it’s New York: The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart was a big hit Off-Broadway. “Narcan” played at Irish Screen America and at the Manhattan Film Festival.   rssheadphones1
How it’s Irish and Scottish: Jim Halpin, of “Narcan,” is from Limerick (he played young Malachy in “Angela’s Ashes.”)
“The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” is by Scottish playwright David Grieg, presented by The National Theatre of Scotland and the McKittrick Hotel (home of “Sleep No More.”)

We spoke to director Wils Wilson about the brilliant and unforgettable Scottish immersive drama “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,”a campfire pub play if there ever was one, with brilliance running through each line like water inside a snowflake. Alice Farrell spoke to Peter Halpin, star of the short film “Narcan,” which may turn into a feature film Stay tuned.

Featured tune is from Annie Grace’s “The Bell.” Annie was in the cast of  “Prudencia” when we attended. We think she has a voice to rival Dolores Keane and were sorely tempted to end with two of her songs.

‘Emperor Jones’ review: stay out of the woods

Obi Abili as Brutus Jones in Irish Rep’s production of ‘The Emperor Jones.’ © Carol Rosegg

How it’s New York: Irish Rep presents the piece, one of the finest gems of a residential theatre in the city.
How it’s Irish: Eugene O’Neill was proud of his Irish heritage.

“The Emperor Jones” is Horror.

It is in the Horror genre the way “Night of the Walking Dead” is Horror.

How did I never notice this before?

“Blair Witch Project” has nothing on Eugene O’Neill’s (1920) play “The Emperor Jones.”

From the moment Brutus Jones (Obi Abili ) enters the woods, to try to get to the other side of the island, away from the natives he robbed blind, the drums never stop, the shadows hide monsters, and the creep factor is too high to measure.

O’Neill wrote his one-act this way—the “little formless  fears” are the first thing Jones encounters. But usually the takeaway is the psychological study, the ghosts of Jones’ own past that afflict him and the race memory that takes him to an auction block and even a slave ship.

Also, the takeaway from the show is usually the tour de force of the eponymous role. But while Abili brings gravitas and intensity to his role, his performance is not the main event. The play itself is, and that’s how it should be.

Director Ciarán O’Reilly, with the help of choreographer Barry McNabb, and evocative music by Ryan Rumery and M. Florian Staab, additional music by Christian Frederickson, has put together a dark, precise and unforgettable production.

What terrors lurk in the woods?


‘The Penitent’ is not absolved

How it’s New York: The play is by acclaimed playwright David Mamet, who is a founding member of one of NYC’s finest residential theatres, Atlantic Theatre Company.
How it’s (Irish) English & Jirish: Rebecca Pidgeon, who plays one of the four roles, has dual British/American citizenship. The play is Jirish because the main character is Jewish and has recently turned to religion to deal with his guilt.

Is it better than “China Doll?”

That’s the burning question.

It is. But honestly, that’s a low bar.

You may remember that David Mamet’s 2015 play, “China Doll,”  starred Al Pacino, who notoriously couldn’t remember his lines. The Broadway play was bad. It wasn’t entirely Pacino’s fault , because who in the Hell casts a movie star in a roll in which he basically has a long monologue (on the phone) for half an hour?  (Yes, Pacino has done a lot of stage work, but not in a while.)

In contrast, “The Penitent” has a series of two-person scenes. There is conflict. (There’s also some clumsy exposition.) There are characters. There is some decent acting (though Rebecca Pidgeon is so horrifically affected she was difficult to watch. She actually waited mid-line to be interrupted. Seriously, acting students know better.)

One could even say, “The Penitent” is GREAT!

Great, that is, if you know nothing about law, psychiatry or Judaism. (more…)

‘If I Forget’ asks when does history predict the future?

How it’s New York: Characters in the play live in Park Slope, and the play is a production of the Roundabout Theatre Company, one of New York’s most important residential theatres.
How it’s (Irish) Jirish: The play centers on the question of what the Holocaust means to Jewish identity, but in its family dynamics and many of its concerns with the past and the future, will feel very relevant to Irish-Americans too.

