NY’S ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF IRISH THEATRE RUNS FROM SEPTEMBER 2 TO OCTOBER 4
Comedy in many varieties will be the common refrain of the 8th annual Origin’s 1st Irish Festival running from September 2 to October 4. In all seven mainstage productions seen in competition (4 US premieres, 3 world premieres), plus seven special events out-of-competition will make up the five-week, month-long festival.
Curated and coordinated by the New York-based Origin Theatre Company, George C. Heslin artistic director, the 2015 edition of Origin’s 1st Irish features plays and productions from Belfast, Dublin, Limerick and New York. The world’s only theatre festival dedicated to Irish playwrights, Origin’s 1st Irish takes place in a number of New York venues, including the Irish Arts Centre, 59E59 Theaters, The Irish Rep at DR2 Theatre, the cell, the New York Irish Center, the American Irish Historical Society, NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House, and the Stage 72 – The Triad. (For tickets and schedule visit www.1stIrish.org.)
Two of Ireland’s favorite and best-known comic performers will set bar for this year’s festival:
The actor, writer and comic Pat Shortt, who was a sensation in last season’s Tony-nominated “Cripple of Inishmaan” on Broadway, stars in his new play, “Selfie.” “Selfie” introduces us to a singing undertaker, and other colorful characters, who take us behind the scenes of a chaotic Irish funeral. It’s presented by Irish Arts Center, 553 West 51st Street, from September 10 to 27.
Ireland’s Irish-American comedian Des Bishop, whose non-fiction theatre shows are based on his immersive experiences plumbing various cultures, brings back his “Made in China” for a short run. A chronicle of his journey to China to learn Mandarin so that he could perform stand-up for a Chinese audience, “Made in China” was seen in a limited three-week engagement at The Barrow Street Theatre in March. Its Origin’s 1st Irish Festival encore, presented in association with Irish Arts Center, bookends a remarkable initiative in which Bishop launches a new Chinese comedy club in Flushing (where he was born and grew up) that will attract Chinese and non-Chinese audiences alike.
The special engagement of “Made in China” performs out-of-competition at Lucky Jack’s, 129 Orchard Street, September 25, October 1, 2, 3.
Opening the Festival will be Fishamble: The New Play Company, back from Dublin for the fourth time. Like their previous Festival offerings — “Silent,” “The Pride of Parnell Street” and “Noah and the Tower Flower” — “Little Thing Big Thing,” by Donal O’Kelly, packs a wallop. Jim Culleton directs this darkly comic thriller in which an ex-con and a nun find themselves chased across Ireland for a roll of film. Sorcha Fox, who was a Festival best actress winner in 2011 for the haunting play “Bogboy,” stars with O’Kelly in this darkly comic thriller. At 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, September 2 to 27.
Also at 59E59 Theaters, Dublin’s Gúna Nua and Ramblinman bring us “Pondling,” Genevieve Hulme-Beaman’s deeply funny and moving solo play. Winner of the 2014 Stewart Parker Award (Ireland’s prestigious award for Best Debut Play), “Pondling” features Hulme-Beaman (Dublin Fringe Award-winner for best female performer) in her New York debut. In “Ponding” lonely and humble Madeleine longs for the love of her life — 14-year-old Johnno Boyle O’Connor… but is Johnno kissing a girl his own age? Directed by Paul Meade. At 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, September 8 to October 4.
From Limerick, Bottom Dog Theatre presents “Language UnBecoming a Lady” by Myles Breen, directed by Liam O’Brien. Set in the dressing room of an ageing drag queen, “Language” explores themes of identity, love found and love lost, using the music of Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Billie Holiday and more as a musical backdrop. “Fabulously written, wonderfully acted,” according to Irish Theatre Magazine, “Language” traces one gay man’s journey from childhood through adolescence and onto adulthood. It plays at the cell, 338 West 23rd Street from September 16 to 27.
