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1st Irish kicks off month-long fest

January 10, 2020

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Sarah-Jane Scott in her play, “Appropriate,” a production from Dublin’s Gúna Nua.

 

 

By Irish Echo Staff

The 12th Annual Origin 1st Irish Festival kicked off Tuesday and will continue through Monday, Feb 3, when it hosts its Closing Night Ceremony.

This is its third season in its January slot, after a decade being an early fall attraction.

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This year the Festival features productions and special projects from Dublin, Belfast, Wexford, Galway, Limerick, Queens and Manhattan.  Participating venues include 59E59 Theaters, Irish Repertory Theatre (two theatres), the American Irish Historical Society, Scandinavia House, the New York Irish Center, A.R.T. New York, the Secret Theatre, the National Arts Club, the Cutting Room, Symphony Space, the Alchemical Studios and the Irish Consulate.

Origin Theatre Company in the period of 9/11 was founded by Limerick-born and -raised actor and director George Heslin, as a gateway for European playwrights who’d found acclaim at home to be showcased in New York.

A few years later, the company launched the 1st Irish Theatre Festival, so named as the first festival to be devoted exclusively to the work of playwrights who were born on the island or had an Irish passport.

Origin was modeled to an extent upon the Royal Court in London, which artistic director Heslin has described as one of the “most extraordinary homes of new writing in England and in Europe in terms of spoken word.”

He told the Echo in 2018, “It’s very important that we create work here [in the U.S.]. That we just don’t become receiving houses for work from Ireland. That’s what different about Origin: we commission writers, we make work, we make new voices.”

The Closing Night Ceremony (6:30 p.m.) will be staged at Rosie O’Grady’s Manhattan Club, 800 Seventh Ave., where the Best of Festival Awards will be handed out.

This year’s Festival jury is comprised of New York stage and television actress Cynthia Darlow; the opera singer and actor Elmore James; college administrator and theatre writer Kate Kennon, and journalist, filmmaker and television writer Sadhbh Walshe.

 

Sadhbh Walshe will be one of the judges at this year’s 1st Irish Festival.

 

PLAYS IN COMPETITION

“Maz and Bricks”

The American premiere of Eva O’Connor’s comedy-drama “Maz and Bricks,” about the unlikely friendship of a man and woman set against the backdrop of a pro-choice march. Produced at 59E59 by the Olivier Award-winning, Dublin-based Fishamble: The New Play Company, which returns to the Festival for its sixth visit.  Directed by Jim Culleton, with Ciaran O’Brien and Eva O’Connor.  The Sunday Independent has called it “marvelous theatre… perfect and unmissable piece of deeply moving drama!”  and Irish Independent added, “excruciatingly funny and powerful.” At 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, Jan 7 to Feb. 2.

 

“Appropriate”

Dublin’s Gúna Nua presents Sarah-Jane Scott in her comedy “Appropriate,” in its American premiere.  Directed by Paul Meade, who earned the award for Best Director in last year’s festival (“The Morning After the Life Before”), “Appropriate” is a darkly-comic story of a GAA bride’s hot heart and cold feet on the eve of her marriage.  Love and sports in rural Ireland are a perfect match in every way, except in this case! Scott (in her New York debut) nabbed the Summerhall Lustrum Award for Excellence at Edinburgh Fringe 2019, and was nominated for Bewley’s Little Gem Award at the 2018 Dublin Fringe.  The NY Irish Center, 10-40 Jackson Ave., in Long Island City, 6 performances from Jan. 27 to Feb. 1.

 

“The 8th

The world premiere of “The 8th,” a new play written and directed by Seanie Sugre. Produced in New York by Locked in the Attic Productions with Five OHM Productions, “The 8th” stars Julia Nightingale (“The Ferryman” on Broadway), Una Clancy, and Gerard McNamee. In “The 8th” (shorthand for Ireland’s 8th Amendment outlawing abortion, which was repealed in 2018), a family’s tensions in the home collide unexpectedly with the very public fracas caused by the country’s epic referendum vote to legalize abortion.  The Secret Theater, 44-02 23rd St., in Long Island City, Jan 7 to 18.

 

“The Scourge”

The Wexford Arts Centre, in association with the Irish Repertory Theatre, presents the American premiere of “The Scourge,” written and performed by Wexford native Michelle Dooley Mahon. Adapted from her critically acclaimed autobiographical novel in which she relives the slow, downward path of her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, “The Scourge” is directed by notable Irish director Ben Barnes (former artistic director of The Abbey). As Mahon relates that often absurd, silly, heart-breaking slow-motion slide, we witness a beautiful dedication of a daughter in small-town Ireland giving voice to a mother sadly silenced before her time.
Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd St., 13 performances Jan. 22 to Feb. 2.

 

“London Assurance”

Also now running at the Irish Repertory Theatre is the Rep’s production of Dion Boucicault‘s high-spirited farce, “London Assuranc,” directed by Charlotte Moore.  With Craig Wesley Divino, Meg Hennessy, Ian Holcomb, Elliot Joseph, Brian Keane, Colin McPhillamy, Rachel Pickup, Caroline Strang, Evan Zes and Robert Zukerman. A parade of eccentric characters populate this classic comedy of manners that catapulted the then 20-year-old Boucicault to fame when it premiered at London’s Covent Garden in March of 1841.  Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd St., through Jan. 26.

Aoife Williamson will feature in Honor Molloy’s “Round Room,” a new play in development.

 

“Round Room”  

Far From the Land Productions presents a new play in development, Honor Molloy’s “Round Room.”  This open studio production with music by the Grammy Award-winning Irish singer/songwriter Susan McKeown, is directed by Britt Berke and features this distinguished New York-based cast: Gina Costigan, Brenda Meaney, Rachel Pickup, Maeve Prive, Zoe Watkins, and Aoife Williamson. Molloy wrote the 2016 1st Irish sensation “Crackskull Row,” which won for Best Production; transferred to the Irish Repertory Theatre; and was a New York Times Critics Pick.  In “Round Room,” two centuries of women from widely divergent backgrounds come to life in the corridors, back staircases and cavernous wards of the Dublin’s infamous Rotunda Hospital, and begin to share a cascade of “once upon a time” stories never told.  The Alchemical Studios, 104 West 14th St., three performances, Monday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m., and Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. & 9 p.m.

 

Nathan Carter will perform in “Celtic Country,” on Saturday at the Cutting Room.

 

OTHER FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS

The New York concert debut of Irish mega star Nathan Carter in “Celtic Country,” one-night only at the Cutting Room. Saturday, Jan. 11 at 7:30 p.m.

Next Generation Series “Belfast 2050” — Five new monologues by five women playwrights from Northern Ireland inspired by the arresting premise: “Belfast 2050, under Albert Clock, the beloved Belfast landmark…” Directed by Belfast native Rhiann Jeffrey. A.R.T. Studios, 520 Eight Ave. (36th Street), Saturday, Jan. 18 at 3 p.m.

“Scór on Broadway” — Members of New York’s Irish community of all ages and backgrounds come together to showcase and celebrate their unique performance skills in a festive cultural cabaret full of surprises. Produced by Jane McCarter O’Dowd.  Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, Friday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.

For Festival details and tickets visit  Origin’s website here.

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