The adult sibling relationships in Steven Levenson’s ambitious new drama “If I Forget” are hilariously, and sadly, convincing. The Fischer family children–Michael (Jeremy Shamos), Holly (Kate Walsh, yes that Kate Walsh, of “Grey’s Anatomy”) and Sharon (Maria Dizzia) have just the right amount of in-jokes, shared history and buttons that are pushed, resentments and affection that anyone who’s got them will feel a jolt of pleasant, and uncomfortable, recognition.

The plot of the play, which won the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, is less compelling, despite terrific performances by the cast, which also include Larry Bryggman as elderly father Lou,  Tasha Lawrence as Michael’s wife Ellen, Gary Wilmes as Holly’s attorney husband Howard, and Seth Steinberg as Holly’s teenage son-from-a-prior-marriage Joey.

Wading into Arthur Miller territory, Levenson (best known for his libretto to “Dear Evan Hansen”) centers Act One around the question of Jewish identity vis-a-vis the Holocaust. It’s Miller territory because Michael, a Jewish Studies professor who has been “recommended for tenure,” has a book titled “Forgetting the Holocaust” in galleys. Its thesis  suggests that American Jews make too much of the Holocaust and it’s time to forget about it. He delivers well-constructed impassioned speeches, but nobody offers an equally impassioned, articulate rebuttal. Fortunately for the play, the drama doesn’t center so much around this question that it becomes about it. (more…)

‘The Present’: a small gift inside a big box

How it’s New York: ‘The Present’ with Cate Blanchett runs on Broadway, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre
How it’s (Irish) Australian: Blanchett hails from Melbourne, Australia; the show comes to us via the the Sydney Theatre Company. Since itis an adaptation of Chekhov’s “Platonov,” his  early (and really, untitled) play, this show is also “Celto-Slav” and Russian.

It helps to read the play first.

That’s an unusual suggestion for me– usually I like to let a work stand by itself. But here, it really helps to know what the set-up is before you go. Even if you just read an act or two.

All of the elements of Anton Chekhov’s later plays are already there in his early work known as “Platonov.” Chekhov didn’t name the play, discovered 20 years after he died himself, and it has been called “Platonov,” “Wild Honey,” and “The Disinherited,” among others; it’s been adapted by Michael Frayn and David Hare; directed with rich theatrical gesture by Jiri Pokorny. Uncut, the play would last about six hours. But it’s all there: ennui. Fading, poor aristocracy. Possibility of a marriage of salvation. Empty trysts. A smart, disillusioned, unfulfilled schoolteacher.

So there’s much to love about “The Present,” an adaptation of that early work by Andrew Upton (Blanchett’s husband), directed by John Crowley. If anyone knew how to put people, hurt, dissatisfied, unpredictable people, in a room together and see what happened, it was Chekhov (Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” owes him a lot).

Blanchett is completely luminous in her Broadway debut as Anna, a young widow who is celebrating her 40th birthday by inviting several suitors and friends to spend the weekend with her at her country estate.

That little synopsis, though, is more than you might figure out for quite a while, all but the 40th birthday bit, which is announced. (more…)

All the world’s a cell: Phyllida Lloyd’s ‘The Tempest’ at St. Ann’s Warehouse

How it’s New York: Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse is one of the hippest places in the city; it’s known

L-R: Erick Betancourt, Harriet Walter, Sophie Stanton ©Teddy Wolff

especially as an importer of acclaimed and innovative work from overseas. The new building has the most comfortable lobby in town, with chaise loungeand often live music in the bar.
How it’s (Irish) English: The show is the third in the trilogy of Shakespeare plays performed by women, with the conceit that they are all inmates in a prison, and hails from England’s Donmar Warehouse.

Of all Shakespeare plays to set in a prison cell, “The Tempest” makes the most sense. Prospero, a sorcerer and the rightful Duke of Milan, is living on an island from which he cannot escape, after having been usurped by his own brother Antonio. He seizes a chance to cause a shipwreck when Antonio and King Alonso of Naples, complicit in the crime, are nearby, and restore himself and his daughter Miranda to their rightful places. Most prisoners can only depend on clemency.