From New York, and seen for one-night-only out-of-competition, Eugene Pack’s long-running “Celebrity Autobiography” (which is happily ensconced at The Triad), will offer a special Irish edition. This time the series, which dramatizes the stories of famous persons of interest, will focus on an Irish notable whose identity will remain a mystery, for now. What we will tell you is that the cast is packed with bold-faced actors, namely Michael Urie (Ugly Betty, “Buyer and Cellar”), Geraldine Hughes (“Belfast Blues,” “Jerusalem”) Tate Donovan (24, “Damages”), Christopher Fitzgerald (Tony nominee “Finian’s Rainbow,” “Young Frankenstein”), Drama Desk winner Dayle Reyfel, and Drama Desk winner and Emmy nominee Eugene Pack. At The Triad, 158 West 72nd Street, Saturday September 19, 9:30pm.
Also from New York, “Stoopdreamer,” the world premiere of a new play by Pat Fenton, directed by Kira Simring a two-time Origin’s 1st Irish Best Director winner. In this unique, immersive theatrical experience, audience members are regaled by three residents from the Brooklyn neighborhood Windsor Terrace — determined hold-outs each — whose haunting memories reveal secrets of the past, and imaginings of what might have been. Join us for these old stories, good company and strong drinks at the cell, 338 West 23rd Street, September 4 to 27.
N.B. Two other mainstage shows — one produced by the Irish Rep — will be announced shortly.
This year’s Special Events include:
“Northern Exposure,” an afternoon symposium exploring the vibrant cultural landscape of Northern Ireland and how a broad range of artists have grown, developed and exported their work across the globe. At NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House, 1 Washington Mews on September 12, 3pm.
The New York Irish Center showcases the unique cultural gaming competition Scór, featuring talents from the New York clubs — Cavan Club, Manhattan Gaels Club, and the Shannon Gaels Club. Since 1969 the Gallic Games Association has hosted cultural competitions across Ireland, and now, since 2014, groups in the New York area are included. Catch the excitement at The NY Irish Center, 10-40 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Thursday September 3, 8pm.
The Irish American Writers and Artists invites you to attend their 100th “Manhattan Salon” a curated evening of readings and performances featuring work developed over the bi-monthly series’ first four years. Tuesday September 15, at 8pm.
Origin’s Breaking Ground series continues as four writers start the process of beginning a play before your very eyes. Please check your pre-conceptions at the door, as you enter this theatre laboratory with a number of intrepid “mad scientist” writer/directors, including Bernard McMullen, Tim Ruddy, Fiona Walsh, and Jenny Green. At ART/NY, 520 Eighth Avenue, Saturday September 19 at 7pm.
The American Irish Historical Society, in association with Origin Theatre Company, presents an exciting evening of theatre highlighting some of the newest voices from Northern Ireland. Performed by local actors, the evening consists of excerpts from plays developed by Tinderbox, Belfast’s premier incubator of new works. At The American Irish Historical Society, 991 Fifth Avenue, Thursday September 24, 8pm
Belfast’s busy Brassneck Theatre returns to the festival to stage a reading of Pierce Elliott’s current Belfast hit “Holy Holy.” The producer of the Festival’s 2011 Best Play winner “A Night with George” and of last year’s suicide crowd-pleaser “Man in the Moon,” this is Brassneck’s third visit to the Festival.
Funding support for 1st Irish 2015 is generously provided by the Festival Sponsors: Mutual of America; McVicker & Higginbotham; the Northern Ireland Bureau; Tourism Ireland; the American Ireland Fund; the Irish Consulate, New York, and the NY State Council for the Arts. Our newest sponsor is Goldman Sachs.
The 8th annual Origin’s 1st Irish, powered by Origin Theatre Company, runs from September 2 through October 4. The Festival’s launch event takes place on Wednesday August 26 at Mutual of America; the Awards ceremony is on Monday September 28, details to be announced. Origin’s 1st Irish is the city’s only all-Irish theatre festival. For festival information visit www.1stIrish.org
Origin Theatre Company is the city’s only theatre company devoted to presenting the American premieres of new works by Europe’s brightest contemporary playwrights. Over the past 13 years, Origin has introduced works by 150 playwrights to US audiences, from such countries as Romania, Macedonia, Norway, Ireland and the United Kingdom. For information on Origin visit www.origintheatre.org