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.

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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?

thedeadreading

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

pigeon-art
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.

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“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.

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‘The Cure’ by Conal Creedon, Directed by Tim Ruddy.

How it’s New York: This play, featuring Michael Mellamphy, was performed in Queens, as part of the 1st Irish Festival.
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Michael Mellamphy in Conal Creedon’s “The Cure.” ©Babette Perez.

How it’s Irish: Written, directed and starring Irish artists.

We may not be fortunate enough to know the likes of Michael Mellamphy, an award-winning actor from County Cork, well enough to say hello to. Many of us are, on the other hand, in a position where we’re aware of the existence of such characters as John Murphy (or Sean O’Murchu, depending on who is referring to him), the individual Mellamphy plays in “The Cure,” a one-man piece, written by Conal Creedon (“The Trial of Jesus,” ‘” Be To The Father,” “Second City Trilogy”) and directed by Tim Ruddy (“The International”).

Mellamphy’s portrayal of John Murphy, a washed-up, broken-down and burnt-out survivor of Cork’s Christian Brothers schools, is a welcoming natural force, brushing aside any stereotypical ideas we might have of an Irish man who likes a pint, and banishing them forever, in a drawer filled with inflatable shamrocks and curly green wigs.

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9/11 and Political Theatre

From our house in Millburn, you could smell the towers burning—fifteen miles and a river away.  
Editor’s note: I wrote this for the Portuguese journal Obscena in 2007. I’ve published it here before, but thought with the 15 year anniversary of 9/11 upon us I thought I would republish it again. Of course, the things most present in my mind in 2007, such as the Iraq War and the death of Rachel Corrie, have been replaced by the current election. Both candidates are making visits to Ground Zero, which is good but also, of course, a political gesture.
I think I knew even at the time that it wouldn’t be long before people thought of 9/11 as a historical event. If you weren’t around for it, it’s hard to recall how weird it was then and shortly after. Yes, I bought an American flag sweater and wore it at the airport (where I bought it). yes, I was nervous when a man in a turban got on the plane before me (and yes, I am embarrassed about that now).
And yes, the four days I was stranded in New Jersey, I took calls from playwrights and actors and continued to cast the Southern Writers Project workshop I was running. It seemed normal, not ghoulish, for them, and it was for me too.

How It’s New York: 9/11 will always be associated with New York, and a lot of the political theatre attempts to deal with it happened here too.  Everybody’s sending around their reminiscences of 9/11, so I will too.  Some of my 9/11 memories are embedded in this article about sentimental political theatre I wrote for the Portugese Journal Obscena in 2007.  It is a rant but in its own way it honors 9/11.  When things are really important they should be treated with honor and dignity.
How It’s Irish:  Irish playwrights fall into this trap too, unfortunately (less about Iraq than Israel, but that’s a whol ‘nother topic).

Since I’m guessing most of you don’t read Portugese, I’m uploading my original word doc.  Political theatre in this country for a long while after 9/11 was all very guilt ridden, often false as the day is long as playwrights tried to imagine life from the perspective of an Iraqi.

But before the political theatre rant– some more on me an 9/11:

Sigmund the Cat

The real reason I was in New Jersey on 9/11:  my cat Sigmund, who had Squamous Cell Carcinoma, took a turn for the worse on 9/9. 

We had to send him Over the Rainbow Bridge on 9/10, and knowing I wouldn’t want to fly that same day, I changed my ticket to 9/11.  I have always believed that somehow Sigmund arranged it so that I’d be in New Jersey with my family on the awful day (and yes, I know how that sounds).  I would have panicked if I’d been in Montgomery, Alabama, where I was living then.

 

From our house in Millburn, you could smell the towers burning—fifteen miles and a river away. 

We actually first found out what was happening from friends in England– my mother was online emailing a Cat Newsgroup (I know, I know) about Sigmund when someone there mentioned it.  She asked my father had a plane struck the World Trade Center?  No, he said, reading the paper, you’d hear about that.  A few minutes later she said “here’s another post, let’s turn on the television.”  We did, and saw the second tower come down live. It was a gorgeous day, one of those perfect September days.  There was an eerie silence because the airports were closed, interrupted by government planes buzzing the coast.  I wondered, is this the day the world ends?