The Tempest” at St. Ann’s Warehouse is the third in a trilogy from the Donmar Warehouse in London, all directed by Phyllida Lloyd, all featuring actor Harriet Walter, and casts of women performing a play within a play. “Julius Caesar” and “Henry IV” were presented earlier this season.

“The Tempest” is fiercely successful, asking the audience when and how does the punishment fit the crime. In each production, an actor frames the play by introducing the modern-day inmate telling the story. In “The Tempest,” Walter shows that Prospero’s interpretation  is based on the story of Judith Clark, a 67-year-old woman serving 75-to-life in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York. Clark drove the getaway car in 1981 for a bank robbery that resulted in the deaths of two

(L to R): Liv Spencer (blond, somewhat outside the frame), Leah Harvey, Harriet Walter, Sheila Atim, Jackie Clune, Sophie Stanton, Martina Laird, Jade Anouka
©Teddy Wolff

police officers.  (Andrew Cuomo has commuted Clark’s sentence this past December, according to press notes, and she will be granted a parole hearing this year).

It’s impossible not to hear her story at the top of the show and ask what justice means- and that was the point of the choice. One of the play’s most indelible moments comes at the end, as prisoners leave, calling “Bye, Hannah!” while Walter sits alone in her cell.

But thematic sincerity doesn’t always make for great theater, and this is great theater. It has everything– terrific performances, surprise, spectacle, insight. If you can nab a ticket (It’s sold out, performances through Feb. 19), even if you’ve seen “The Tempest” before, you need to go.

You’ve never seen it done like this.


Staged reading of ‘The Dead’

How it’s New York: The reading is taking place in NYC, at Studio Theatre in New York’s Theatre Row.
How it’s Irish: James Joyce is one of Ireland’s most famous writers. His face can now be found on Barnes & Noble tote bags and mugs, and what could show “fame” more clearly than that?


Jamesjoyce_tuohy-ohneFusion Theatre presents a staged reading of Joyce’s The Dead at Studio Theater, Theatre Row, January 28th at  8 p.m.  featuring multi award winning actors Dion Graham, Michael Simon Hall, Eilin O’Dea and tenor Byron Singleton.

In “The Dead,” the last story in Joyce’s”Dubliners, Gabriel Conroy and his wife attend an annual holiday gathering on Jan. 6, 1904. At the end of the evening, at home with his wife, he realizes that her heart isn’t wholly his– and that the dead are always with us.

(Note: Irish Repertory Theatre did a sold-out, site-specific production of this story at the American Irish Historical Society this year. We did a podcast with director Ciarán O’Reilly, delayed in posting due to illness. Watch for it at some random time!)

We’re told this is a fundraising event, and that there will be traditional music. Tickets are $45, and can be purchased here.


Laoisa Sexton brings her new play “The Pigeon in the Taj Mahal” to the Irish Rep

How it’s New York: At the Irish Rep in New York
How it’s Irish: Written by and starring Irish Actor and Writer Laoisa Sexton

Slung over the shoulder of her erstwhile brutish boyfriend, actress/playwright Laoisa Sexton makes her entrance in her new play falling into a drunken heap in the corner of the stage.  Dressed in a cotton candy confection of a hen-night costume, she is the text-book example of the fake-tanned rambunctious dolly having the last gasp before taking the plunge into marriage.  But there is much more than a typical hen-night-gone-wrong story here.

Laoisa Sexton and Zoë Watkins in The Pigeon in the Taj Mahal

Sexton weaves a tale of love, loss, yearning, awakening and abject despair all wrapped up in a big ball of comedy.  A wild ride she takes along with the hilarious John Keating as Pigeon, and the raucous and ribald Zoë Watkins as Aunty Rosie and Johnny Hopkins as the brutish boyfriend Josie.  There is a fragility to both Lolly and Pigeon that draws them together and makes them seem to instantly understand each other. Keating gives a stellar performance in the first quarter of the play which is a monologue of his life and isolation, all the while talking to and trying to to prop up the living Barbie Doll that has been dropped into his lap.

