How it’s New York: It happened in Sunnyside, Queens, where the streets are paved with pavement, and where lots of Irish folks live and own businesses.
How it’s Irish: It was all about the Irish music, dance, art and storytelling.
On Thursday September 26, I visited the newly renovated Murphy’s Bar and Restaurant in Sunnyside (corner of 49th and Skillman) to see the Connemara-based puppetry and drama company Fibin present An Rón Dall / The Blind Seal, a fascinating and engaging theatrical piece featuring storytelling, art, music and Irish language. From their website:
While traveling through the West of Ireland, William Hamilton Maxwell documented the stories and experiences in his book Wild Sports of the West published in 1832. It was one of these stories that inspired the artist Dara McGee to put together a visual show recounting the fate of a domesticated seal at the home of a local fisherman at Renvyle, Connemara, Ireland. Music, storytelling and live are are used in this show to tell the reportedly true story of the blind seal.
In the play, narrators Darach Ó Tuairisg and Rhona Ní Chearbhaill tell the story of this seal (in English and Irish), while Galway artist Dara McGee paints scenes from each the play’s episodes and a group of trad musicians (which on Thursday included Martin O’Connell on accordion, Marie-Louise Bowe on fiddle and Eamonn O’Leary on bouzouki, and which was fabulous) plays accompaniment to the whole scene.
It was a lovely surprise. The show on the 28th was extremely well done and the presentation was pitch perfect. It was an artistic success for the people involved in the play’s staging, but it was also a success for Murphy’s, which has recently expanded into the adjacent space and opened up a great little seafood restaurant. The food and drink was outstanding and the whole night had something of a “living room” feel to is. Despite it being a last minute thing (word got around via Facebook and word-of-mouth), An Rón Dall attracted a very respectable number of people from the neighborhood (many of whom speak Irish), and showed that lots of folks in Sunnyside are interested in smart, well-presented Irish cultural events. For something of this scope and scale, Murphy’s was the perfect spot. (It was also staged at the Irish Consulate some days before, to great acclaim.) Being a resident of the neighborhood, I look forward to more such high quality, small scale productions!