Irish theater director Garry Hynes says she has been looking forward to bringing her critically acclaimed production of Sean O’Casey’s infrequently staged World War I drama, “The Silver Tassie,” to the Lincoln Center Festival in New York this month.
Hynes is the co-founder and artistic director of the Druid Theatre Company in Galway. The Ballaghadereen native became the first female director to win the Tony Award for helming Martin McDonagh’s “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” in 1998. She also headed up the celebrated production of McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” as well as stagings of Conor McPherson’s “The Weir” at the Gate Theatre in Dublin and Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Featuring music and dancing, the Druid production of “The Silver Tassie” earned rave reviews as it toured Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States last year. The Lincoln Center Festival marks its only 2011 performances and the last opportunity American theatergoers will have to catch it.
“It’s a play by a great Irish writer, by a great writer for the theater, but one that isn’t produced that often,” Hynes told The Irish Echo in a recent phone interview. “He just wrote this and never figured out how it was supposed to be done. There are four different settings in the play . . . including the warfront in France. He uses physical language, he uses the enigmatic language of the tenements and song, so you have to employ a vast amount of resources for the play and the actors have to, as well. We are very lucky with the company we have . . . in Ireland. I’ve got musicians — four of the company play a variety of instruments — and we also have a younger company of actors, the young chorus, [who] have been selected from communities we’ve toured this production to in Ireland. So, it’s a broad range.”
So, is she pleased with the notices the production has earned thus far?
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“We’re absolutely thrilled,” she said. “Not only has the critical reception been really tremendous, but the reception from our audiences in Ireland and the United Kingdom has been terrific. People just love it and love seeing something so different and something they haven’t seen before. It’s a unique piece, I think.”
The stage drama follows two teenage football heroes from the tenements of Dublin to the battlefields of France and home again. It explores the impact of war specifically on a tight-knit group of family and friends, while examining larger issues such as humanity and faith.
“It’s something that is very current in the sense that, although it takes place in World War I, it is a great anti-war play and it’s, theatrically, extremely adventurous and challenging,” the 58-year-old director explained. “O’Casey doesn’t reign himself in. The play starts in the tenements of Dublin, moves on to the fronts in World War I France and then back to Dublin again and he uses all the resources of the theater — music, dance, movement, the great O’Casey language.”
The Druid Theatre Company previously enjoyed a triumphant run several years ago at the Lincoln Center Festival with “DruidSynge,” a cycle of six plays by John Millington Synge.
“It’s lovely, really. We had a wonderful time there with ‘DruidSynge’ and it’s just great to go back. It’s one of the best festivals anywhere in the world and I’m pleased to be part of it again with ‘The Silver Tassie,'” Hynes said. She nted that most of the production’s original 20 or so-member cast has returned for the show’s Lincoln Center engagement.
“It’s a very big show with a very big cast,” she said. “Almost all of them have been retained. There are four new members of the cast . . . The actors who are there are tremendous. We’ve been spending the last few weeks rehearsing here in Dublin and it’s such a big show. It was great to look at it again because you always see things differently.”
The performance schedule for “The Silver Tassie” at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater will be July 27 to 30 at 8 p.m.; and July 30 and 31 at 2 p.m. The show runs 2 hours, 34 minutes, and has two intermissions.