My father, the late Leo Orel

My father, Leo Orel, who was a World War II vet, was shaken up.  There was a candlelight vigil on my street and we joined it. My dad even carried a candle and was eager to go out, and this was not like him.  He looked around for a flagpole stand in the yard.

It’s hard to explain now the impulse to put up and wear flags but it was something beautiful, not something aggressive as it often is here.  It was somehow a way of joining together.

9/11 is the reason there is a flag sticker on our front door.  To decode what it means you need to picture my dad sadly standing there.

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Podcast #37: Ciarán Hinds on ‘The Crucible’

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How it’s New York: The Crucible is on Broadway right now, through July 17.rssheadphones1
How it’s Irish: Ciarán Hinds, Jim Norton and Saoirse Ronan are all Irish (Ronan born in US, brought up Ireland).

We spoke to Ciarán Hinds about his role as Deputy Governor Danforth in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” running through July 17 on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theater on Broadway.   

Featured tune is The Gloaming’s “The Pilgrim’s Song.” The Gloaming are  Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill, Iarla Ó’Lionáird, Caoimhín Ó’Raghellaigh, and Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman.

 

 

Podcast #36: Lisa Dwan on Neasa in ‘Shining City’

Play
How it’s New York: The show runs at the newly refurbished Irish Repertory Theatre, a gem of Off-Broadway Theatre in rssheadphones1NYC
How it’s Irish: Playwright Conor McPherson is Irish; the play takes place in Ireland, and two of the four actors are Irish– including Lisa Dwan, featured on this podcast.

We spoke to Lisa Dwan about her role as Neasa in Conor McPherson’s “Shining City,” running through July 3 at Irish Repertory Theatre, in Irish Rep’s first show back at its home on 22nd Street.   

Featured tune is Mick McAuley’s “The Constellation Slide Set,”  from his new CD “Highs & Bellows,” with Colm O Caoimh.  

Turning Points: Oscar Wilde Returns To BAM

How it’s New York: New production of David Hare’s play The Judas Kiss about Oscar Wilde.
How it’s Irish: Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet, dramatist and wit.
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Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde.


Guest blogger, John Cooper, creator of the documentary archive Oscar Wilde In America, previews the revival of  The Judas Kiss at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), a play that focuses on two crucial moments in Oscar Wilde’s downfall.


The Judas Kiss
, coming to the BAM Harvey Theater May 11—Jun 12, marks a historic return of the Irish poet, dramatist, and wit Oscar Wilde. This is not, of course, a return of Wilde the playwright, whose works have been staged several times at BAM over the years. It is a return in the sense of the reappearance of Wilde in person.

This is significant because no one has appeared as Oscar Wilde at BAM since Wilde himself spoke there 134 years ago on a nationwide lecture tour. The performance by Rupert Everett, who plays Wilde, is a fitting parallel because Oscar was also playing a part—masquerading as the poster boy for Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience, a comic opera poking fun at the aesthetic movement.

A lot has changed since Wilde lectured at BAM on a cold February evening in 1882, not least the venue. Back then, Oscar Wilde took to the platform of the original Leopold Eidlitz building on Montague Street, where he was greeted by a large and mostly positive audience. It was a somewhat stuffy talk on what he termed the English Renaissance in Art—a movement that had existed ever since Oscar had dreamed it up on the boat to America a few weeks earlier. (more…)

http://www.newyorkirisharts.com/2016/05/14205/

How it’s New York: Fallen Angels Theatre Company is a New York City-based company, and the show performs on Theatre Row at the Harold Clurman Theatre (tickets here).
Morag (Aedin Moloney, right) comforts Fiona (Barrie Kreinik). ©Carol Rosegg

Morag (Aedin Moloney, right) comforts Fiona (Barrie Kreinik). ©Carol Rosegg

How it’s Irish: Aedin Moloney is Irish, and her father, Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains, wrote the music. The play itself is Scottish.