Run to see it in its limited run now through December 31st.  You can get tickets here – Irish Rep Tickets

I got to chat with Laoisa about her journey, the play and women in Irish theater…

AF: Laoisa, tell me a bit about your journey to New York and history of shows here? What drove you to come here?

Laoisa: I’m not very good at making plans, much better at the dreams. Like, I didn’t really ever have a plan like to come to New York or to leave Ireland. These days I seem to be always coming and going, leaving for somewhere else, but that’s the way isn’t it?  We moved a lot when I was a kid too, we’d move at  least once a year- I went to tons of different schools and lived all over Ireland.  I suppose deep down I don’t really like staying in the same place, for too long.  I was going to be a ballet dancer for a while, but after being in a ballet of “The Playboy of The Western World I went into acting. I suppose I initially came to NY because I wanted to go to a good drama school to study. I figured Marlon Brando studied acting there and he is the best so that’s what I should do, no joke like. My Mam was a dancer and she was into the arts, she would always encourage me to do my thing and do it my own way, ye know. She would be doing the ironing, blasting Rachmaninoff or Swan Lake or Broadway Shows and tell me stories about who played what part.  She always had stories about all these actors and films and all these stories excited me and lit a fire in me. If I told her I wanted to swing on a moonbeam she’d say what are you waiting for, go do it?

AF: What do you think you have to say to an American audience?

Laoisa: As a playwright you mean?  As an artist I think you reflect what you see and want and present that in your own way. And if you’re a good one (artist), someone could probably spot that it’s you, before they know you wrote it, you sung it, you danced it – painted it etc. I think you have to feel very strong about something to do anything in the arts. Especially making something.

Theatre is a place where you can travel, but as an art form it can sometimes not reflect what we know. I want to show you what life is like now. I’m not writing ‘about Ireland’ I’m writing about human beings who happen to live there.

I write plays that I want to go see in a theatre. I want to be entertained, to laugh, to cry, to dance- to be moved to be taken away from here- and we all know that does not always happen but that’s what I strive to write. The plays I write are often described as modern.  I also like to play with language and character.

I would love to be able to write a play and have it like a song, you know the way you feel when you listen to a song and all it that conjures up in you, if I could do that -that would make me very happy.  Like when I was in drama school I used to do Tom Waits songs as monologues, my teacher would say “what’s that from?” And I’d lie and say it was from a film or something cos she would kill me if I said a song.  But that is what I strive for with my plays that they can do what a song can do to a person, .if that makes sense?

But I’m gonna show an American audience real Ireland, the Ireland I know or have seen and experienced, and that might not be what an American audience is used to.  It might not be a world they want to go to or let themselves go to as freely as what they are used to from an Irish play.  But it’s like acting, you know, the writing has to be honest and truthful and cross-cultures. Cos it’s about the human condition. Audiences always know if you are lying. Its new writing and you might be breaking new ground and that can be vital.

I suppose my plays have a very working class sensibility to them too, so that might not always be someone’s cup of tea. I always write from a place and I love to tinker with that language from that place and that will be the rhythm of the piece. I am very particular in that way with everything I write.

Ye know it’s funny with US critics they want to compare it to something they have seen before Enda Walsh or some other Irish fella? Put it in some Irish box that they feel they have somewhat of a grasp on. I mean I remember someone said about the women in my play “For Love” could have been from anywhere- but that’s exactly the point, ye know, the play was about love and sex and yearning and is love not universal? Who cares that it takes place in Dublin, why do we always have the Irish stamp on it? It’s just a place but it’s still people dealing with real human issues, getting hurt and making mistakes…

Theater is so commercial, especially in New York; new writing can be a challenge for everybody both to produce and to support. I mean look at Broadway movies being turned into Broadway shows like as if there is no other writing out there …these stories keep being told over and over and in the same way… and everyone keeps buying these $400 tickets to see the story they have already seen because…because I don’t know cos it feels comfortable, I don’t know.

