The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is one of the city’s great treasures:  the Billy Rose Theatre Collection is full of original show posters, prompt books and archival recordings of shows.

IRELAND AMERICA:   THE TIES THAT BIND launched at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center Sunday; the program runs through August 13, 2011.  Part of Imagine Ireland, Culture Ireland’s year-long initiative to showcase Irish arts in the US, the exhibit will include poetry readings, performances, discussions, dance, music and more.
We went to the launch, read all about it!

The exhibit in the Donald and Mary Oenslager gallery includes original posters from nineteenth century plays by Boucicault (a particular interest of mine, in fact my article on Boucicault’s reception in the New York irish press was published in Irish Theatrical Diaspora in 2009) dance video of Michael Flatley, a plucky Jo McNamara (“The Girl I Left Behind Me”) and more, and archival recordings made by Mick Moloney and Glucksman Ireland House of Liz Carroll, Joe and Joanie Madden, Liam Clancy, Susan McKeown and loads of others.  Two little girls in sparkly flat shows danced happily on the square of dance floor in front of the screen during the launch.

(Herb Scher)

There are dance costumes on display, old scores, and even a parlor with an old radio– you can hear radio broadcasts and see some vintage television too.  You can hear Carmel Quinn and even the McNultys (the one drawback to the recordings is that it’s not yet possible for a user to cherrypick them, they steam along in an analog way– I was way more interested in the oral histories than in the “Memories of St. Patrick’s Day” interviews, although with all the attention Congressman Peter King is getting, your mileage may vary!)  It’s too much to take in on one visit.  

Heck, it’s worth going just to pick up the brochure, which includes an overview of Irish arts in America including pictures of a Clancy brothers album, The Advocate Players, a still of Chauncey Olcott in the play The Isle O’Dreams from 1913, New York Irish entertainment troupe, in 1933, and a St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1964

(Herb Scher)
(Herb Scher)( Noel Kilkenny, Jacqueline Z. Davis (Exec. Director of
the NYPL for the Performing Arts), Jean Butler, Eugene Downes

The launch was packed with New York Irish Artists– and visitors, including Druid Artistic Director Garry Hynes, First Irish Producer George Heslin, Irish Repertory Theatre’s Ciaran O’Reilly and Charlotte Moore, Culture Ireland’s Eugene Downes, dancer Jean Butler, poet Belinda McKeown, the Irish Voice’s Paul Keating and many more.

Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.