There’s something poignant about the fact that Fallen Angels’ production of “When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout” ends on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, at the Harold Clurman Theatre.

Scottish playwright Sharman Macdonald’s play explores a fraught relationship between a mother and daughter, beginning in the present, when the daughter is 32 and on a beach holiday with mum, and flashing back to the daughter’s teenage years, when she takes a desperate step to keep a mum she doesn’t even really get along with by her side.

As that mum, Morag, Aedin Moloney shines. Even when she’s nagging her daughter Fiona (Barrie Kreinik) about providing her with a grandchild, you can’t help liking her. She puts so much heart in each moment that your stomach hurts for her. (more…)

Ireland Rising – Words and Music for a New Century: A Special Benefit Performance for Irish Arts Center

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How it’s New York: Took place in New York at Symphony Space on the Upper West Side.
How it’s Irish: Benefit performance for the building fund for the new Irish Arts Center.

This past Friday I was honored to be among those treated to the best the Irish Arts Center has to offer.  The overriding sentiment of the night was that when the Irish Arts Center calls, you stop everything and rush right over to support them.  And that is just what the phenomenal performers featured in this varied night of song and story brought to the party.

 

A testament to the true diversity that has become the norm at the Irish Arts Center, this show offered something for everyone. The show opened with the ethereal voice of Christine Tobin moving through the audience, followed by the gorgeous “Beautiful World” from Declan O’Rourke.  A luscious orchestra, under the direction of Henry Hey, laid the groundwork for the performances to follow which ranged from a country tinged “Raglan Road” from Cork singer Nicole Maguire, a bluesy tune from JD & The Straight Shot, a number of greatest hits tunes from Paul Brady, as well as a couple that he wrote with lyrics from poet Paul Muldoon.

One of the highlights of the evening was the vocal quartet Women of the World, a delightful group singing backup for a number of the other artists, most impressively with the powerful singer from Sierra Leone, Loah.  

Liam O’Maonlai teamed up with jazz singer Cassandra Wilson for a powerful rendition of Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey” and O’Maonlai sang a few of his own songs and trad standards.

IAC staples Joanie Madden, Athena Tergis, Mick Moloney and Billy McComiskey contributed a lively set of barn dances and a few songs as the Irish Traditional section of the evening.

Curtain Call for "Ireland Rising, Words and Music for a New Century. Symphony Space, NYC. The Irish Arts Center. Friday, April 22, 2016. Credit Photo: Erin Baiano

Curtain Call for “Ireland Rising, Words and Music for a New Century.” Symphony Space, NYC. The Irish Arts Center. Friday, April 22, 2016. Credit Photo: Erin Baiano

Comic relief and pathos were provided by readings from Peter Quinn, Zadie Smith, Mick Laird and Cólm Toibín. The major plea for pledges was delivered by none other than the Queen of Ireland herself, Panti Bliss in all her glittery glory!

A true treat was 17 year old jazz guitarist Andreas Varady from Limerick who has already been signed to a major label, and with good reason.  His dexterity and musicality is up there with any of the jazz greats and this young man is an excellent example of the innovative programming that is keeping the Irish Arts Center at the top of its game.

The finale of the evening brought out Riverdance alum Jean Butler to do a duet of pieces with the band, with her precision percussion as sharp as ever.

Overall the evening was lively, diverse and delightful, as are so many of the programs that will be even more impactful once the amazing new home for the IAC is finally funded and built.  There is still a long way to go, and if you have a bit of loose change knocking about and looking for a good home, you can contribute to the building fund here:

http://www.almosthome2016.org

Here’s to many more years of incredible music, art, theatre, dance and education in their fine new home.

jpirish-master675

Podcast #35: Gavin Quinn on ‘The Seagull and Other Birds’

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How it’s New York: The show performs at Abrons Arts Center, and its satire and humor touches a New York rssheadphones1chord.
How it’s Irish: Pan Pan Theatre is an Irish company.

We spoke to Gavin Quinn about Pan Pan Theatre  and “The Seagull and Other Birds.”  

Featured song is Eileen Ivers’ “Walk On” from “Beyond the Bog Road,” vocals by Tim Shelton.