New plays are a challenge but there is an urgency to new writing cos you are showing real life and what life is like now, but it can also divide people here as they might not be ready for it. Irish plays that are presented in the US can be conservative, but I want to show what my generation looks like, in its modern poetry.

But with new plays you are gonna be met with heartache and perhaps incomprehension and having to explain things you’d much rather let be. But you only ever do anything because you have to do it.

AF:  Tell me about the play “The Pigeon in the Taj Mahal” and what it took to bring it here?

“The Pigeon in The Taj Mahal” is a story about a bride to be, I’m playing Lolly who has lost the rest of her Hen party and finds herself in the company of a very strange man who has sort of come to her rescue. And in turn they both sort of rescue each other.

They are both from very different worlds, he is mentally challenged and she is a settled traveller from Limerick. She has lost her phone so she can’t get home and he is cut off from modern life and only experiences glimpses of it as the modern world finds him. But eventually the Hen party comes to the caravan and mayhem ensues as they all must learn to communicate.

It’s a clash of worlds coming together, mythology against technology, community based folklore and contemporary modern speech set in grinding poverty. It’s dark and funny and touching and is sort of a Fucked up love story of sorts.

The script was picked up by The Irish Repertory Theatre. They offered me a reading of the play as part of their New Works Reading Series. Then after the reading they wanted to produce it, it took a few months to schedule it, as they were out of their space and were moving back into their newly renovated home so it was on hold for a bit.  But it is a huge honor to be included in their first season in their new space, especially as this play is new and risky and dangerous.

The first play I appeared as an actress at The Rep was 2009 and now 7 yrs. later, here I am. I have had two plays produced by them, that feels so wild. It’s a very special experience always at The Rep as they have so much respect for artists and the work itself. It’s always loving and it comes in abundance from the top, the legends that are Charlotte Moore and Ciaran O’ Reilly.  Maybe because they are both performers themselves, but it’s a house of love. Every actor loves working at The Rep, its pure family there.

AF: Can you talk a bit about the rising movement in Dublin for women’s equality in the theatre and how that affects you as an actress and playwright?

Laoisa: I’m not sure I am an authority to speak on it’s progress per se, there are women involved who would be more able to speak on what has been put in place far better than I could.  I have not seen any real changes as far as I am concerned me being an individual artist. I certainly feel it’s great that the discussion is finally open for gender equality in the arts.  I always thought that it was unfair, especially with Irish plays and Irish films, they are always male heavy in terms of the ratio of male actors to female actors. And they very seldom cast Irish actresses- they will cast all the female roles out of the Uk or the US anywhere but Ireland. It’s not for want of talent, there is huge talent in Ireland. But it seems a lot of Irish male directors prefer not to cast young Irish actresses. And people don’t even notice it, seriously look at the top Irish films in the last few decades, you won’t have to look far to see what I mean. I don’t think we should be Ok with that. Also I think as women, we are brought up to fight over a few scraps so it causes women not to support other women and that in itself is a huge problem but its been going on for so long no one notices. I mean how can you support a female playwright- go see her show-Buy a ticket… Ye know its not that hard, but some people who are protesting would not even give you a like on Facebook!

For me, I just decided to put my head down and do the work and try to make the changes in my way, write stuff with good female roles and with stories about women or with women in them. Do that and that will be my contribution. its not easy at all, its very very hard.

I mean look at every show on HBO, it’s always the same. Big mean enigmatic misogynistic bad guy, and his long suffering wife who puts up with all his indiscretions, then all his girlfriends or hookers who supply the T & A, and then the bulk of the story is him an and his male mates doing male things.  I mean it’s the basis for most storytelling on TV; it needs to be changed up a bit… But audiences have a responsibility too, they need to get out there and support female artists, you know buy a ticket, so see a female perform…turn off some of that Shite…that’s my feeling anyways.

This is my third produced play Off Broadway in NYC and my first two plays were critically acclaimed and I still cannot get an Irish Theatre to read one!

