Origin gala to honor Kenneys, Burke

Brigid and Ed Kenney


By Irish Echo Staff

Origin Theatre Company will conclude its 15th season of producing the American premieres of plays by emerging European playwrights at its annual spring gala on Monday May 14.

Hosted by Mutual of America on Park Avenue the evening, which starts 1t 6.30 p.m., features what a release described as a “smorgasbord of international pleasures, including rollicking musical entertainment, and appearances by a colorful cross-section of local and visiting theatre luminaries, business leaders and supporters of the arts.”

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The evening honors the actor Phil Burke, who receives Origin’s Artistic Leader Award, and community and peace advocates Ed and Brigid Kenney, who will be presented with Origin’s Community Leaders Award.

For decades, said the release, the Kenneys have promoted social welfare and Irish-American causes here in their native New York.

The release continued: “Mrs. Kenney worked tirelessly as a social worker advocating principally for persons living with mental illness.

“Mr. Kenney’s career started in with the FBI (he specialized in Russian counter-intelligence), and has continued for many years with Mutual of America. Working closely with Mutual colleagues Tom Moran and Bill Flynn on the Irish Peace Process, he has also served on the board of Concern, believing that the ‘genetic history of the Irish demands that we champion the marginalized people in the poorest countries of the world.’”

A Canadian film, television and stage actor, Phil Burke is best-known for his role as the Irish immigrant Mickey McGinnes on the hit AMC television series “Hell on Wheels (seven seasons). He also has a recurring role on Syfy’s “Imagining of Van Helsing.”

His notable movie credits include “Dirty Weekend,” directed by Neil Labute and on TV he has been featured on “The Knick,’ “Mercy,” “Law & Order,” “Chicago Fire” and “The Good Wife.” Burke attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he graduated in 2003.

“Of course good global citizenship starts at home, and no two people exemplify this better than Ed and Brigid Kenney,” said George C. Heslin, Origin Theatre’s artistic director.

“Both from New York they reach out whenever they can, never for conspicuous recognition, to help those in need, but more importantly, to tackle urgent social issues.” Heslin said.

“Phil Burke is a respected actor who puts people first,” says Heslin.

“I have every confidence that this Canada-native will always remember where he is from, and that includes New York, where he studied on scholarship and learned the business. He’s a man of grit and grace and a born leader in the arts. We’re proud we can honor him at our gala.”

Origin honorary patrons are the actors Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey’s Bates) and Niall Toibin.

Origin Theatre Company bills itself as New York City’s only theatre company devoted to presenting the New York and American premieres of new plays by Europe’s brightest contemporary playwrights.

Since its founding in 2002, Origin has introduced works by 162 playwrights from such countries as the Netherlands, Sweden, Romania, Macedonia, Norway, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Origin also produces the annual Origin’s 1stIrish Festival, the city’s only all-Irish theatre festival, the 10th edition of which took place in January. For gala tickets, which start at $250 go to www.origintheatre.org