Fun promised for 1st Irish Fest

Genevieve Hulme-Beaman.

Orla O’Sullivan

The 1st Irish returns with a laugh next month for what is now the eighth year of America’s only all-Irish theatre festival.

The New York-based Origin Theatre Company, which organizes it, says “comedy in many varieties will be the common refrain” this year. This may say something about the prevailing mood since there is also an emphasis on comedy in the new season just unveiled by the Irish Arts Center.

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The IAC is one of many venues around the city where 1st Irish events take place, between Sept. 2 and Oct. 4.

This festival draws work from Belfast, Dublin, New York and Limerick, home of its creator, George Heslin, Origin’s artistic director. It encompasses seven competing plays plus seven special events outside of the competition, which range from a celebration of the cultural output of Northern Ireland (the “Northern Exposure” symposium at NYU) to a celebration of the 100th literary salon by The Irish American Writers & Artists (“Manhattan Salon”).

Two of the main draws are expected to be comedians Pat Shortt and Flushing, N.Y., native Des Bishop. Shortt finds fun in the Irish funeral, ranging from the mandatory “hang sandwiches” (ham, for the uninitiated, to the zealots one might call funeral chasers. Shortt plays all the characters, including a singing undertaker, in “Selfie,” opening Sept. 10 at the IAC.

Des Bishop, probably the only stand-up comic who learned both Irish and Chinese specifically to perform in those languages, is back with “Made in China” for just four nights. (The Echo reviewed Bishop’s show, documenting his two-years living in China, in March.)

Since then, Bishop started a Chinese comedy club in Flushing, aimed at both a Chinese and non-Chinese audience.

Tim Ruddy.

The festival opens with a darkly comic thriller from Dublin’s Fishamble theatre company, with which Origin has a close association. Readers may remember "Noah and the Tower Flower," Fishamble’s festival-stealing play in 1st Irish a few years ago.

This year, Fishamble’s fourth in 1st Irish, it’s “Little Thing Big Thing,” by Donal O’Kelly. As usual Jim Culleton directs. Sorcha Fox (like Culleton, a previous 1st Irish award winner) plays opposite O’Kelly. The run, at 59E59 Theaters, is from Sept. 2 to 27.

Two plays have yet to be announced. They include one being produced the Irish Repertory Theatre, still in its temporary home at DR2, off Union Square.

Meanwhile, theatre fans can look forward to the return of Stuart Parker Award winner, Genevieve Hulme-Beaman, the young Dublin playwright to whom the Echo spoke about the reading of her play, “Pondling” last year. The 1st Irish run will be its official, New York debut.

“Pondling” concerns a childhood crush while “Language UnBecoming a Lady,” from Limerick’s Bottom Dog Theatre, deals with a different coming-of-age story, that of a gay man.

The action shifts across the Pond, very specifically to Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn, for “Stoopdreamer,” a new play by Pat Fenton in which local residents share unexpected stories on their stoop. That premiere is directed by Kira Simring, whose name will be familiar to 1st Irish audiences. It’s at the Cell.

“Celebrity Autobiography,” long-running on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, becomes Irish for a day—Sept. 19, not March 17—in taking an unnamed Irish person as its subject. The cast includes Geraldine Hughes creator of “Belfast Blues.”

The festival’s special events include one that is the theatre’s answer to a popular genre of cooking shows. Writers cook up a play before the audience’s eyes in a once-off demonstration at ART/NY, Eighth Ave. on Sat. Sept. 19. In the mix are Tim Ruddy, whose sensational writing debut was in 1st Irish 2013 with the Balkan war play, “The International,” and Bernard McMullen, whose 2012 entry was the surprisingly funny “Jimmy Titanic,” featuring a chain-smoking, mafiosa-styled God, who was also a surprise to Titanic victims arriving to heaven.

Gaelic games and Queens County get a look in on Sept. 3 when the New York Irish Center, Long Island City, showcases some of the Stateside entries from the Gaelic Athletic Association’s talent competition, Scór. Shannon Gaels, Manhattan Gaels and the Cavan Club present.

The festival gets its official launch at a Park Avenue party in Mutual of America, a major sponsor.

Origin’s 1st Irish Festival runs at multiple venues around New York City from Sept. 2 to Oct. 4. For more information visit