I am living back in Dublin now and I hope that will change and that my work will be seen there.  Ireland is tiny, and the companies that are heavily funded that can afford to produce plays there, all have their own writers they work with or who they commission, (same with film companies) and artists they work with, ye know. I mean look at Druid it’s always the same actors, and of course it is, because they all work well together so ye know if it ain’t broke…  But certainly it makes it very daunting to try and crack that, so you end up having to make your own work to at even get your work seen and that’s no easy feat…  I mean how do you get a play produced? The Fuck if I know!

AF:  Where do you find your inspiration for what you write about and do you think your experience as an actress in other people’s pieces helps inform your own writing?

Laoisa:The Pigeon in The Taj Mahal” was inspired by where I grew up and to all those misfits and aliens out there who are misunderstood. Also I get inspiration from music a lot and from places and images, maybe  I’ll start with an image…, my first play was inspired by a Rhianna song ‘we found love in a hopeless place…hopeless place’ summed it all up.

I have a fourth play Ave Maria”, and it is inspired by the Ave Maria statue on Clontarf beach.  It’s a play about an alcoholic narcissist who thinks he’s got depression but it might just be he’s an alcoholic.  It’s also about all the women in his life, social media and how it feeds into a particular sort of dangerous narcissism. And it’s a comedy of course.

I am definitely a performer first, because of that I have an ear for dialogue and as a performer you have an added sense of how provocative you can be and what you can achieve in a Theater. Maybe visually or technically I don’t know how people write plays or films who are not performers or not in the business or have never had any theater background, one informs the other as far as I am concerned.”

AF: Which do you prefer, acting or writing?

Laoisa: Acting definitely, I absolutely hate writing, it’s so hard and so solitary and you pour your heart out and strip it of all its tendrils and leave it there bare and twitchy.  Then you have to go back and cut into it further, a big deep cut… and go back to it again and again and again.  It’s such hard work. I only ever look forward to getting on those boards, that’s all I am thinking about the whole way. I write to perform

AF: Could you see one of your pieces making the jump to film?

Laoisa: Yes of course, I actually wrote my first play “For Love” into a film and then into a TV series, but I got turned down by several production companies and producers because they compared it to Girls or Sex and The City, Ye know cos it had 3 women in it, that’s all anyone thinks, it’s crazy even though mine was about three working class women from inner-city Dublin trying to make it through.

Everyone has a different way of looking at things and people don’t see what you see, I used to think Oh maybe they are not seeing it cos it’s a fault in the writing and it’s not clear, but it’s not that at all, its cos everyone is coming from other places and maybe don’t have the experiences you have no matter how deeply you describe it, they cannot see it.

It’s like sometimes people will go to my plays and say “your play is hilarious” and I will be like, Ok so you got like 2 percent of what I was trying to say…but ye know that’s the way she goes…

I am writing a screenplay currently based on the self-funded tour of “For Love”.  We went on tour across Ireland in 2013 after the Off Broadway run, without a director or stage manager. It was a complete disaster!  I mean not critically, the play was lauded, but there was a lot of out of control egos, narcissism and drama taking place off-stage. It will also be based on some other tours I’ve been on… Needless to say it’s a black comedy and a theatrical road trip with a group of motley actors; I am hoping to send it into the Irish film board in the next few months.

AF: What do you want people to take away from “The Pigeon in the Taj Mahal”?

Laoisa: I’m not sure I can answer that, it’s not something I can do, ye know we just be doing our thing every night and hopefully somebody out there in the dark will be listening and involved and cine away with us- Hopefully they will feel something.  Even if they throw a shoe at me, at least I know something has risen.  At least I will know we were there!


‘New York City: A Shining Mosaic’ review

How it’s New York: Tales of immigrants who arrived in New York City.
New York City: A Shining Mosaic produced by Charles Hale. September 27, 2016. 1st Irish Theatre Festival. Featuring Niamh Hyland, Walter Parks, Elsa Nilsson, Eleanor Dubinsky, Laura Neese, John Duddy, Jack O'Connell, Mala Waldron, Yuri Juárez, Julie Kline, and Charles Hale at Pier A Harbor House, New York City.

Photo courtesy of Mitch Traphagen.

How it’s Irish: Those arriving left lives behind in Ireland. This piece was part of Origin Theatre’s 1st Irish 2016.

