Sarah Street’s “The Last Rose of Summer” begins in Bantry, Co. Cork.
By Sean Devlin
On a rainy Monday night at Manhattan’s Irish Arts Center, Irish playwright and actress Sarah Street treated a captive crowd to the very first reading of her new play, “The Last Rose of Summer.”
Street’s first foray into the playwriting world deals with the controversy and fallout behind a letter that arrives at a Bantry, Co. Cork, family’s door, threatening to reveal things that will change their lives forever.
Street, a native of Cork, has been performing in New York City for several years, and cites her origins as a large influence in her work. “My mom put me in a ballet class back home and that sparked my love of performing. I grew up doing the Christmas pantomimes at the Everyman Palace in Cork, which is a huge tradition in Ireland,” she said.
When asked about her influences, Street first cited her mother. “She could see I loved performing and always had me in this class or that class. I think she always wanted to take acting or dance classes as a child, but as one of eight, she couldn’t afford it,” said Street. “I have many people that have inspired me along the line, but I’ve always had an innate desire to create and make people feel something.”
Street’s play comes out of her experience with Irish family life and dynamics. “The notion of secrets is so intrinsically Irish to me,” she said, referencing a critical part of the plot. “The whole play began with me writing a scene about a mysterious letter arriving at the house, and it all just kind of developed from there.”
“The Last Rose of Summer” reading was also notable because it featured talented Irish performers, such as Kevin Marron and Johnny Hopkins. Street said that rounding up the cast was aided by the Irish arts community in New York. “Johnny is a dear friend of mine so I brought him in to read for the male lead, Stephen. Kevin and Johnny are close as well, so we felt that he’d be a good counter to Johnny’s character.”
Director Nicola Murphy was a last-minute addition to the cast of readers. “One of our actresses got sick with food poisoning on the day of the reading,” Street said. “I’m so thankful for Nicola helping me find such a talented cast and her doing such a phenomenal job directing.”
Asked about the role of the Irish community in her performing life in New York, Street said, “When I came to New York I didn’t know a soul. It’s only recently that I’ve found out what a wonderful Irish and Irish-American community exists here, particularly in the realm of the arts.
“There’s a certain bit of sentimentality Irish Americans feel towards the Irish, and that’s been a great help.”
Street added that being Irish also informed quite a lot about how she did her job. “I think you feel like an underdog when you’re Irish,” she said. “As an Irish immigrant, you’ve got to prove yourself a bit, and if that lights a fire under your bum. That’s never a bad thing. I’m so very proud of my heritage, and Up Cork!”