Were this event staged a few years back, before the advent of the so-called “information age,” there’s quite a chance that attendees of this extraordinary production may well have invited encyclopedia salesmen into their home, to peruse their wares, and purchase a volume or two, to look up a few of the fascinating tidbits that Charles R. Hale’s modern masterpiece had informed them of.

“New York City: A Shining Mosaic” is so much more than a play: it is a series of vignettes, a song and dance revue, a carefully interwoven collection of biographies of several characters, some seen, others merely mentioned.

It is a story which unravels elegantly, a timeless tale that reminds us that there were generations here before us, dozens, scores, hundreds of them: men and women who had less, but yearned for more. Brooklyn had them by the thousands. :New York City: A Shining Mosaic,” directed by Niamh Hyland (music), Julie Kline and Charles R. Hale, is brought to us by Artists Without Walls, and is a production celebrated aptly right within sight of the arrival of all of those millions of immigrants who made it to New York, at Pier A, which looks out on New York Harbor, with Lady Liberty and Ellis Island calmly watching in the wings.


“Crackskull Row” at Origin’s 1st Irish Theatre Festival

How it’s New York: Written by New York based playwright and author Honor Molloy and performed as part of Origin Theatre Company’s 1st Irish Festival 2016 in New York City
How it’s Irish: Set in Dublin in 1999
Terry Donnelly & Colin Lane (photo by Michael Bonasio)

Terry Donnelly & Colin Lane (photo by Michael Bonasio)

The rough-hewn walls, threadbare curtains and dilapidated leather sofa set the stage for an intense slice of Dublin life in Honor Molloy‘s play “Crackskull Row”.  The show opens with the long absent son/narrator Rasher Moorrigan (played by John Charles McLaughlin) giving exposition on the state of the family and the addled and fragile remains of his mother that we are about to meet.

Terry Donnelly stars as Masher, the mother of the piece, pining for bygone days, lost love and absent children.  She’s worn down to a nub of herself and hides everything she needs within the confines of the couch where she sits, sleeps, and eats.  A hardscrabble woman who was a bit of a “dolly” in her day, she imagines her daughter (played by Gina Costigan) doting on her and her absent son (played by Colin Lane/John Charles McLaughlin) fulfilling her desires and fuelling her frustrations.

This play attacks your senses and sensibility with both barrels and it’s hard to tell at times what is real and what is not.  A daughter appears, but is she real?  There seems to be a strange relationship between the mother and son.  How did the long-dead father really die?  And why has Rasher come back? (more…)

An agonizing, haunting look at famine in Donnacha Dennehy’s “The Hunger”

Iarla Ó Lionáird and Katherine Manley perform in Donnacha Dennehy's The Hunger, a collaboration with Alarm Will Sound. (Photo courtesy of Jack Vartoogian/BAM)

Iarla Ó Lionáird and Katherine Manley perform in Donnacha Dennehy’s The Hunger, a collaboration with Alarm Will Sound. (Photo courtesy of Jack Vartoogian/BAM)

How it’s New York: Alarm Will Sound had its origins at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, and its debut concert was in New York in 2001. “The Hunger” was included as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival.
How it’s Irish: The play originates from first-hand accounts of the Great Irish Famine in the 1840s. Playwright Donnacha Dennehy is a Dublin native, and the founder of the Irish musical ensemble Crash Ensemble. The play is presented in partnership with the Irish Arts Center.

Hauntingly melodic and starkly condemning at the same time, “The Hunger,” Donnacha Dennehy’s collaboration with Alarm Will Sound, is many things all in one: an opera, a documentary, a concert. The result is a work that is meant to unsettle the audience rather than to console.

The show had two performances on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s

As Asenath, Manley is the leader of a one-woman chorus, a Cassandra figure whose words and appeals seem to fall on deaf governmental ears in England. It is hard not to be frustrated at her recounting how a man on the verge of death is repeatedly told “come back on Tuesday” to receive his ration of grain.

Howard Gilman Opera House, as part of the 2016 BAM Next Wave Festival.